Posts Tagged ‘Scientific Advertising’

Claude Hopkins Series – Advertising has rules and can be measured (Article 1)

June 30, 2018

A little over two years ago, I posted an article on LinkedIn called “What Claude Hopkins Knew 100 Years Ago”  –


One of the reasons that I wrote this article at the time was that Claude Hopkins was an amazing man, especially from an advertising and marketing perspective. His book, “Scientific Advertising” still makes sense today. While the techniques today are certainly different, he would have understood agile and he would have understood viral and growth hacking. I suspect he would have loved living in the digital advertising environment we have today. I intended, at the time, to create a series of articles on the book, comparing his thinking to what we see today in digital. I never did get there, but this time around, I hope to highlight the thinking he developed over his career and finally put into print in 1923.

David Ogilvy once 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”. While the quote above needs to be taken in the context of David’s time, I think it is still accurate.

I was first exposed to this book in college. Honestly, I was too young at the time. I read it but really did not “get it”. Later, another remarkable man named Jay Abraham mentioned this book on several occasions. I went back and read the book again (along with “My Life in Advertising”) and found I was much more receptive this time around.

(FYI…for those of you not familiar with Jay Abraham, he is another marketing mind well worth checking out. I have read his books and articles, listened to his audio tapes, listened to his podcasts and watched his videos. He has had a major impact on my business process and my perception of how marketing should be done.

Jay is incredibly expensive to hire, but he is also very giving. He provides a great deal of free or inexpensive content for the rest of us…. I strongly suggest that you check this link, 50 Shades of Jay  to get a taste what he  is all about.)

But, back to Claude…

In the opening chapter of the book, he indicates that “advertising is not risky”, that there has been documentation on what works and what does not, and “we can learn the principles and prove them by repeated tests”. He was of course referring to mail order and print advertising, but this is essentially the rallying cry of digital. He was a strong advocate of couponing and versioning and measuring the results that were achieved while testing variations.

He also recognized that individual campaigns must be different, and that “no two campaigns are conducted around lines that are identical”. This is something that we all need to hear more frequently today. More often than not, I will hear that a specific (tactical) approach should be taken because it worked for Brand X. I also hear that personas that we have should align with personas developed by Brand X. Neither of these are likely to be true as we should have our own brand position and target audience out there in the market. Claude understood that ”me too” rarely worked, and that while you needed to understand the basic principles, every brand needs to forge its own path. This is very much aligned with the differentiation and relationship selling we all talk about today.

We have come full circle in some respects. Digital is also direct marketing. We stepped away from this in the days of big media, broad messaging and push advertising. “Most national advertising is done without justification. It is merely presumed to pay. A little test might show a way to multiply returns” – Claude C. Hopkins

But 1:1 was something that Claude would understand. In fact, my next article will be how he compares advertising to salespersonship.