Tuesday, July 08, 2008

by Claude C. Hopkins

To properly understand advertising or to learn even
its rudiments one must start with the right
conception. Advertising is salesmanship. Its
principles are the principles of salesmanship.
Successes and failures in both lines are due to like
causes. Thus every advertising question should be
answered by the salesman's standards.

Let us emphasize that point. 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 the people. It is not primarily to aid
your other salesmen. Treat it as a salesman. Force
it to justify itself. Compare it with other
salesmen. Figure its cost and result. Accept no
excuses which good salesmen do not make. Then you
will not go far wrong.

The difference is only in degree. Advertising is
multiplied salesmanship. It may appeal to thousands
while the salesman talks to one. It involves a
corresponding cost. Some people spend $10 per word
on an average advertisement. Therefore every ad
should be a super-salesman.

A salesman's mistake may cost little. An advertisers
mistake may cost a thousand times that much. Be more
cautious, more exacting, therefore. A mediocre
salesman may affect a small part of your trade.
Mediocre advertising affects all of your trade.

Many think of advertising as ad writing. Literary
qualifications have no more to do with it than
oratory has with salesmanship. One must be able to
express himself briefly, clearly and convincingly,
just as a salesman must. But fine writing is a
distinct disadvantage. So is unique literary style.
They take attention from the subject. They reveal
the hook. Any studies done that attempt to sell, if
apparent, creates corresponding resistance.

That is so in personal salesmanship as in
salesmanship-in-print. Fine talkers are rarely good
salesmen. They inspire buyers with the fear of over-
influence. They create the suspicion that an effort
is made to sell them on other lines than merit.

Successful salesmen are rarely good speech makers.
They have few oratorical graces. They are plain and
sincere men who know their customers and know their
lines. So it is in ad writing.

Many of the ablest men in advertising are graduate
salesmen. The best we know have been house-to-house
canvassers. They may know little of grammar, nothing
of rhetoric, but they know how to use words that

There is one simple way to answer many advertising
questions. Ask yourself, "Would it help a salesman
sell the goods?" "Would it help me sell them if I
met a buyer in person?" A fair answer to those
questions avoids countless mistakes.

But when one tries to show off, or does things
merely to please himself, he is little likely to
strike a chord which leads people to spend money.
Some argue for slogans, some like clever conceits.

Would you use them in personal salesmanship? Can you
imagine a customer whom such things would impress?
If not, don't rely on them for selling in print.

Some say "Be very brief. People will read for
little." Would you say that to a salesman? With a
prospect standing before him, would you confine him
to any certain number of words?

That would be an unthinkable handicap.

So in advertising. The only readers we get are
people whom our subject interests. No one reads ads
for amusements, long or short. Consider them as
prospects standing before you, seeking for
information. Give them enough to get action.

Some advocate large type and big headlines. Yet they
do not admire salesmen who talk in loud voices.
People read all they care to read in 8-point type.
Our magazines and newspapers are printed in that
type. Folks are accustomed to it. Anything louder is
like loud conversation. It gains no attention
worthwhile. It may not be offensive, but it is
useless and wasteful. It multiplies the cost of your
story. And to many it seems loud and blatant.

Others look for something queer and unusual. They
want ads distinctive in style or illustration. Would
you want that in a salesman? Do not men who act and
dress in normal ways make a far better impression?
Some insist on dressy ads. That is all right to a
certain degree, but is quite important. Some poorly-
dressed men, prove to be excellent salesmen. Over
dress in either is a fault.

So it is with countless questions.

Measure them by salesmen's standards, not by
amusement standards. 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.

When you plan or prepare an advertisement, keep
before you a typical buyer. Your subject, your
headline has gained his or her attention. Then in
everything be guided by what you would do if you met
the buyer face-to-face. If you are a normal man and
a good salesman you will then do your level best.

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

Some advertising men go out in person and sell to
people before they plan to write an ad. One of the
ablest of them has spent weeks on one article,
selling from house to house. In this way they learn
the reactions from different forms of argument and
approach. They learn what possible buyers want and
the factors which don't appeal. It is quite
customary to interview hundreds of possible
customers. Others send out questionnaires to learn
the attitude of the buyers. In some way all must
learn how to strike responsive chords.

Guesswork is very expensive.

The maker of an advertised article knows the
manufacturing side and probably the dealers side.
But this very knowledge often leads him astray in
respect to customers. His interests are not in their
interests. The advertising man studies the consumer.
He tries to place himself in the position of the
buyer. His success largely depends on doing that to
the exclusion of everything else.

The reason for most of the non-successes in
advertising is trying to sell people what they do
not want. But next to that comes lack of true

Ads are planned and written with some utterly wrong
conception. They are written to please the seller.
The interest of the buyer are forgotten. One can
never sell goods profitably, in person or in print,
when that attitude exists.

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