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Three Marketing Lessons from the Father of Advertising

Claude Hopkins was the pioneer of advertising as we know it today, and the rules of advertising he put together 90 years ago in his most famous work – Scientific Advertising – are more relevant than ever.


At the time, advertising was a dark forest for most. The decision process was mostly guesswork, and most companies relied on their gut when allocating millions of dollars on advertising. There weren’t any extensive resources on how to advertise, either – it was a fairly new industry, and everyone’s been trying things out.


One group of advertisers, however, seemed to know something others didn’t.


Mail order advertising was a big thing back at the time – businesses would market anything from automobiles to razor blades through physical mail. However, it was also the most difficult – selling a physical product by only showing a small picture and a couple of sentences of copy isn’t easy. According to Claude, mail order advertising was the ultimate test that every advertiser should take.


But it wasn’t the difficulty that interested Claude. It was how mail order advertisers approached the task. Their scientific reliance on data and testing, putting personal emotions and gut feelings aside were what convinced Claude it was the way of the future.


“One ad is compared with another, one method with another. Headlines, settings, sizes, arguments and pictures are compared. To reduce the cost of results even one per cent means much in some mail order advertising. So no guesswork is permitted. One must know what is best. Thus mail order advertising first established many of our basic laws,” – Hopkins wrote in Scientific Advertising.


So, what else can we learn from the father or marketing as we know it today?


Marketing is more science than art


One of the biggest ideas Claude Hopkins tried to pass to future generations that in order for your marketing to work long-term, you have to collect, analyze and rely on your data. It’s the only way to create sustainable growth with a solid groundwork.


Of course, the creative part matters. But creativity in marketing efforts needs to be carefully measured and analyzed in order for it to work. Otherwise, you’re not really selling, but merely showing off your creative potential. Which is good for your ego, not your business.

Marketing is selling, not chatting


The other big thing Hopkins emphasized is that many marketers forget that they’re the organization’s salesmen, who have the power to multiply their sales pitch to millions of people. Therefore, anything that doesn’t help the reader isn’t good marketing.


A good rule of thumb Hopkins suggested was always thinking whether what you write would make sense to say if you were in front of a real audience you’re trying to reach. Would you this exact phrasing if you were in front of a person you’re pitching to? If not, you need to rework your marketing.


Nobody cares about you


This was one of my favorite outtakes from the book. You think somebody gives a sh*t about you or your company? Think again.


Dinners is where people might be polite and pretend to be interested in your persona. Hell, they might even ask you a question themselves.


However, when people are by themselves, they’re looking for value. They look for stuff that could benefit them. Whether it’s entertainment or information, if your piece of marketing doesn’t give anything useful to the reader, they simply won’t care.


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