Corentin Derbré


My Life in Advertising And Scientific Advertising – Claude C. Hopkins

ISBN: 0844231010
Date read: 2016-04-04
How strongly I recommend it: 7/10
(See my list of books, for more.)

Go to the Amazon page for details and reviews.

Extremely practical and simple advice on marketing. Specific and actionable, easy to understand and read. Written in 1966, the author already uses quantitative and scientific methods to select the best performing ads.

my notes

Work as play

I consider business as a game and I play it as a game. That is why I have been, and still am, so devoted to it.

Look at those boys play ball,” he said. “That’s what I call hard work. Here I am shingling a roof. I am racing with time. I know what surface I must cover before sunset to fulfill my stint. That’s my idea of fun.” “Look at those fellows whittling, discussing railroads, talking politics. The most that any of them know about a railroad is how to drive a spike. They will always do that and no more. Note what I have done while they loafed there this evening—built most of the porch on my home. Soon I will be sitting there in comfort, making love to a pretty wife. They will always be sitting on those soap boxes around the grocery stove. Which is work andwhich play?” “If a thing is useful they call it work, if useless they call it play. One is as hard as the other. One can be just as much a game as the other. In both there is rivalry. There’s a struggle to excel the rest. All the difference I see lies in attitude of mind.”

I have worked for the fun of working and because work became a habit with me.

Working in co-operation, learning from each other and from each new undertaking, some of these men develop into masters.

Our Opinion is Not Valuable

We must never judge humanity by ourselves. The things we want, the things we like, may appeal to a small minority. The higher we ascend the farther we proceed from ordinary humanity. That will not do in advertising. Let me digress here to say that the road to success lies through ordinary people. They form the vast majority. The man who knows them and is one of them stands the vastly better chance. The great majority of men and women cannot appreciate literary style.

Know what people want.

The maker is too close to his product. He sees in his methods only the ordinary. He does not realize that the world at large might marvel at those methods, and that facts which seem commonplace to him might give him vast distinction.

People are like sheep. They cannot judge values, nor can you and I. We judge things largely by others’ impressions, by popular favor. We go with the crowd. So the most effective thing I have ever found in advertising is the trend of the crowd.

None of us know enough peoples desires to get an average viewpoint.

Do Not Ask a Purchase or Boast. Offer Service

Not then, or ever science, have I asked a purchase. That is useless. I have simply offered service.

When we make an offer one cannot reasonably refuse, it is pretty sure to gain acceptance.

The greatest two faults in advertising lie in boasts and in selfishness.

They struck a human chord in a human way. They seemed to offer wanted service.

The man who argues for his own advantage is usually disregarded, often scorned.

One should be natural and simple. His language should not be conspicuous. Never try to show off. Use the shortest words possible. Let every phrase ring with sincerity. From start to finish offer service.

Any studies done that attempt to sell, if apparent, creates corresponding resistance.

Remember the people you address are selfish, as we all are. They care nothing about your interests or profit. They seek service for themselves.

The best ads ask no one to buy. That is useless. Often they do not quote a price. They do not say that dealers handle the product. The ads are based entirely on service. They offer wanted information. They site advantages to users.

Arouse Curiosity and Describe what you do

Study salesmen, canvassers, and fakers if you want to know how to sell goods. No argument in the world can ever compare with one dramatic demonstration.

One must outbid all others in some way. He must offer advantages in qualities, service, or terms, or he must create a seeming advantage by citing facts which others fail to cite.

“others have never told this story. It amazes everyone who goes through your brewery. It will startle everyone in print.”

But tell the pains you take to excel.

We told just the same story that any rival could have told, but all others thought the story was too commonplace.

Curiosity is a strong factor in human nature, and especially with women. Describe a gift, and some will decide that they want it, more will decide that they don’t. But everybody wants a secret gift.

It aroused curiosity. And that is one of the greatest incentives we know in dealing with human nature.

Be Specific, make only one ad

That brings up another point in advertising—the advantage of being specific. Platitudes and generalities make no more impression than water on a duck.

Then why,” I asked, “don’t you emphasize those results? Results are what men are after. They care not how you get them.”

And I know that nobody in a hard-fought field has ever succeeded without some exceptional claims.

Say, “Lowest prices in existence” and people ignore you. Many may make like claims. But say that you sell at 3 per cent profit, and most people believe you. They do not expect you to lie in regard to definite figures.

“The more you tell the more you sell.”

The weight of an argument may often be multiplied by making it specific.

The advertisement should tell a story reasonably complete.

When you once get a persons attention, then is the time to accomplish all you can ever hope with him. Bring all your good arguments to bear. Cover every phase of your subject. One fact appeals to some, one to another.

A man interested enough to buy a car will read a volume about it if the volume is interesting.

Sell the goods & Induce Prompt Action

The way to sell goods is to sell them. The way to do that is to sample and demonstrate, and the more attractive you can make your demonstration the better it will be for you.

Something to induce prompt action, to avoid procrastination, always an important factor.

It is up to us, then, to convince them or forever lose their interest.

The only purpose of advertising is to make sales. It is not for general effect. It is not to keep your name before the people.

One must be able to express himself briefly, clearly and convincingly, just as a salesman must.

A large percentage of people who read an ad and decide to act will forget that decision in five minutes.

The average reader is only once a reader, probably.

Strike while the iron is hot. Get a decision then. Have it followed by prompt action when you can.

On Naming

People like to deal with men whose names are connected with certain accomplishments. They would rather do that, I have found, than deal with soulless corporations.

Personalities appeal, while soulless corporations do not.

Whenever possible we introduce a personality into our ads.

There is great advantage in a name that tells a story (like palmolive).

Target your audience & use their codes

I have never found that it paid to give either a sample or a full-size package to people who do not request it. We must arouse interest in our product before it has value to anybody.

Give samples only to people who take some action to acquire them because of an interest created. Give the product an atmosphere. Otherwise it will never make a lasting impression.

What does it profit an advertiser to attract a reader who has no interest in his subject?

If your story is interesting, people will read it in their accustomed types. Why not follow the usual and natural?

The advertising man studies the consumer. He tries to place himself in the position of the buyer.

He pictures the customers side of his service until the natural result is to buy.

For the entire return from an ad depends on attracting the right sort of readers.

An offer limited to a certain class of people is far more effective than a general offer.

Give samples to interested people only. Give them only to people who exhibit that interest by some effort. Give them only to people whom you have told your story. First create an atmosphere of respect, a desire, an expectation. When people are in that mood, your sample will usually confirm the qualities you claim.

Scientific Advertising: Measure your ads / Traceable Results

Perhaps one time in fifty a guess may be right. But fifty times in fifty an actual test tells you what to do and avoid.

New problems require new experience.

My training had already taught me the necessity for traceable results.

We know what is most effective, and we act on basic law.

The compass of accurate knowledge directs the shortest, safest, cheapest course to any destination.

We learn the principles and prove them by repeated tests.

Headlines, settings, sizes, arguments and pictures are compared. So no guesswork is permitted. One must know what is best.

We cannot say that an article will be popular, but we know how to sell it in the most effective way.

Guesswork is very expensive.

The best advertisers do that. They learn their appealing claims by tests – by comparing results from various headlines. Gradually they accumulate a list of claims important enough to use. All those claims appear in every ad thereafter.

Knowing your results. Scientific advertising is impossible without that. So is safe advertising. So is maximum profit.

In five years for one food advertiser we tried out over fifty separate plans.

He will never state a supposition before he has proved it.

About People

Folks give little thought to warding off disasters. Their main ambition is to attain more success, more happiness, more beauty, more cheer.

“Laugh and the world laughs with you, weep and you weep alone.” People want to be told the ways to happiness and cheer.

People will do anything to cure a trouble, but little to prevent it.

Our success depends on pleasing people.

People are dilatory. They defer action, then forget.

Human nature does not change.

People can be coaxed but not driven. Whatever they do they do to please themselves.

Curiosity is one of the strongest human incentives.

People want safety first.

Do not Amuse

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. They forget they are salesmen and try to be performers. Instead of sales, they seek applause.

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.

Pictures should not be used merely because they are interesting. Or to attract attention. Or to decorate an ad.

People do not patronize a clown.

Do nothing to merely interest, amuse, or attract. That is not your province. Do only that which wins the people you are after in the cheapest possible way.


The writing of headlines is one of the greatest journalistic arts. They either conceal or reveal an interest.

And the people you are after may never realize that the ad refers to something they may want.

Always bear these facts in mind. People are hurried. The average person worth cultivating has too much to read.

Random Advice

Unless the cure was worse than the disease, no one would respect it.

A good article is its own best salesman.

The real men judge us by our love of work, the basis of their success.

They will never be offered again.

What was the secret of that success? Just the daring which led me to abandon safety for uncertainty.

I would rather be a pilot than a captain.

The “free” offer cheapens a product.

When a man knows that something belongs to them – something with his name on – he will make an effort to get it, even though the thing is a trifle.

In every ad consider only new customers. People using your product are not going to read your ads. They have already read and decided.

It is a well-known fact that the greatest profits are made on great volume at small profit. A price which appeals only to – say 10 percent – multiplies the cost of selling.

Most people want to learn about any offered gift.

Sometimes we find that the cost of the advertising comes back before the bills are due. That means that the product can be advertised without investment. Many a great advertiser has been built up without any cost whatever beyond immediate receipts. That is an ideal situation.

© 2018 Corentin Derbré.