If there was a Mount Rushmore of advertising, Claude C. Hopkins would be its George Washington.
Test marketing, coupon sampling, and copy research are standards today in advertising, and Hopkins invented them all.
Many ad experts believe present-day advertising research doesn’t come close to reaching the standards that Hopkins (1866-1932) established. (For example, he would be appalled by the return-on-investment of Super Bowl advertising.)
Hopkins wrote two books on advertising — “Scientific Advertising” and “My Life In Advertising.” Both volumes continue to be essential guideposts for top advertising, sales, and marketing professionals.
“Advertising is salesmanship,” Hopkins said. “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.”
With that as background, here — in his own words — are 13 advertising don’ts from Claude C. Hopkins.
• Don’t forget the customer. Ads are planned and written with some utterly wrong conception. They are written to please the seller. The interests of the buyer are forgotten. One can never sell goods profitably, in person or in print, when that attitude exists.
• Don’t forget your purpose. The only purpose of advertising is to make sales. It is profitable or unprofitable according to its actual sales.
• Don’t confuse advertising with public relations. Advertising is not for general effect. It is not to keep your name before the people.
• Don’t accept excuses. Treat advertising 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.
• Don’t show off. 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.
• Don’t use slogans. Some argue for slogans, some like clever conceits. Would you use them in personal salesmanship? If not, don’t rely on them for selling in print.
• Don’t set limits. The only readers we get are people whom our subject interests. No one reads ads for amusement, long or short. Consider readers as prospects standing before you, seeking information. Give them enough to get action.
• Don’t overdress. Some insist on elaborate design. That is all right to a certain degree, but it is quite unimportant. Some poorly-dressed ads, like poorly-dressed men, prove to be excellent salesmen. Overdress in either is a fault.
• Don’t pander to those who want to be entertained. Ads are not written to entertain. When they do, those entertainment seekers are little likely to be the people whom you want.
• Don’t seek applause. Ad writers forget they are salesmen and try to be performers. Instead of sales, they seek applause.
• 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 amuse. Money spending is a serious matter.
• Don’t boast, for all people resent it.