Early on in the days of advertising, companies didn’t have the insight that we do today within the field.
Whereas today, you can conduct focus groups to understand your consumers better.
Expanding into the marketing field, you can A/B test, perform in-depth research on demographics, and finely tune campaigns to fit the psychographics of your audience (for this post, we will treat ‘advertising’ and ‘marketing’ as almost equals — y’know, same same, but different).
And this is the premise of Claude Hopkins’ “Scientific Advertising.”
Early on in the book, Hopkins described advertising as a science, in that there are fixed principles, the ability to analyze cause and effect, as well as correct methods of procedure have been established in terms of which is most effective for your given situation.
Overall, I really enjoyed this book (especially because you can read it online for free in PDF format).
Here are 3 takeaways from ‘Scientific Advertising’.
We Are All Salesmen in the Game of Life
Okay, this takeaway isn’t nearly as revelatory/nuanced as the header suggests, but Hopkins makes a really compelling point in stating that “advertising is multiplied salesmanship”.
With marketing/advertising, you’re dealing with lots of prospects as opposed to dealing with one at a time, like a salesman.
Because of this, there is more risk with a big marketing campaign that bombs, as it can end up costing you millions. If a salesperson has one blown meeting, that’s life and they move on to the next prospect.
To demonstrate why this analogy matters, Hopkins talks about how a common saying amongst headline and copywriters is to “Be very brief. People will read little.”
Well, if salesmen really are like marketers, then taking the short, brief approach to copy isn’t necessarily the best way to go.
Hopkins asks if you would tell the same to a salesman with a prospect standing before him. Probably not.
However, there are definitely situations where you would want to be brief with copy and headlines. For example, a homepage on a website shouldn’t feature thousands and thousands of words. Otherwise, you’ll risk overwhelming the user.
Hopkins qualifies his thoughts on keeping things brief by adding, “Give them enough to take action”. In other words, be insightful, but avoid the ‘fluff’.
People Are (Understandably) Selfish
“Remember the people you address are selfish, as we all are.”
When it comes to being a consumer, even the most charitable, kind, thoughtful person is selfish. We’re not interested in hearing about how great your company is or how awesome your product is UNLESS you can relate it to how it will help us out.
“(Consumers) care nothing about your interests or profit,” Hopkins says, “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.”
When marketing to your ideal customers, make sure you demonstrate how your offering benefits them (i.e. Our new truck is the safest, most dependable vehicle of it’s kind. Spend less time at the mechanic and more time on the road).
It also comes down to is whether or not you’re bringing value to the consumer. Whether it’s in the form of being a sustainable company that a consumer can feel good about using, or if you supply them with additional, high-quality content and entertainment long after the point of purchase.
Could You Be More Specific (and Honest), Please?
“One expects a salesman to put his best foot forward and excuses some exaggeration born of enthusiasm. But just for that reason, general statements count for little. And a man inclined to superlatives must expect that his every statement will be taken with some caution. But a man who makes a specific claim is either telling the truth or a lie. People do not expect an advertiser to lie. They know that he can’t lie in the best mediums. The growing respect in advertising has largely come through a growing regard for its truth. So a definite statement is usually accepted. Actual figures are not generally discounted. Specific facts, when stated, have their full weight and effect.”
A lengthy quote, but an important one none-the-less. Hopkins’ assertion that consumers care more about the truth than previously has only grown since the original publishing of his book. If a company is caught lying or doing something particularly sneaky for the sake of profits — especially at the cost of the consumer — then it will take a while to get back that good will they lost.
And there is no doubt that consumers are more eco-friendly and sustainable than ever before, where brands are scrambling to change their mission to statements and values to reflect the growing number of green consumers.
Being specific and detailed about your product offering goes beyond the features and characteristics of your product or service. You should be disclosing where you’re sourcing your materials from and any other initiatives that back up your talk.
You don’t necessarily need to become a full-bore, sustainable company. But you should be taking action to give back to the community in some way — no matter if you’re a small, medium, or large business.