By Claude C. Hopkins
Chapter 01 - How Advertising
Laws Are Established
The time has come when
advertising has in some hands reached the status of a
science. It is based on fixed principles and is reasonably
exact. The causes and effects have been analyzed until
they are well understood. The correct methods of procedure
have been proved and established. We know what is most
effective, and we act on basic laws.
Advertising, once a gamble, has thus become, under able
direction, one of the safest of business ventures. Certainly
no other enterprise with comparable possibilities need
involve so little risk.
Therefore this book deals, not with theories and opinions,
but with well-proved principles and facts. It is written
as a text book for students and a safe guide for advertisers.
Every statement has been weighed. The book is confined
to established fundamentals. If we enter any realms of
uncertainty we shall carefully denote them.
The present status of advertising is due to many reasons.
Much national advertising has long been handled by large
organizations known as advertising agencies. Some of these
agencies, in their hundreds of campaigns, have tested
and compared thousands of plans and ideas. The results
have been watched and recorded, so no lessons have been
Such agencies employ a high grade of talent. None but
able and experienced men can meet the requirements in
national advertising. Working in co-operation, learning
from each other and from each new undertaking, some of
these men develop into masters.
Individuals may come and go, but they leave their records
and ideas behind them. These become a part of the organization's
equipment, and a guide to all who follow. Thus, in the
course of decades, such agencies become storehouses of
advertising experiences, proved principles, and methods.
The larger agencies also come into intimate contact with
experts in every department of business. Their clients
are usually dominating concerns. So they see the results
of countless methods and policies. They become a clearing
house for everything pertaining to merchandising. Nearly
every selling question which arises in business is accurately
answered by many experiences.
Under these conditions, where they long exist, advertising
and merchandising become exact sciences. Every course
is charted. The compass of accurate knowledge directs
the shortest, safest, cheapest course to any destination.
We learn the principles and prove them by repeated tests.
This is done through keyed advertising, by traced returns,
largely by the use of coupons. We compare one way with
many others, backward and forward, and record the results.
When one method invariably proves best, that method becomes
a fixed principle.
Mail order advertising is traced down to the fraction
of a penny. The cost per reply and cost per dollar of
sale show up with utter exactness.
One ad is compared with another, one method with another.
Headlines, settings, sizes, arguments and pictures are
compared. To reduce the cost of results even one per cent
means much in some mail order advertising. So no guesswork
is permitted. One must know what is best. Thus mail order
advertising first established many of our basic laws.
In lines where direct returns are impossible we compare
one town with another. Scores of methods may be compared
in this way, measured by cost of sales.
But the most common way is by use of the coupon. We offer
a sample, a book, a free package or something to induce
direct replies. Thus we learn the amount of action which
each ad engenders.
But those figures are not final. One ad may bring too
many worthless replies, another replies that are valuable.
So our final conclusions are always based on cost per
customer or cost per dollar of sale.
These coupon plans are dealt with further in the chapter
on "Test Campaigns." Here we explain only how
we employ them to discover advertising principles.
In a large agency coupon returns are watched and recorded
on hundreds of different lines. In a single line they
are sometimes recorded on thousands of separate ads. Thus
we test everything pertaining to advertising. We answer
nearly every possible question by multitudinous traced
Some things we learn in this way apply only to particular
lines. But even those supply basic principles for analogous
Others apply to all lines. They become fundamentals for
advertising in general. They are universally applied.
No wise advertiser will ever depart from those unvarying
We propose in this book to deal with those fundamentals,
those universal principles. To teach only established
technic. There is that technic in advertising, as in all
art, science and mechanics. And it is, as in all lines,
a basic essential.
The lack of those fundamentals has been the main trouble
with advertising of the past. Each worker was a law to
himself. All previous knowledge, all progress in the line,
was a closed book to him. It was like a man trying to
build a modern locomotive without first ascertaining what
others had done. It was like a Columbus starting out to
find an undiscovered land.
Men were guided by whims and fancies-vagrant, changing
breezes. They rarely arrived at their port. When they
did-by accident-it was by a long roundabout course.
Each early mariner in this sea mapped his own separate
course. There were no charts to guide him. Not a lighthouse
marked a harbor, not a buoy showed a reef. The wrecks
were unrecorded, so countless ventures came to grief on
the same rocks and shoals.
Advertising was then a gamble - a speculation of the rashest
sort. One man's guess on the proper course was as likely
to be as good as another's. There were no safe pilots,
because few sailed the same course twice.
That condition has been corrected. Now the only uncertainties
pertain to people and to products, not to methods. It
is hard to measure human idiosyncrasies, the preferences
and prejudices, the likes and dislikes that exist. We
cannot say that an article will be popular, but we know
how to find out very quickly. We do know how to sell it
in the most effective way.
Ventures may fail, but the failures are not disasters.
Losses, when they occur, are but trifling. And the causes
are factors which have nothing to do with the advertising.
Advertising has flourished under these new conditions.
It has multiplied in volume, in prestige and respect.
The perils have been almost eliminated. The results have
increased many fold. Just because the gamble has become
a science, the speculation a very conservative business.
These facts should be recognized by all. This is no proper
field for sophistry or theory, or for any other will-o'-the-wisp.
The blind leading the blind is ridiculous. It is pitiful
in a field with such vast possibilities. Success is a
rarity, maximum success an impossibility, unless one is
guided by laws as immutable as the law of gravitation.
So our main purpose here is to set down those laws, and
to tell you how to prove them for yourself. After them
come a myriad variations. No two advertising campaigns
are ever conducted on lines that are identical. Individuality
is an essential. Imitation is a reproach. But those variable
things which depend on ingenuity have no place in a text
book on advertising. This is for ground-work only.
Our hope is to foster advertising through a better understanding.
To place it on a business basis. To have it recognized
as among the safest, surest ventures which lead to large
Thousands of conspicuous successes show its possibilities.
Their variety points out its almost unlimited scope. Yet
thousands who need it - who can never attain their deserts
without it - still look upon its accomplishments as somewhat
That was so, but it is not so now. We hope that this book
will throw some new lights on the subject.