Attention is an advantage that you must catch and capitalize on in marketing.
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The 1923 Scientific Advertising book by Claude Hopkins spawned the modern world of direct marketing. He is praised by legendary marketers and copywriters of the 20th century, including agency king David Ogilvy and celebrated copywriter Gary Halbert, and his message has only grown more relevant in the digital age.
Although there is still controversy about whether our attention span has really decreased; The opportunities to break with our concentration, be it the multiple tabs of our browser or sending messages while driving, have probably arisen with the proliferation of the smartphone . s are tasked with capturing the full attention of their potential customer faster than ever.
Video marketing, perfect Instagram feeds and impressive TikTok filters bombard us with lights and novelty. But when it comes to influence and sales, the pillars of persuasion outlined in Scientific Advertising remain largely the same. (The book is in the public domain and you can read it completely right now for free.)
As a content marketer, I work every day to capture and retain users' attention in the most cost-effective way possible. The principles in Hopkins' influential book allow me to do this, they are already considered a cornerstone of direct response marketing.
Here are 5 important points from the book that still apply almost a century later:
1. To capture attention create clarity
Mr. Hopkins begins strong, noting that “good talkers are rarely good sellers.”
Falling into industry lingo or fancy language can be tempting, but this attempt to appear smart or dominant often backfires. When your reader has trouble understanding your pitch or presentation, they lose interest and move on.
In a recent billboard campaign, Chipotle was right in this approach. Instead of wasting space on their burritos' high-definition close-up , they used the full posters to show a single sentence:
“We wanted to write about our locally sourced ingredients, but short headlines are better.”
Then the phrase was attenuated, except for four words, which were kept in black capitals, spelling out a new sentence: “OUR INGREDIENTS ARE BETTER”. The headline is witty and short; Still driving on the highway, you got the message with a single glance.
An example mentioned in Scientific Advertising shows a Mead Cycle Company ad; the company owner found the ad so lucrative that he would not change a single word. The following paragraph makes a clean and compelling proposal.
“Try before you leave. Select the bike you prefer from 44 styles, colors and sizes in the famous Ranger line. We ship it with approval and a 30-DAY TRIAL PERIOD, freight paid to your city. If you are not satisfied, return it and the trial period does not cost you anything ”.
Add details or charm later. Your first objective in stricter marketing is to communicate your value proposition quickly and well.
2. Measure the data or risk losing money
Scientific Advertising is considered one of the first books to promote the benefits of split testing. You must test, measure and adjust your approach based on the feedback the numbers give you.
Many online marketers are encountering split testing through email marketing for the first time as they use an email service that automatically posts different topics from the same newsletter to a list and determines which topic gets the best engagement rate.
But even Mr. Hopkins' data measurement, coupon redemption, and phone call tracking techniques today carry weight in both analog and digital form. Google's UTM parameters are key for an online entrepreneur to properly track where website traffic is coming from, and custom affiliate marketing links have made an industry see double-digit annual growth .
The approach is simple: try different campaigns, eliminate initiatives that don't work and do more than what works.
3. Take advantage of human psychology
We can try to tell ourselves that the world is different now and that we humans have different motivations than we had almost a hundred years ago. But part of what makes Scientific Advertising timeless is the basic tenets of human psychology, which haven't changed that much.
The good news, as Mr. Hopkins' notes mention, is that since human psychology does not change, once you learn these marketing triggers you will never have to forget them.
Some tactics particularly praised in the sixth chapter of the book include:
Curiosity. Unexpected and exciting details capture the heart and mind of an intrigued consumer.
Price. Mr. Hopkins notes that no one likes cheaply made products, but everyone appreciates the idea of a good deal.
Guarantee. The opportunity to try a risk-free product changes the psychology and defense mechanisms in the consumer's mind.
Samples. Rather than desperately providing proof to everyone, educate your followers first and let them ask for a sample or try the product. When the initiative comes from the prospect, psychology is on your side.
Nectar uses guarantee psychology to great effect. When Nectar wants to sell you a mattress, they offer you a 365-day trial, almost 3 times greater than its competitors. “Which of these do you think is better, a 100-day trial or a 365-day trial?” Is a headline rooted in psychology.
As photography, videography, and other forms of content grow in popularity, these psychological triggers continue to direct the show behind the scenes. Any entrepreneur seeking to market or sell must employ one or more of these tactics to engage the interest of the potential consumer.
4. Relief Beats Prevention
The unfortunate truth is that detecting consumer pain and offering to eliminate it is much easier than encouraging precautionary measures. This does not mean that you have to be pessimistic, but when you want to persuade others you want to create tension in some way.
Today many of the Scientific Advertising examples still apply. Toothpaste ads promising whiter teeth outperform those promoting tooth decay prevention. Soaps that promise more radiant skin always outperform a headline like “keeps you clean.”
For others to act now rather than later, focus on a problem and how your product, program, or service alleviates that problem.
Regardless of your industry, learning and mastering the strategies that persuade people to click is a valuable use of time.
Whether your marketing approach is SnapChat or direct email, Scientific Advertising's principles are timeless, proven, and a tactic you can start implementing for free today.