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Marketing Tomb Raider

Hamilton Wallace
May 12, 2008
Sorry, no Laura Croft here, just me. But that's what I feel like I'm doing when I read from Claude Hopkins' book written in 1923, Scientific Advertising. In his time Hopkins was at the top of his profession in the emerging field of advertising. It is quaint, to be sure. But have you ever walked through an old building and marveled at early, crude examples of technologies we have today or read a centuries-old quote that still holds relevance? That's what you'll find in this book. David Olgilvy, one of the truly greats in advertising, as the story goes, made his people read this book seven times.

You can read the complete book online, free, by Googling Scientific Advertising, Hopkins. Read a chapter or two. You'll get a chuckle out of many examples; selling toothpaste, admonishments to "the ad man" or advertising dish soap to "the homemaker." But wade through all that and you'll bump into things that still hold true today; things that can still make or break advertising's results. Things that still DO make or break results.

Here are a few that jumped out at me:

Hopkins admonishes the "ad man" to work hard at understanding everything he can about his subject. Not to just try to write clever sounding copy based on what the client gives him. Well, duh, right?! Yet, how many marketing efforts make a silent thud because the message wasn't created from the customer's perspective, and wasn't worked and reworked, and tested and retested? The answer: waaaay too many. Do your freaking homework!

Tell the whole story. Don't think you'll get a second chance. Once you get someone's attention, tell the whole story. Case in point:

I generate website traffic for seven clients (a VERY diverse group). Yet, their numbers are surprisingly similar to each other and to the national averages. Average time spent per visit: just under three minutes. Average pages viewed per visit: three. Your numbers are likely similar. Moral: tell your story quickly and completely or it won't get told.

Talk to customers. You don't have the answers. I don't have the answers. Your customers do. Amen to that. To amplify this point, create your message from your customer's perspective. You think you know why customers buy from you, but you don't know why from their perspective, which is the only perspective that counts, unless you ask them.

Headlines need to discriminate, separate--they need to speak to your specific audience. NOT try to interest everybody. Most headlines try to throw a wide net. And they do so to the detriment of the product they are supposed to sell. Shame on you lazy or ignorant copywriters!

Be specific. Claims like superior customer service, industry-leading quality, low prices, etc., fall of deaf ears (as they did almost 100 years ago!). What is it about your service or quality that is important to your customer? Talk about that!

Images and design support the message, not replace it. The idea, the reasons, the benefits and how compellingly you present them, these are what sell. And these are best delivered via words, not images. Hopkins calls images and white space expensive because they take up a lot of space that could be given to copy. My experience: use a balance of copy and images.

Pretty good stuff, actually. Enjoy.
About the Author
Hamilton Wallace is a small business marketing consultant. He is an expert in direct response marketing, including sponsored search, direct mail, message and story, and in creating simplified, effective marketing solutions for small businesses. http://www.SmallBusinessMarketingConsultant.com
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