Scientific Advertising

Claude Hopkins

Claude C. Hopkins lived from 1866-1932 and is widely acknowledged as one of the greatest copywriters and advertising men that ever lived. In 1907 his annual salary was reportedly $185,000 (over $4.2 million dollars a year in today's money). Hopkins is credited with inventing many foundational advertising techniques such as money-back guarantees, market research, sampling and trials.

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Scientific Advertising

Scientific Advertising was first written in 1923 and is Hopkin's advertising manifesto. Over 85 years later, some of his examples have dated. My favourite is the example of advertising
a drink which has a calorie value equal to "six eggs". However, Scientific Advertising is mostly concerned with advertising principles. Even though fashions and markets have changed, the underlying principles remain consistent.

Relevant Controversies

The strongest argument for Scientific Advertising's continued relevance is the fact that the controversies he mentions are still being argued out today.
Even Hopkins struggled against advice that is familiar today:

  • That any attention is good attention.
  • That people won't read long ads.
  • That the main purpose of advertising is "to get your name out there".
  • That good advertising should entertain.
  • That advertising is art.

Advertising Should Not Be a Gamble

There is a famous story that Thomas Edison worked out a thousand ways not to build a light bulb before he finally managed it. Hopkin's genius was to suggest that advertising should be subjected to the same rigorous process.
In Scientific Advertising he constantly returns to this method:

  1. Run ad.
  2. Track results.
  3. Improve ad (or abandon if unprofitable).
  4. Repeat 1-3.

It seems to be a fundamental human desire to overcomplicate simple formulas. Therefore it shouldn't really be a surprise that Hopkin's formula is so often forgotten or needlessly made
complicated.

Your Market is the Final Judge

You might not agree with everything Claude Hopkins says. You might even find that some of his principles don't apply to your market. If that's the case I'm sure the great man would not mind... as
long as you could point to a pile of tracked advertisements which prove it.

My background is in software development and I realized early on that good code was only a very small part of a successful website. For my clients, a successful website was one that was good advertising, generating many more dollars in sales than what it cost. I realized that I had to expand my education.
As I soaked up as much as I could about advertising and marketing, many of the giants kept pointing back to Claude Hopkins, the pioneer that had shown them the way.
- Lindsay Stewart, Potent Web (founder)