My Life in Advertising by Claude Hopkins is a classic non-fiction book where the author, a successful advertising professional, shares his experiences in that field. I don’t work in advertising, but I still loved this book. Here is the archive.org link for the free eBook.
Claude Hopkins lived from 1866 to 1932. Yes, it’s a long time back, but I think most of his principles and advise applies even today. To outsiders, advertising seems to be an easy field where people write some smart lines accompanied by a beautiful pictures and get paid handsomely for it. But if you read this book, you’ll understand how quickly advertising professionals can fall out of favor with their employers (even in those days) if ads don’t convert into sales.
You maybe surprised to know that this Ad guru of those days did not have a formal degree in advertising management or some such fancy stuff. He studied book keeping, that too on borrowed money, and got into advertising by sheer chance. Since his initial campaigns worked, employers encouraged him to write more copy and he found his life’s calling.
The author says that while advertising, the interests of the consumer comes first. So instead of focusing on features of the product, it is better to focus on what the consumer gets out of it, in order to get good results. During his days, they used to send print ads by mail (post). Later on, they started advertising in newspapers. There is considerable cost attached to each ad which needs to be recovered by increased sales. And each campaign is measured for profitability.
One of the methods pioneered by the author is to give away free samples to people who brought the cut-out of newspaper ads to shops. These ads contained good information about how the product is different/and-or beneficial to the consumer. People are induced to try it for free and many (if the product meets their expectations) become repeat customers.
Another successful method was to write detailed ad-copy (covering an entire page, for example) about how the product is produced, how it is handled, how it is shipped, and how beneficial it is to customers. Although all the rival companies might follow the same process, since no one educates the customer so much, the consumer becomes convinced that the brand being advertised is better. The author says advertisers should be honest.
These are just two unconventional methods pioneered by the author, and he discusses various other methods that worked in various ad campaigns throughout his career. He also discusses how one campaign that worked for one product-line may not always work for another. Also, they try out ad campaigns for profitability in small towns first, and then roll out on a larger scale to ensure success.
I liked this book very much as the author not only discusses the methods but also the psychology behind why it works. I wish the author had included more of his failures. It’s a short read, but the author has provided a lot of value within those few words — just like his ads, I guess!