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Advertising 101: How Claude Hopkins Sold a Staggering Amount of Beer

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Advertising 101: How Claude Hopkins Sold a Staggering Amount of Beer image Claude Hopkins 194x300The basic idea behind small business copywriting is that words matter.

A customer starts at point A, holding dollars and in need of a service, and ends at point Z with fewer dollars (for the moment) and their needs met.

Stuff happens along the way:

Words.

Thoughts.

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A change of heart, mind, or both.

This is the conversion experience, and they call it conversion writing for a reason. Just ask Claude Hopkins.

Claude Hopkins: Father of Scientific Advertising

Advertising is supposed to produce results, right? If, like me, you regularly read AdFreak and similar blogs, then it can be easy to forget the real purpose of advertising. Claude Hopkins, however, never lost focus. Not for a moment.

Hopkins believed that advertising existed only to sell something. He didn’t care for bells and whistles, but got the job done through ingenuity. Check out a few tidbits of his wisdom and then scroll down past the quotes to read Hopkins’ biggest success story: how he rocketed Schlitz Beer from 8th in the country to number one.

  • “My words will be simple, my sentences short.”
  • “The only purpose of advertising is to make sales. [Advertising] is profitable or unprofitable according to its actual sales.”
  • “Treat it (advertising) as a salesman. Force it to justify itself. Compare it with other salesmen. Figure cost and result. Accept no excuses which good salesmen do not make.”
  • “I never ask people to buy. The ads all offer service, perhaps a free sample. They sound altruistic. But they get a reading and action. No selfish appeal can do that.”
  • “We must get down to individuals. We must treat people in advertising as we treat them in person.”

(Quotes via Kimmel’s Corner)

Claude Hopkins & The World’s Most Ordinary, Boring Beer

If you’re expecting some wonderful, magical nugget of small business copywriting wisdom, you might be disappointed. Hopkins didn’t perform any elaborate research to determine what adjectives and verbs registered highest in his audience’s psyche; he didn’t experience a Homeric breakthrough in creativity.

He did something incredibly simple to shoot Schlitz Brewing Company to the top of the charts:

Hopkins told truths that brewers considered ‘boring.’

Advertising 101: How Claude Hopkins Sold a Staggering Amount of Beer image Claude Hopkins Schlitz

In the early 20th century, all brewing companies used the same word to sell their beer: pure.

But the word meant nothing.

Why?

Everyone used it and no one explained it.

But the word had a meaning. Before taking Schlitz as a client, Hopkins received a tour of their facilities. He saw what “pure” actually meant:

  • Brewing rooms had filtered air, which prevented contaminates from entering the beer as it cooled.
  • Filtering pumps and pipes were cleaned twice a day.
  • Beer bottles were sterilized four times before being filled.
  • Schlitz chose to dig a 4,000-foot deep artesian well – despite access to clean lake water.

When Hopkins learned just how pure Schlitz beer was, he was astounded. For the brewers, all of these amazing facts were common. After all, virtually every major brewery in the company adhered to the same – or similar – standards.

Hopkins knew, however, that the first brewing company to take advantage of these commonplace facts could benefit enormously from them. And, so, he created a campaign based on the beer’s purity – using real facts (commonplace though they were) – in order to drive his message home.

Read all of Hopkins’ Scientific Advertising in PDF form. Have other Claude Hopkins anecdotes or conversion writing tips? Share them here!

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