Genius is the art of taking pains.
–Claude Hopkins, Scientific Advertising
I’m going to make a bet with you.
Google “10 Best Marketing books” or “Best books on copywriting,” or similar searches. You’ll find dozens of marketing blogs where writers have posted their favorite marketing books.
I bet you at least half of them mention Scientific Advertising by Claude Hopkins.
By the age of 41, Claude Hopkins was making $183,000 a year. In his day, this was over 30 times as much as the average mechanical engineer’s salary, and income tax hadn’t been invented yet. Not only did he get rich, his two big secrets could control human behavior on a mass scale.
If you brush your teeth every day, you’ve been influenced by Claude Hopkins. Daily brushing was an uncommon thing before Hopkins went to work creating ad campaigns for Pepsodent.
When he retired, he wrote Scientific Advertising, divulging his most useful techniques. This book is the bible for many copywriters and advertisers. I’ve had marketing gurus tell me stuff like, “You’re not a professional until you’ve read Scientific Advertising at least 5 times.”
And yet many of them are only using one of his two most powerful secrets.
The first secret is common knowledge today: Test every ad, every line, every offer. Claude Hopkins developed a system of coded coupons to find out which ad in which media in which town generated each sale. He invented analytics back when google was just a very large number spelled with a lower-case ‘g.’
But most marketers overlook his second secret.
Why Claude Hopkins is my enemy
Claude Hopkins is my arch enemy. In addition to selling toothpaste, he spent long years campaigning against the Holy Sacrament, caffeine. He convinced tens of thousands to give up this wonderful chemical. All just to make a buck selling decaf coffee for his client.
But I give him credit for the huge amount of effort he put in.
“People regarded it (decaffeinated coffee) like near beer,” he writes. “Only through weeks of reading did we find a way to put in another light. I read many volumes of scientific matter dry as dust. But in the middle I found the idea that has helped make millions.”
Claude Hopkins read thousands of scientific articles, just to find one that could be the basis of his campaign against caffeine.
He made the same effort with toothpaste, rubber, carpeting, different kinds of wood, and even baked beans.
And that’s the essential, overlooked secret we’re talking about today: Making the effort.
Dig deeper. If you’re willing to do weeks of reading, you can uncover a compelling argument for almost anything. If you’re willing to go on location and talk to people, you will know things that nobody else does.
Claude Hopkins was considered a genius, but he said, “genius is the art of taking pains.” Take pains to know more about your product, your clients, your buyers. This is where you’ll stumble upon that one interesting fact that can launch a successful campaign.
The art of taking pains
Before I write any copy, I put together a list of facts. I’ll get these from anywhere I can find them. I Google strange and obscure subjects that seldom are searched. I’ll talk to clients and their family if I can.
I’ll look up the same information in Italian, simply because I’ll be able to understand it and most Americans won’t.
I’ll collect ten pages of facts if there’s enough material available. Where does this lead?
Hopefully you’ve heard about the capo d’astro bar. I’ve had the same kind of success (albeit on a smaller scale) with many of my own clients–sometimes just by standing in the parking lot at their business.
Everybody knows the first part of Scientific Advertising. Testing every ad, every offer, every picture and every headline is critical. In modern times you need to do this just to be on par with everybody else.
But most of your competitors aren’t taking pains. Will you?