• Claude Hopkins
  • January 14, 2020
    Read, recorded or researched
Written in 1923 and only 68 pages long. I’ve seen reviews say it’s dated but (in my humble opinion) it isn’t. The examples might be but the principles are timeless. There’s no fluff. Just practical advice useful for anyone – we all sell something.

The Best Points

Scientific Advertising


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Just salesmanship

  • Advertising is salesmanship. Its principles are the principles of salesmanship. Successes and failures in both lines are due to the same causes.
  • 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.
  • 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 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.
  • 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.
  • This book will contain no more important chapter than this one on salesmanship. 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 salesmanship. Some ads are planned and written with a totally wrong conception. They are written to please the seller. The interests of the buyer are forgotten.

Offer service

  • Remember the people you address are selfish, as we all are. They care nothing about your interests or your profit. They seek service for themselves.
  • Ignoring this fact is a common mistake and a costly mistake in advertising. Ads say in effect, “Buy my brand. Give me the trade you give to others. Let me have the money.” That is not a popular appeal. The best ads ask no one to buy.
  • 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. Perhaps they offer a sample, or to buy the first package, or to send something on approval, so the customer may prove the claims without any cost or risk.


  • Always bear these facts in mind. People are hurried. The average person worth cultivating has too much to read. They skip three-forths of the reading matter which they pay to get. They are not going to read your business talk unless you make it worth their while and let the headline show it.
  • People will not be bored in print. They may listen politely at a dinner table to boasts and personalities, life history, etc. but in print they choose their own companions, their own subjects. They want to be amused or benefited. They want economy, beauty, labor saving, good things to eat or wear. There may be products, which interest them more than anything else in the magazine, but they will never know it unless the headline or picture tells them.
  • The writer of this chapter spends far more time on headlines than on writing. He often spends hours on a single headline. Often scores of headlines are discarded before the right one is selected. For the entire return from an ad depends on attracting the right sort of reader. The best of salesmanship has no chance whatsoever—unless we get a hearing.
  • Don’t think that those millions will read your ads to find out if your product interests. They will decide by a glance—by your headline or your pictures. Address the people you seek and them only.


  • The competent advertising man must understand psychology. The more he knows about it the better. He must learn that certain effects lead to certain reactions, and use that knowledge to increase results and avoid mistakes. Human nature is perpetual. In most respects it is the same today as in the time of Caesar. So the principles of psychology are fixed and enduring. You will never need to unlearn what you learn about them.
  • Curiosity is one of the strongest human incentives. Puffed Wheat and Puffed Rice were made successful largely through curiosity.
  • “Grains puffed to 8 times the normal size.”
  • “Foods shot from guns.”
  • “125 million steam explosions caused in every kernel.”
  • These foods were failures before that factor was discovered.
  • We learn that people judge largely by price. They are not experts. In the British National Gallery is a painting which is announced in the catalog to have cost $750,000. Most people at first pass it by at a glance. Then later they get farther on in the catalog and learn what the painting cost. They return then and surround it.
  • One great advertising man stated the difference this way:
“Two men came to me, each offering me a horse. Both made equal claims. They were good horses, kind and gentle. A child could drive them. One man said, ‘Try the horse for a week. If my claims are not true, come back for your money.’ The other man also said, ‘Try the horse for week.’ But he added, ‘Come and pay me then.’ I naturally bought the second mans horse.”
  • Now countless things—cigars, typewriters, washing machines, books, etc.—are sent out in this way on approval. And we find that people are honest. The losses are very small.

Being Specific

  • Platitudes and generalities roll off the human understanding like water from a duck. They leave no impression whatever. To say, “Best in the world,” “Lowest price in existence,” etc. is at best simply claiming the expected. But superlatives of that sort are usually damaging. They suggest looseness of expression, a tendency to exaggerate a careless truth. They lead readers to discount all the statements that you make.
  • A definite statement is usually accepted. Actual figures are not generally discounted. Specific facts, when stated, have their full weight and effect. This is very important to consider in written or personal salesmanship.
  • The weight of an argument may often be multiplied by making it specific. Say that a tungsten lamp gives more light than a carbon one and you leave some doubt. Say it gives three and one-third times the light and people realise that you have made tests and comparisons.
  • Shaving soaps have long been advertised “Abundant lather,” “Does not dry on the face,” “Acts quickly,” etc. One advertiser had as good a chance as the other to impress those claims.
  • Then a new maker came into the field. It was a tremendously difficult field, for every customer had to be taken from someone else. He stated specific facts. He said, “Multiplies itself in lather 250 times” “Softens the beard in one minute.” “Maintains its creamy fullness for ten minutes on the face.” “The final result of testing and comparing 130 formulas.”
  • Perhaps never in advertising has there been a quicker and greater success in an equally difficult field. Makers of safety razors have long advertised quick shaves. One maker advertised a 78-second shave. That was definite. It indicated actual tests.That man at once made a sensational advance in his sales.
  • In the old days all beers were advertised as “Pure,” The claim made no impression. The bigger the type used the bigger the folly.
  • After millions had been spent to impress a platitude, one brewer pictured a plate glass where beer was cooled in filtered air. He pictured a filter of white wood pulp through which every drop was cleared. He told how bottles were washed four times by machinery. How he went down 4,000 feet for pure water. How 1,018 experiments had been made to attain a yeast to give beer that matchless flavour. And how all the yeast was forever made from that adopted mother cell.
  • All claims were such as any brewer might have made. They were mere essentials in ordinary brewing. But he was the first to tell the people about them, while others cried merely “pure beer.” He made the greatest success that was ever made in beer advertising.

Tell your full story

  • Some advertisers, for sake of brevity, present one claim at a time. Or they write a serial ad, continued in another issue. There is no greater folly. Those serials almost never connect. When you once get a person’s attention, then is the time to accomplish all ever hope with him.
  • Bring all your good arguments to bare. Cover every phase of your subject. One fact appeals to some, one to another. Omit any one and a certain percentage will lose the fact which might convince. People are not apt to read successive advertisements on any single line. No more than you read a news item twice, or a story. In one reading of an advertisement one decides for or against a proposition. And that operates against a second reading. So present to the reader, when once you get him, every important claim you have.
  • In every ad consider only new customers. People using your product are not going to read your ads. They have already read and decided.
  • This brings up the question of brevity. The most common expression you hear about advertising is that people will not read much. Yet a vast amount of the best-paying advertising shows that people do read much. Then they write for a book, perhaps—for added information. There is no fixed rule on this subject of brevity. One sentence may tell a complete story on a line like chewing gum. It may on an article like Cream of Wheat. But, whether long or short, an advertising story should be reasonably complete.
  • Never be led in new paths by the blind.

Art in advertising

  • Pictures in many lines form a major factor, omitting the lines where the article itself should be pictured.
  • In some lines, like Arrow Collars and most in clothing advertising, pictures have proved most convincing. Not only in picturing the collar or the clothes, but also in picturing men whom others envy, in surroundings which others covet.
  • The pictures subtly suggest that these articles of apparel will aid men to those desired positions. So with correspondence schools. Theirs is traced advertising. Picturing men in high positions of taking upward steps forms a very convincing argument.
  • So with beauty articles. Picturing beautiful women, admired and attractive, is a supreme inducement. But there is a great advantage in including a fascinated man. Women desire beauty largely because of men. Then show them using their beauty, as women do use it, to gain maximum effect.
  • The general rule applies. 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.

Things too costly

  • It is a very shrewd thing to watch the development of a popular trend, the creation of new desires. Then at the right time offer to satisfy those desires. It can every year be done on new things which some popular fashion or widespread influence is bringing into vogue. But it is a very different thing to create that fashion, taste or influence for all in your field to share.
  • Costly mistakes are made by blindly following some ill-conceived idea. An article, for instance, may have many uses, one of which is to prevent disease. Prevention is not a popular subject, however much it should be. People will do much to cure trouble, but people in general will do little to prevent it. This has been proved by many disappointments.
  • A toothpaste may tend to prevent decay. It may also beautify teeth. Tests will probably show that the latter appeal is many times as strong as the former. The most successful toothpaste advertiser never features tooth troubles in his headlines. Tests have proved them unappealing.
  • This chapter, like every chapter, points out a very important reason for knowing your results. Scientific advertising is impossible without that. So is safe advertising. So is maximum profit. Groping in the dark in this field has probably cost enough money to pay the national debt. That is what has filled the advertising graveyards. That is what has discouraged thousands who could profit in this field. And the dawn of knowledge is what is bringing a new day in the advertising world.


  • To advertise toothpaste this writer has also read many volumes of scientific matter dry as dust. But in the middle of one volume he found the idea which has helped make millions for that toothpaste maker. And has made this campaign one of the sensations of advertising. Genius is the art of taking pains. The advertising man who spares the midnight oil will never get very far.

Use of samples

  • The product itself should be its own best salesman. Not the product alone, but the product plus a mental impression, and atmosphere, which you place around it. That being so, samples are of prime importance. However expensive, they usually form the cheapest selling method.
  • Putting a price on a sample greatly retards replies. Then it prohibits you from using the word “Free” in your ads. And that word “Free,” as we have stated will generally more than pay for your samples
  • 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.
  • Here again comes the advantage of figuring cost per customer. That is the only way to gauge advertising. Samples sometimes seem to double advertising cost. They often cost more than the advertising. Yet, rightly used, they almost invariably form the cheapest way to get customers. And that is what you want.

Test campaigns

  • Almost any questions can be answered, cheaply, quickly and finally, by a test campaign. That is the way to answer them, not by arguments around a table. Go to the court of last resort. The buyers of your product.
  • Now we let the thousands decide what the millions will do. We make a small venture, and watch cost and result. When we learn what a thousand customers cost, we know almost exactly what a million will cost. When we learn what they buy, we know what a million will buy. We establish averages on a small scale, and those averages always hold. We know our cost, we know our sale, and we know our profit and loss. We know how soon our cost comes back. Before we spread out, we prove our undertaking absolutely safe. So there are today no advertising disasters piloted by men who know.

Leaning on dealers

  • Your object in all advertising is to buy new customers at a price, which pays a profit. You have no interest in garnering trade at any particular store. Learn what your consumers cost and what they buy. If they cost you one dollar each, figure that every wasted dollar costs you a possible customer.
  • Your business will be built in that way, not by dealer help. You must do your own selling, make your own success. Be content if dealers fill the orders that you bring. Eliminate your wastes. Spend all your ammunition where it counts for most.


  • That’s why we have signed ads sometimes—to give them a personal authority. A man is talking—a man who takes pride in his accomplishments—not a “soul-less corporation.”
  • Whenever possible we introduce a personality into our ads. By making a man famous we make his product famous. When we claim an improvement, naming the man who made it adds effect.
  • In successful advertising great pains are taken to never change our tone. That which won so many is probably the best way to win others. Then people come to know us. We build on that acquaintance rather than introduce a stranger. People do not know us by name alone, but by looks and mannerisms. Appearing different every time we meet never builds up confidence.
  • Then we don’t want people to think that salesmanship is made to order. That our appeals are created, studied, artificial. They must seem to come from the heart, and the same heart always, save where a wrong tack forces a complete change.

Negative advertising

  • Show a bright side, the happy and attractive side, not the dark and uninviting side of things. Show beauty, not homeliness; health, not sickness. Don’t show the wrinkles you propose to remove, but the face as it will appear. Your customers know all about the wrinkles. In advertising a dentifrice, show pretty teeth, not bad teeth. Talk of coming good conditions, not conditions that exist.
  • Picture what others wish to be, not what they may be now. We are attracted by sunshine, beauty, happiness, health, and success. Point the way to them, not the way out of the opposite. Picture envied people, not the envious. Tell people what to do, not what to avoid. Make your every ad breathe good cheer.
  • Assume that people will do what you ask. Say, “Send now for this sample.” Don’t say, “Why do you neglect this offer?” That suggests that people are neglecting. Invite them to follow the crowd.

A name that helps

  • The service of the product, not the name, is the important thing in advertising. A vast amount of space is wasted in displaying names and pictures which tell no selling story. The tendency of modern advertising is to eliminate this waste.