A Story of Success
My Life in Advertising. By Claude C. Hopkins. (Harpers.
12s. 6d.) •
- • - - Through his father he experienced poverty, and he-, tells us he owed much to that condition :—
"It took me among the common people, of whom God made so many. I came to know them, their wants and impulses, their struggles and -economies, their simplicities. These common people whom I know so well became my future customers. When I talk to them, in print or in person, they recognize me as one of their kind. . . . I do not know the reactions of the rich. But I do know the common people. I love to talk to labouring men, to study housewives who must count their pennies, to gain the con- fidence and learn the ambitions of poor boys and girls. Give me something which they want and I will strike the responsive chord. My words will be simple, my sentences short. Scholars may ridicule my style. The rich and vain may laugh at the factors which I feature. But in millions of humble homes the common people will read and buy. They will feel that the writer knows them. And they, in advertising, form 95 per cent, of our customers."' The first success Mr. Hopkins achieved in advertising was with Bissell carpet sweepers.. He offered service to housewives in an original form, with the result that the name of Bissell is now a household word. Leaving with regret his friends and the environment that he loved, seeking bigger fields, Mr. Hopkins joined the firm of Swift, the famous Chicago packers.
At first his advertising for this firm produced no startling results, and after six weeks it was suggested to him that the sales in Cotosuet, a substitute for lard or butter in cooking, were expected to increase rapidly. Thereupon, Mr. Hopkins was' seized with an inspiration—he would have the largest cake in the world and it should be cooked with Cotosuet, The cake was to be decorated magnificently, and to be built as high as theroorn in the premises where it was to be displayed. Half-page advertisements 'were inserted in the newspapers announcing this gigantic confection, and on the Saturday night when the store was opened the traffic was blocked by
the sensation loving crowds who flocked to see this spectacle; - • - - - .
"During the week, 105,000 people climbed four flights of stairs to that cake. The elevators could not carry them. There I had demonstrators to offer samples of the cake. Then we had prizes to offer to those who guessed nearest to the weight, but. every r bad to buy a pail of Cotosuet. As a result of that week, tosuet was placed on a profit-paying basis in Chicago. We gained thousands of users."
No argument (the author points the moral for us) can ever compare with a dramatic demonstration in advertising.
Palmolive Soap owes its popularity to .Mr. Hopkins's original method of putting it on the market, and; above all, to that jewel of advertising copy, "Keep that 'schoolgirl complexion ! " What woman can resist the appeal ? Quaker Oats, Pepsodent, Food Shot from Guns (Puffed Wheat and Puffed Rice) are all the children of Mr. Hopkins's genius.
His theory of !` scientific , advertising" will be best under-
stood by quoting some of his own crisp sentences, whick illustrate his method. . _
" Brilliant writing has no place in advertising. Never try to show off. You are selling your product, not yourself. From start tO finish offer service. Do not boast. Frivolity has no place in advertising: Nor Mei humour. Spending money is usually serious business. -Never advertise negatively. Always present the attrac- tive side, not the offensive side of a subject. People are seeking happiness, safety, beauty, and content. Then show them the way. Superlative claims do not count. People are pretty well educated to' the -belief that advertising must tell the truth."- -- "THE greatest event in my career occurred a year before I was born. My father selected for me a Scotch mother."
Thus does Mr. Hopkins take off on his flight to the unexplored airs of modern American advertising, and we, his passengers,
are at once acutely aware of the keynote of his engine's tune. From his Scotch mother, Mr, Hopkins tells us, he inherited those qualities to which he owed his success—he is the pioneer of
scientific advertising—an instinct for "safety first" in all undertakings, for economy, for conservatism, and the capacity for intense industry and concentration :—
"I have supported myself since the age of nine. Other boys, when they went to school as I did, counted their school work a day. It was an incident to me. Before school I opened two school- houses, built the fires and dusted the seats. After school I swept those school-houses. Then I distributed the Detroit Evening ;Nan, to sixty-five homes before supper."
Thus Mr. Hopkins laid down the principles which, according to him, are as enduring as the Alps. _ - - No one can fail to be stimulated by this story of success. English readers may also be startled by its crudity and directness. It is not a personal history, but a business story, and a business story told with such honesty that it has the flavour of true romance. -