Advertising Wisdom from Claude Hopkins – 27 lessons for grabs

The sole purpose of ads is to bring sales, says Claude Hopkins, in his book titled, ‘Scientific Advertising.’

For adverts to bring sales, they need to be based on established principles. They need to be based on the patterns of human behavior. Various tests have proved these principles true. And we could also model our adverts by them.

What are these principles? What brings sales and what drives it away? Let’s learn from the wisdom of Claude Hospkins. I thought it best to present these lessons in his own words. Memorise each lesson and apply them to your own adverts. And watch what the difference they make.

Listen to Claude Hospkins now as he teaches ageless advertising wisdom.

Lesson one: how you should view advertising

‘Advertising is salesmanship. Its principles are the principles of salesmanship….Thus every advertising question should be answered by the salesman’s standards.’

Lesson two: why do you advertise?

‘The only purpose of advertising is to make sales. It is profitable or unprofitable according to its actual sales. It is not for general effect. It is not to keep your name before people. It is not primarily to aid your other salesmen.’

 Lesson three: should your advert be long or short?

‘Some say “Be very brief. People read for little.’” And Mr. Hopkins replies, ‘The only readers we get are people our subject interests. No one reads ads for amusement, long or short. Consider them [readers] as prospects standing before you, seeking for information. Give them enough to get action.’

Lesson four: how should you type your advert?

‘Some advocate large type and big headlines. Yet they do not admire salesmen who talk in loud voices…. It only multiples your cost of advertising.’

Lesson five: how should you write your advert?

‘Ads are not written to entertain. When they do, those entertainment seekers are little likely to be the people whom you want. That is one of the greatest advertising faults. Ad writers abandon their parts. They forget they are salesmen and try to be performers. Instead of sales, they seek applause.’

Lesson six: how should you target your prospects?

‘Don’t think of people in the mass. That gives you a blurred view. Think of a typical individual, man or woman, who is likely to want what you sell. Don’t try to be amusing. Money spending is a serious matter. Don’t boast, for all people resent it. Don’t try to show off. Do just what you think a good salesman should do with a half-sold person before him.’

Lesson seven: do you make this mistake when writing your adverts?

‘Ads are planned and written with some utterly wrong conception. They are written to please the seller. The interests of the buyer are forgotten. One can never sell goods profitable, in person or in print, when that attitude exists….Remember the people you address are selfish, as we all are. They care nothing about your interests or your profit. They seek service for themselves. Ignoring this fact is a common mistake and a costly mistake in advertising. Ads say in effect, “Buy my brand. Give me the trade you give to others. Let me have the money.” That is not a popular appeal.’

Lesson eight: the best way to sell

‘The best ads ask no one to buy. That is useless. Often they do not quote a price. They do not say that dealers handle the product. The ads are based entirely on service. They offer wanted information. They site {sic} advantages to users. Perhaps they offer a sample, or to but the first package, or to send something on approval, so the customer may prove the claims without any cost or risks. Some of these ads seem altruistic. But they are based on the knowledge of human nature. The writers know how people are led to buy.’

Lesson nine: why you should include coupons as part of your adverts

‘Mail order advertising usually contains a coupon. That is there to cut out as a reminder of something the reader has decided to do. Mail order advertisers know that readers forget.’

Lesson ten: the advantage of long adverts

‘Mail order advertising tells a complete story if the purpose is to make an immediate sale. You see no limitations there on amount of copy. The motto there is, “The more you tell, the more you sell.” And it has never failed to prove out so in any test we know.’

Lesson eleven: why do you use headlines?

‘The purpose of headline is to pick out people you can interest. You wish to talk to someone in a crowd. So the first thing you say is, “Hey there, Bill Jones” to get the right person’s attention. So in an advertisement. What you have will interest certain people only, and for certain reasons. You care only for those people. Then create a headline which will hail those people only.’

Lesson twelve: how helpful are headlines?

‘Headlines on ads are like headlines on news items. Nobody reads a whole newspaper….We pick out what we wish to read by headlines, and we don’t want those headlines misleading.’

Lesson thirteen: why do you think people read adverts?

‘But people do not read ads for amusement. They don’t read ads which, at a glance, seem to offer nothing interesting. A double-page ad on a women’s dress will not gain a glance from a man.’

Lesson fourteen: the importance of psychology in advertising

‘The competent advertising man must understand psychology. The more he knows about it the better. He must learn that certain effects lead to certain reactions, and use that knowledge to increase results and avoid makes…Human nature is perpetual. In most respects it is the same toady as in the time of Caesar. So the principles of psychology are fixed and enduring. You will never need to unlearn what you learn about them.’

Lesson fifteen: two ways to apply psychology in advertising

‘We learn, for instance, that curiosity is one of the strongest human incentives. We employ it when we can.’

‘We learn that people judge largely by price. They are not experts. In the British National Gallery is a painting which announced in a catalog to have cost $750,000. Most people at first pass it by at a glance. Then later they get farther on in the catalog and learn what the painting cost. They return then and surround it.’

Lesson sixteen: why you should make your adverts more specific

‘Platitudes and generalities roll off the human understanding like water from a duck. They leave no impression whatever.  To say, “Best in the world,””Lowest price in existence,” etc. are at best simply claiming the expected. But superlatives of that sort are usually damaging. They suggest looseness of expression, a tendency to exaggerate, a careless truth. They lead readers to discount all the statements that you make.’

‘The weight of an argument may often be multiplied by making it specific. Say that a tungsten lamp give more light than a carbon and you leave some doubt. Say it gives three and one-third the light and people realize that you have made tests and comparisons. A dealer may say, “Our prices have been reduced” without creating any marked impression. But when he says, “Our prices have been reduced 25 per cent” he gets full value of his announcement.’

Lesson seventeen: why you need to make your advert detailed

‘Whatever claim you use to gain attention, the advertisement should tell a story reasonable complete….Bring all your good arguments to bear. Cover every phase of your subject. One fact appeals to some, one to another. Omit any one and a certain percentage will lose the fact which might convince.’

Lesson eighteen: the purpose of each repeated advert

‘In every ad consider only new customer. People using your product are not going to read your ads. They have already read and decided. You might advertise month after month to present users that the product they use is poison, and they would never know it. So never waste one line of your space to say something to present users, unless you can say it in your headlines. Bear in mind always that you can address an unconverted prospect.’

Lesson nineteen: when to use pictures in adverts

‘Pictures in advertising are very expensive….Pictures should not be used merely because they are interesting. Or to attract attention. Or to decorate an ad….Use pictures only to attract those who may profit you. Use them only when they form a better selling argument than the same amount of space set in type.’

Lesson twenty: what it takes to write an advert that sells

‘An ad-writer, to have a chance at success, must gain full information on his subject….A painstaking advertising man will often read for weeks on some problem which comes up…Perhaps in may volumes he will find few facts to use. But some one fact may be the keynote of success.’

‘The uninformed would be staggered to know the amount of work involved in a single ad. Weeks of work sometimes. The ad seems so simple, and it must be simple to appeal to simple people. But back of that ad may lie reams of data, volumes of information, months of research. So this is no lazy man’s field.’

Lesson twenty-one: the game of advertising

‘Advertising is much like war, minus the venom. Or much, if you prefer, like a game of chess. We are usually out to capture other’s citadels or garner others’ trade.’

‘We must have skill and knowledge. We must have training and experience, also right equipment….We dare not underestimate opponents.’

Lesson twenty-two: why use samples in advertising?

‘The product itself should be its own best salesman. Not the product alone, but the product plus a mental impression, and atmosphere, which you place around it. That being so, samples of prime importance. However expensive, they usually form the cheapest selling method. ‘

‘Samples serve numerous valuable purposes. They enable on to use the word “Free” in ads. That multiplies readers. Most people want to learn about an offered gift. Test often shows that sample pay for themselves – perhaps several times over – in multiplying the readers of your ads without additional cost of space.’

‘A sample gets action. The reader of your ad may not be convinced to the point of buying. But he ready to learn more about the product you offer. So he cuts out a coupon, lays it aside, and later mails it or presents it. Without that coupon, he would soon forget. Then you have the name and address of an interested prospect. You can start him using your product. You can give him fuller information. You can follow him up.’

Lesson twenty-three: the right people to give samples

‘Give samples to interested people only. Give them only to people who exhibit that interest by some effort. Give them only to people whom you have told your story. First create an atmosphere of respect, a desire, an expectation. When people are in that mood, your sample will usually confirm the qualities you claim.’

Lesson twenty-four: the importance of tests in advertising

‘Almost any questions can be answered, cheaply, quickly and finally, by a test campaign….Go to the court of last resort – the buyers of your product.’

‘Now we let the thousands decide what the millions will do. We make a small venture, and watch cost and result. When we learn what a thousand customers cost, we know almost exactly what a million will cost. When we learn what they buy, we know what a million will buy.’

‘Suppose a chemist would say in an arbitrary way that this compound was best, or that better. You would little respect his opinion. He makes tests – sometimes hundreds of tests – to actually know which is best. He will never state a supposition before he has proved it. How long before advertisers in general will apply that exactness to advertising?”

Lesson twenty-five: the need for a human touch to adverts

‘That’s why we have signed ads sometimes – to give them a personal authority. A man is talking – a man who takes pride in his accomplishments – not a “soulless corporation.” Whenever possible we introduce a personality into our ads. By making a man famous, we make his product famous. When we claim an improvement, naming the man who made it adds effect. Then we take care not to change an individuality which has proved appealing. Before a man writes a new ad on that line, he gets into the spirit adopted by the advertiser. He plays a part as an actor plays it.’

Lesson twenty-six: why adverts should have a constant tone

‘In successful advertising  great pains are taken to never change our tone. That which won so many is probably the best way to win others. Then people come to know us. We build on that acquaintance rather than introduce a stranger in strange guise. People do not know us by name alone, but by looks and mannerisms. Appearing different every time we meet never builds up confidence.’

Lesson twenty-seven: why you should avoid negative advertising

‘To attack a rival is never good advertising. Don’t point out others’ faults. It is not permitted in the best mediums. It is never good policy. The selfish purpose is apparent. It looks unfair, not sporty. ‘

‘Show a bright side, the happy and attractive side, not the dark and uninviting side of things. Show beauty, not homeliness; health, not sickness. Don’t show the wrinkles you propose to remove, but the face as it will appear. Your customers know all about the wrinkles.’

‘We are attracted by sunshine, beauty, happiness, health, success. Then point the way to them, not the way out of the opposite. Picture envied people, not the envious. Tell people what to do, not what to avoid. Make your every ad breath good cheer.’

‘Assume that people will do what you ask. Say, “Send now for this sample.” Don’t say, “Why do you neglect this offer?” That suggests that people are neglecting. Invite them to follow the crowd.’

‘Compare the results of two ads, one negative, one positive. One presenting the dark side. one the bright side. one warning, the other inviting. You will be surprised. You will find that the positive ad out pulls the other four to one, if you have our experience.’

Thanks for taking time to read the lessons. I hope you found one or two lessons helpful. Do you have anything to say about them? Feel free to share thoughts. We appreciate your contributions.


The earlier you admit this, the better for you

Love It. Hate it. Don’t just forget it – you’re a salesperson

It recently dawned on me that a good part of human existence depends on selling. Some are overt strategies. Others involve covert ones.

Any time you have to persuade someone to change their views and accept what you proclaim, remember that you’re selling. Whether you’re a job seeker planning to land your dream job, or a business owner trying to get more customers, or even a young man trying to woo the lady of your fantasies, you’ll have to employ selling strategies to get your way through. These days, religious leaders have even turned to more overt approaches to gain more members into their fold.

So to bring you bring you top-class selling strategies that have worked and still continue to work is what I want to turn my attention to. What new thing should you expect? A lot. See, I’ll review books that teach winning methods of selling. I’ll bring you blogs which speak and walk the craft of selling. When possible, I’ll interview people who have created indelible landmarks in the area of selling. And much, much more.

Let’s hit the ground running in this new direction. I’d like to give a gift to all the persons out there who’re convinced that they are salespeople. It’s a gift I received from a salesman and I intend want to pass it on to you. In fact, a series of posts on this blog for the coming weeks will be about this gift. It’s an ebook format of a gem of book titled, ‘Scientific Advertising,’ written by Claude Hopkins.  It’s about this book the late advertising legend David Ogilvy said:

‘Nobody should be allowed to have anything to do with advertising until he has read this book seven times. It changed the course of my life.’

If you’re familiar with Mr. Ogilvy works in the area of crafting advertising promotions that sell far beyond all imagination, then you’d like to take this book seriously. Why? He’s said to be the brain behind modern advertising. And his company Ogilvy and Mather testifies to his achievements as a salesman. From a humble beginning of only two stuff and no clients, it now boasts of 450 offices in 169 cities. And a bulging list of top notch clients.

If you’re ready for more, let’s delve into this little book to find out what wisdom it has to give in the area of selling. Lets I forget. You may download the book here:  Scientific Advertising

Lessons for Day One

  1. Advertising is now a science. It is measurable. It has laws. There’s a right way and wrong way. It has long changed from what happened in the past, probably during the Pre-Hopkin’s days.
  2. It’s difficult to measure intricate details about humans. But things are closer now than before. Some things about human beings have changed with time. Others are as constant as the earth’s orbit around the sun.
  3. One thing is certain. Losses will come in advertising. But now there are established laws which will reduce the losses. Any loss should be added to the knowledge bank of things that don’t work.

These are just the stepping stones to a better understanding of the whole concept of selling. What else did you get from reading the first chapter of the advertiser’s bible? Share your findings with us.

How Tiger Wood’s Life Confirmed a Marketing Lesson

A few days ago, I saw a documentary titled, ‘Tiger Woods: Rise and Fall.’ From start it gripped my attention. It related how the child Tiger Woods was ‘conceived and birthed’ by Earl Wood, a military veteran.

Earl Woods knew what he wanted. He looked forward to a child who would startle the world with sheer talent and achievement. So, he introduced toddler Tiger Woods to golf. He saw him as master golfer from start. To make his dream a reality, Earl Woods created a system which would mould his son into a golfer of the future. How did he do it? He hired an expert golf trainer for his boy. He reduced his boy’s daily routine to…school and golf lessons. Little Tiger Woods had no friends – sorry, his only friend was his golf trainer.

Earl Woods also wanted something more from his son. As a military veteran, he realised, judging from the sort of racial intimidating climate that existed at the time, that his son had to be trained as a soldier…to be FEARLESS. This determined father engaged the services of a military psychologist to train his boy’s mind through hypnosis and other military strategies.

And the result? The outcome was a never-before-seen golfer who marvelled the white-dominate sport for years. He became the ‘golf standard.’ So was Earl Wood surprised with the outcome? Why should he? Because he saw from a distance what he wanted and spent good money to put together a whole system to achieve that.

You may be asking by now, ‘so what has all this got do with marketing?’ A lot more than meets the eye. I learned from Glazer-Kennedy Inside Circle that successful businesses have SYSTEMS. They have systems for manufacturing, for quality control…and for marketing. They have systems by which they can predict the end from the beginning.

If a business would succeed, Dan argues, then it must employ a workable marketing system…one that’s predictable and measurable. Marketing mustn’t be a trial and error process forever. Trial and error approach should rather be used to generate a tried and tested system which produces similar results every time.

Whether direct mail, web pages or traditional advertising, the business must have a winning formula to all these…the business must have a swipe file of the best direct response marketing copies which can be deployed over and over again with similar success rates.

When it comes to writing effective copies, Jack Turk top copywriter at DKIC said as part of his system, he uses checklist extensively to check every part of his sales copy from the headline to PS. He even takes the pains to dial the contact number on the copy…and sends an email to the contact email. He never leaves anything to chance. He said he rarely begins any sales copy on a terrifying blank page. He either uses a headline or a sentence from one of the best copies in his swipe file.

So, if marketing is a system, what is yours? How do you go about marketing knowing the outcome from the beginning? Feel free to share your thoughts with the many friends out there. I trust you will.

How a Guy Used Direct Mail Techniques from His Mum to Land His Dream Job

This story appeared in the January 2013 edition of the No B.S. Marketing Letter of Glazer-Kennedy Inside Circle.

Tyler Hershberger is a graduate from college with a degree in graphic arts and video production. He gets a job with sales section of a dance studio. Later he decides to find a job in his field of specialty. He doesn’t want to join the teeming applicants online. At this point, he approaches his copywriter mum Nina Hershberger for help. Nina deploys her knowledge from Dan Kennedy’s 3-step Mailing Programme to her son’s aid.

This new job hunting process starts with a compilation of the contact information of the CEOs or the owners of 100 companies Tyler would like to work in. After this he goes ahead with the multi-step mailing process as follows:

1st mail: file folder mailing, with cover letter, fake job interview form customised with each company’s logo at the top and a very visual resume.

2nd mail: one week after the first. It contains inscription ‘X-RAY FILM – DO NOT FOLD’ on 6×9” envelop. The contents are fake piece of X-Ray film with clever headline and illustration, newsletter-format cover letter, duplicate resume

3rd mail: fake handwritten, yellow legal pad piece.

4th mail: ‘How many mailings will it take?’

5th mail: a letter from his dog, with photo of dog clipped with paper clip.

And the result? Two companies take Tyler out for lunch; 5 companies invite him for interviews and he receives calls from others too. Finally he lands a lucrative accounts executive job with a production company with clients worldwide.

What lessons can we learn from Tyler’s story?

  1. First he doesn’t send his resume online like other job seekers. He uses direct mail to distinguish himself from the masses. He makes sure he gets attention.
  2. He chooses his dream companies and mails to them without their asking.
  3. Both Tyler and his mum did some research.
  4. They applied the multi-step mailing sequence as Dan Kennedy teaches.
  5. They applied creativity every step of the way.

Dan argues that what Tyler and his mum did was essentially B2B marketing. Indeed, he says all job-hunting is B2B marketing. Dan further argues that their story proves that traditional direct mail still outperforms online approach. He concludes on the point that it’s necessary to violate industrial norms, common practices and rules to get a head start. Many writers and businesses people seem to share Dan’s last point about rules. They say some rules unnecessarily cripple creativity.

Dear reader, what do you have to say about the post? It’s freedom of expression. Share thoughts now.