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Denver Great Minds™

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Scientific Advertising - Book Review

Updated: Jul 28, 2021


Claude C. Hopkins (1866–1932) was one of the great advertising pioneers. He believed advertising existed only to sell something and should be measured and justified by the results it produced. He worked for various advertisers, including Bissell Carpet Sweeper Company, Swift & Company, and Dr. Shoop's patent medicine company. According to David Ogilvy, in 1907, at the age of 41, Hopkins was hired by Albert Lasker, owner of Lord & Thomas advertising, at a salary of $185,000 a year. Hopkins insisted copywriters research their clients' products and produce "reason-why" copy. He believed that a good product and the atmosphere around it was often its own best salesperson, and, as such, he was a great believer in sampling. To track the results of his advertising, and then tested headlines, offers, and propositions against one another. He used the analysis of these measurements to improve his ad results, driving responses and the cost effectiveness of his clients' advertising s.


The book Scientific Advertising was published in 1923, following his retirement from Lord & Thomas, where he finished his career as president and chairman. This book was followed, in 1927, by his autobiographical work My Life in Advertising. He died in 1932. Hopkins has been credited with popularizing tooth brushing, as a result of his campaigns for Pepsodent.

Hopkins was much more interested in direct marketing than branding advertising. He believed advertising was more about scientific results than image. This book was recommended to me by a sales mentor of mine, and boy, am I glad to read it. It has become one of my favorite gems and cherished assets of my home library.


I was surprised it was only $4.29 for paperback or $9.77 for a hardcover on Amazon. When my mentor offers an inexpensive book suggestion and it turns up on numerous Top Lists, it's a no brainer. Consider this another highly favorable suggestion to you. A great read for anyone in sales, marketing, or a business owner. It was a refreshing opinion in an ocean of mislead marketers. Some basic principals never go out of style- especially Mr. Hopkins's unwavering belief that advertising's only purpose is to make a sale and it should be tracked and adjusted for this goal. I'm going to cover the major takeaways, some outstanding quotes, and my conclusions.





Advertising's only purpose of advertising is to make sales. It is profitable or unprofitable according to its actual sales.


He really emphasizes that if there must be a photo then it should be a influential photo. Advertising is not meant to be artistically expressive, exciting, or humorous. It's purpose is to influence an action that generates a sale. It sells a product. In order to be effective the marketer must track it's effectiveness with benchmarks and metrics.


The advertisement is read only by interested people who, by their own volition, study what we have to say.


Headlines are a big deal. It signals to the right people that you have a solution to their problem. Our time is finite and our attention can only be spread so thin. In a noisy world, headlines help people quickly judge whether reading your content will be beneficial to them. This is resounded in the online world of blogging and exacerbated by the noise of competitors. Headlines target the audience for you product. Get the headline wrong or adjust a headline that is working to something weaker and it can dramatically effect your bottom-line sales.


We learn that people judge largely by price. They are not experts.


It's important to understand what motivates us to make a purchase. Psychology is a huge part of targeting a particular audience and satisfying their needs. If your advertising makes a promise, it should speak to the core of your customer's needs. "Most customers want to feel like they can afford to and have and wear the best. Treat them as if they could not and they will resent your attitude."

  • Curiosity is one of the strongest human incentives.

  • Customers want bargains but not cheapness.

  • When something has their name on it- he will make an effort to get it.

  • Free is not valued.

There is a great deal in mental impressions.


" If people can be made sick or well by mental impressions, they can be made to favour a certain brand in that way. And that, on some lines, is the only way to win them." When you know your customer, you can made particular distinctions by highlighting certain benefits. It will scream to them in ways that it won't for others.


These were just some of the gold nuggets in this book. I adored his direct and concise language. His directness might be construed as arrogance if he hadn't achieved such success in the advertising industry. While working for the Bissell Carpet Sweeper Company, Hopkins sent out five thousand letters recommending carpet sweepers as Christmas presents - one thousand people sent in orders. He also convinced Bissell manufacturers to offer more variety of carpet sweepers, such as making them with twelve different types of wood. Following these changes, Bissell sold two hundred fifty thousand in three weeks.


One of the epiphanies for me was sparked by this paragraph:

"Never be guided in any way by ads which are untraced. never do anything because some uninformed advertiser considers that something is right. Never be led in new paths by the blind. Apply to your advertising ordinary common sense. take the opinion of nobody, who knows nothing about his returns."

So much of the digital age is optimized for "likes", views, or quick shares. I feel as if nothing is optimized for the substance reader. It is obvious, then, why everybody has trust issues with advertisers. I feel as if the majority of online content is generated as untraceable. A true master of advertising creates ads to tell a story in a very concise and effective way to the right person.



Claude tackles many misconceptions in this book: giving away samples, fine art used for attention, frivolous content, and long style copywriting. " We cannot go after thousands of men until we learn how to win one." Costly mistakes are made by blindly following ill-conceived ideas. One thing has been proven by many disappointments: people will do much to cure trouble, but people in general will do little to prevent it. Prevention is a virtue and it doesn't seem many people partake in it until it's extremely painful. Success would seem to be a matter of approaching the right person (or company) who has solved the issue and willing to share the solution. However, changing people's habits is very expensive. Helping someone achieve a desired result is commendable, but altruistic. The entrepreneur has rivals, expenses, and overhead. Therefore, to keep the business functioning properly he must charge appropriately. In other words, advertising has a very important goal and it must be done as cheaply as possible. A business owner who doesn't know how much it costs to acquire a customer, how much the effort is costing, and how much the historical return is generating is a business destined to fail.


I shared some wonderful thoughts and aspects of this book but I highly recommend it as an addition to your physical collection. The price is astounding for the amount of knowledge for this 120 page book. I love that his concepts are still relevant after the digital boom of the internet. It's astounding to me how many marketers don't develop their craft or stray from the founding principals. Marketing and advertising has the power to ripple-effect into our society and history. If you are curious about those effects, look at De Beers popularized the diamond engagement ring or how Swanson & Son changed America with TV dinners. Overall, this rose to the top of my favorites in marketing books for 2021.


What are your thoughts? Do you agree or disagree? #FREETHINKERS #UNITE How well are you tracking your efforts in advertising?


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