Lessons From Claude Hopkins Scientific Advertising

claude hopkins scientific advertising

 Lessons From Claude Hopkins Scientific Advertising

Claude Hopkins wrote a book about direct marketing decades ago. That book is Scientific Advertising. It’s amazing how well this book has stood the test of time.

What that should tell you on its own is that while advertising methods change, the principles stay the same. As a by-product, you could also state that whilst the principles are universal, most people and companies don’t abide by them.

I’m going to give you a list of lessons I learned from reading Claude Hopkins’ Scientific Advertising.

Before I do though; a quick review on the book.

It’s possibly basic information, though there is gold between the pages. If you’ve read Gary Halbert or more modern copywriters, then you’ll understand a lot of this book already. That’s because those modern copywriters got their knowledge from reading books like Scientific Advertising.

It’s also a bit dusty in terms of vocabulary. It was written a long time ago, and so it seems old. Again, there’s still gold contained in its pages.

Finally, it’s a pretty easy read aside from that. It’s less than 200 pages, so you can probably read the whole thing in a sitting or two.

With the review out of the way, let’s get into the lessons I learned from this book.

Advertising Comes Down To A Simple Metric

If you seek out studies on advertising, or read broadsheet newspaper’s businesses sections, you’d be tempted to think that advertising and marketing are impossibly complex.

After all, there are key-performance indicators, brand awareness campaigns and witty slogans whose impact is impossible to ascertain with a simple metric.

So how can you tell if you’re good at advertising or marketing?

Well, Hopkins breaks it down into a single equation and a single cost you need to consider.

What does it cost to acquire a sale?

Forget big campaigns. Forget brand awareness. Don’t worry about customer retention, footfall or performance indicators.

Essentially, if your cost of acquiring a sale is lower than the profit you make from the sale, then you are doing well. Your campaign is profitable and you can scale it to the point where you’re either swimming in money or the campaign loses its profitability.

Test Headlines Because They “Call” To Your Customer

Again, a pretty basic rule if you’re well-read on copywriting. Your headline is massively important, because it’s the first point of contact you have with a potential customer. It’s also the first filter you get: no matter what you’re selling, most people aren’t interested. This is true even if you’re giving away free money.

People have different levels of scepticism, attention and desire for different offers. As a direct marketer, you want to grab the ones that are in the right space to buy your offer. Good headlines do that.

Don’t Care About People Who Aren’t Your Customers

I kind of summarised this above, but it bears repeating as its own lesson.

Most people are not your customers. They’re never going to be your customers. No matter how brilliant your sales spin is, nor how enticing your offer is, there are people that aren’t going to buy it.

There are many, many reasons for this. There are countless reasons a person can have for not becoming a customer, and what’s important to realise is that none of those reasons matter.

As a direct marketer, you cannot concern yourself with people who aren’t interested in your offer. Crazily, you see companies and organisations constantly making this mistake; trying to convert people who just aren’t interested and aren’t ever going to be.

When you’re writing copy, devote every word to converting those people who are your target market. If you’re selling to women, don’t worry about what men think. If you’re selling to dentists, forget about doctors.

Advertising Is A Science

Hopkins tells the reader that advertising is a science.

It’s not a hard science like physics, but what he means by this is that the advertising process follows a system that can be measured, quantified and optimised.

You don’t have to think that the above is true – many companies, institutions and people don’t – but it’s probably better if you do, because what can be measured can be done better.

Think About Your Supply Line

Whether you’re working on your own products or writing copy for someone else’s products, thinking about the product itself and the chain of supply is important.

There’s no point in sending out a million emails if you’ve only got ten items to sell in total. Nor is there a point in marketing a product to people in Florida if you’re only selling it in Beijing.

These considerations affect your advertising and business. You’re wasting money and upsetting people if you get something like this wrong.

Test Campaigns Are Better Than Opinions

How many times have you heard someone say, “I’ve got a great idea for a business” or some variation thereof?

Chances are you’ve heard some variation many times. Also, you only have to take a quick browse around the internet to find all of the experts who – despite never having done these things – can tell a boxer how to win his next fight, can tell you how to run a billion pound company and fix the global economy by implementing political policies that they’ve dreamed up in the shower.

The fact is, opinions are common. People who think they can be a business genius are two-a-penny.

Yet without evidence, opinions are worthless. Unless you test a product or a skill on the open market, all you have is an opinion that it’ll work.

You need to test it to find out whether it works or not.


Nobody knows the average customer.

The average person doesn’t exist. Neither does the average customer. Even if they did, you aren’t in their mind and can’t tell how they’ll react to a specific situation – much less a specific offer or sales letter.

All of your advertising then, is an attempt to get closer and closer to understanding the mind of your customer and subsequently capturing their imagination for as long as it takes to sell to them.

Final Thoughts

That wraps up six pretty interesting and deep lessons you can learn from Scientific Advertising.

It’s a fantastic book filled with some great advice and an even better way of approaching everything you do as a businessperson.

If you treat business like a science, and codify every piece of information you come across, you’ll be better equipped to deal with anything that arises in the future.

If you’d like to learn your own – no doubt better – lessons from this text, then get Claude Hopkins’ Scientific Advertising here.


About the author

Jamie McSloy

My name is Jamie McSloy. I'm a writer from the UK. This site is about the business of being a writer. Copywriting, Content Marketing, Publishing and all forms of writing will be discussed here. Learn More About Me

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