Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Sexy Advertising or Advertising That Pays? Pick One

Claude Hopkins, would love this coffee bag "ad" that came in the Sunday paper.

Sure, a free sample like this is the opposite of sexy or clever.

But it's going to bring Millstone a flood of customers this week at break-even or a slight loss.

And, if their coffee is any good -- it is, by the way, I've tasted it -- Millstone will recoup their advertising costs many times over by converting a percentage of new buyers into long-time customers. Cha-ching.

And who is Claude Hopkins, you ask?

Hopkins was an advertising giant in the early 20th century. For his copywriting skills, he earned a salary of $185,000 in 1907 (more than $4.1 million in today's dollars).

In addition to writing Scientific Advertising in 1923, which systematically codified advertising for the first time, Hopkins was a pioneer of free trial offers and coupons -- both exemplified in the coffee bag at left (which I will be filling up with beans later this week, than you very much).

According to Wikipedia:
Hopkins insisted copywriters researched their client products and produce reason-why copy. He believed that a good product was often its own best salesperson and as such he was a great believer in sampling.

To track the results of his advertising he used key coded coupons and then tested headlines, offers and propositions against one another. He used the analysis of these measurements to continually improve his ad results, driving responses and the cost effectiveness of his clients advertising spend.
Hopkins' methods, more than 80 years old, would put him head-and-shoulders above most copywriters today.

Tip: If you're a small business owner who has to write the ads that pay your bills, pick up a copy of Scientific Advertising. It's one of the 10 best books ever written on copywriting. Because the copyright has lapsed, it's available free for downloading; just Google it. Or grab a print copy on Amazon.

And if you're able to pay for direct-response advertising copy, hire no copywriter who has never studied Claude Hopkins.

(Kevin M. Donlin is author of the Free Special Report, Guaranteed Marketing for Small Business Professionals.)

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