The genius of Claude Hopkins, the original dude

Claude-Hopkins (1)
The original dude

Every once in a while, someone writes a blog post about the genius of Claude Hopkins. Well, since I am not feeling particularly original today, I’ll tag along and do exactly the same thing, but perhaps with a different twist. After all, one can’t talk about Hopkins enough.

Despite what Bill Gross says (the success of startups is largely timing), you can control your destiny, and it comes down to not only the right product, but the right marketing.

There are three marketing legends, that if you read their books and apply their methods, will considerably impact your chances of success: Claude Hopkins, David Ogilvy and Al Ries.

Most anybody who has worked in marketing or advertising knows of Claude Hopkins. The ones, however, who take his words to heart, are the successful ones.

Hopkins was a rock star in his day. In 1907, he earned several million a year (in today’s dollars) at Lord and Thomas. He was the genius behind many of the biggest brands, and most are still here with us today. Heck, you can blame the fact that people use toothpaste on this guy. He made it popular.

David Ogilvy famously said “Nobody should be allowed to have anything to do with advertising until he has read this book seven times. It changed the course of my life.”

The free trial model, the freemium model, coupons, campaign tracking… so much came from Hopkins and other greats like him.

The reason? Despite what anyone thinks, what motivates people are the same factors today as they were 100 years ago. Or 2,000 years ago, for that matter. Now, obviously, tastes, technology and styles change. But the fundamental drivers of humanity are still there.

I’ll give you an example: Many years ago, I was a young product manager who had recently read some of David Ogilvy’s worksNow, if you’ve ever read Ogilvy (who came from the Hopkins school), he repeats one thing tirelessly: use plenty of copy. 

I met with our agency and they presented some design for an ad. Very light on copy, with a big headline. So, I asked the question: “Why not use more copy?”

The answer: “People don’t read these days. It’s a visual world”.

Oh really? People don’t read? Nah. They read blogs, magazine articles, trade publications, emails, Facebook posts, etc., etc. People read.

Claude Hopkins, 100 years ago, ran into the same thing. Here’s what he wrote:

Some say “Be very brief. People will read for little.” Would you say that to a salesman? With a prospect standing before him, would you confine him to any certain number of words? That would be an unthinkable handicap.

Like I said, some things never change. Once you get a person to read the headline, why not have some copy to finish off the sales message? (Now, I’m not actually in favor of the landing pages with endless, schlocky copy. Creating good landing pages and web sites with an artful mix of headlines, subheads and copy is, itself, a fine craft. But don’t worry about writing a bit. You might find that people actually read it.)

Hopkins in his own words
Let’s look at some classic Claude Hopkins quotes:

  • Advertising is salesmanship. Its principles are the principles of salesmanship…The only purpose of advertising is to make sales.
  • People don’t buy from clowns.
  • Don’t think of people in the mass. That gives you a blurred view. Think of a typical individual, man or women, who is likely to want what you sell.
  • People can be coaxed but not driven. Whatever they do they do to please themselves. The best ads ask no one to buy…The ads are based entirely on service. They offer wanted information. They site advantages to users.
  • Human nature is perpetual. In most respects it is the same today as in the time of Caesar.
  • The product itself should be its own best salesman.
  • Almost any questions can be answered, cheaply, quickly and finally, by a test campaign. That is the way to answer them, not by arguments around a table.
  • A person who desires to make an impression must stand out in some way. Being eccentric, being abnormal is not a distinction to covet. But doing admirable things in a different way gives one a great advantage.
  • Show a bright side, the happy and attractive side, and not the dark and uninviting side of things. Show beauty, not homeliness; health, not sickness. Don’t show the wrinkles you propose to remove, but the face as it will appear. Your customers know all about the wrinkles…We are attracted by sunshine, beauty, happiness, health, and success.
  • …the love of work can be cultivated, just like the love of play. The terms are interchangeable. What others call work I call play, and vice versa.
  • I know of nothing more ridiculous than gray-haired boards of directors deciding on what housewives want…We must never judge humanity by ourselves. The things we want, the things we like, may appeal to a small minority.
  • The greatest two faults in advertising lie in boasts and in selfishness. The natural instinct of a successful man is to tell what he has accomplished. He may do that to a dinner partner who cannot get away. But he cannot do that in print. Nor can he put over, at a reasonable cost, any selfish, undertaking. People will listen if you talk service to them. They will turn their backs, and always, when you seek to impress an advantage for yourself. This is important. I believe that nine-tenths of the money spent in advertising is lost because of selfish purposes blazonly presented.

Hopkins wrote My Life in Advertising and Scientific Advertising. You can pick up both, combined. Since they are both public domain, the books are readily available for download online. Ian Dewar has also put up a version of Scientific Advertising and you can also read a PDF version of My Life in Advertising.

Here are some example ads. Yes, they are dated, but in their day, they were very powerful and were behind the success of so many major brands, it’s a bit mind-blowing. And the fundamentals, again, are timeless.

Schlitz Beer
This is a famous example Hopkins used to catapult Schlitz from 5th  position in the market to #1. Before he came out with this campaign, Hopkins did an enormous amount of research, even going to brewery school to teach himself how beer is brewed. Nothing was clicking.

Then, he actually went to the Schlitz brewery, and found some amazing things: Schlitz was using water from ancient artesian wells, and going to great lengths to insure its purity.

When he asked the folks at Schlitz why they had never told anyone about these advances, they answered that “everyone in our industry does this”. But Claude realized that no one outside of the beer business knew these things. The irony is that every beer brewer advertised “purity” but, since everyone was saying it, it had zero impact on the public.

So, he simply highlighted what Schlitz was doing (again, that everyone else was doing as well).

As Hopkins says (relevant today in technology marketing), “The situation occurs in many, many lines. The maker is too close to his own product. He sees in his methods only the ordinary….That is a situation which occurs in most advertising problems. The article is not unique. It embodies no great advantages. There are few advertised products which can’t be imitated. Few who dominate a field have any exclusive advantage. They were simply the first to tell convincing facts.




Good old Claude convinced women to wash their faces with soap before their applying makeup.



Hopkins’ employer, Lord and Thomas (of Albert Lasker fame), landed the Southern California Fruit Grower’s Association account for oranges grown in California (“sunkissed”, later changed to “Sunkist”). Back then, people didn’t drink orange juice. They just ate the orange.

Homeboy Claude changed that. He marketed drinking an orange, and included a coupon for an inexpensive squeezer. Huge success. We now drink our oranges.

Thanks for the OJ, Claude!



Van Camps beans

Do you know that before Claude got involved, people didn’t buy canned beans? They cooked them themselves. Claude changed all of that.

I started a campaign to argue against home baking….I told of the sixteen hours required to bake beans at home. I told why home baking could never make beans digestible. I pictured home-baked beans, with the crisped beans on top, the mushy beans below. I told how we selected our beans, of the soft water we used, of our stream ovens where we baked beans for hours at 245 degrees. Then I offered a free sample for comparison. The result was an enormous success.


But then all the competitors caught on. So, Hopkins did a campaign reminiscent of the Progressive Insurance’s successful campaign comparing their rates against others.

He told people to buy his competitor’s product. And it was wildly successful.

After a while, when others followed us, we suffered substitution. Our rivals tried to meet it by insisting on their brand. They said in effect, “Give me the money which you give to others.” And such appeals fell on deaf ears.

I came out with headlines, “Try Our Rivals, Too.” I urged people to buy the brands suggested and compare them with Van Camp’s. That appeal won over others. If we were certain enough of our advantage to invite such comparisons, people were certain enough to buy.

That’s another big point to consider. Argue anything for your own advantage, and people will resist to the limit. But seem unselfishly to consider your customers’ desires, and they will naturally flock to you.

You can google around and find other great examples of Claude Hopkins’ genius.

The key point is that a lot of companies waste money on branding and marketing that doesn’t succeed. And while print advertising is largely dead, the principles of good advertising and marketing are timeless and are ignored at one’s peril. I have certainly used them to great success myself in every company I’ve been at.

So, the next time you’re eating a breakfast of Quaker Oats, having a nice glass of orange juice, while reading the Wall Street Journal, then brushing your teeth, then driving a car with Goodyear tires, then coming home and having a Schlitz beer with baked beans, while shopping online at Sears (well, the last three were a stretch, unless you live in a, err, certain part of the country), you can give a hat tip to Claude, the original dude. Because he was the marketer behind all of these ideas and brands, and many more.



With an increasingly mobile world, are web advertisers getting screwed?

There’s a troubling side effect of Google’s (and Bing’s) nearly total focus on mobile (when I say “mobile”, I mean both smartphone and tablet usage).

Search engine marketers are getting screwed, at least if they don’t want tablet or app traffic.

There are plenty of advertisers who don’t care for tablet traffic — or if there is going to be tablet (or app) traffic, they want to be able to shape it for a possibly different offering.

With Google, you can shape your Adwords spend by simply setting your mobile bid to -100%.  Poof! No more mobile ad spending.


But you can’t change tablets. And with tablets usage starting to really make a difference, that’s a challenge.

With Bing, one can reduce tablet spend by 20%. But not by 100%. They’re playing close to the same game that Google is.


App traffic is another problem. Some publishers don’t want app traffic, and as one SEM expert told me recently:

“The sneaky thing is this: in Google we routinely have to play whack-a-mole with new websites and apps they’re sending traffic from and exclude them. In one case Google lifted ~$1,000 from our wallets from app traffic, then out-and-out refused to issue a credit.”

There are already problems with SEM (fake clicks, etc.). But now, without the ability to completely fine-tune SEM spending, the impact is significant. When you’re a major Adwords buyer (I know of companies that routinely spend millions on Adwords per year), there’s a real impact to the bottom-line.


If mobile is a secondary concern, you will lose


On Tuesday, Google reported that in some parts of the world, mobile search has eclipsed the desktop. And we’re not talking about tablets — Google includes tablets in the definition of desktops.

This change has occurred in 10 countries, including the US and Japan.

And yet, even though this data is not surprising to many of us (Google has been warning about this for quite a while), I still find many of the companies I work with are still not mobile-friendly.

It’s not just the website. It’s email marketing, organic search strategy, product, and…everything.

To make matters worse for those who haven’t caught on, Google now optimizes its search algorithm for mobile-friendly sites.

Can anyone say wake up call?

Don’t get scared. Get excited! Those who are ahead of the curve on mobile marketing are killing it.

If you don’t have a mobile-friendly website, you need one on an urgent basis. By mobile-friendly, I don’t mean “yeah, we work on mobile”. I mean that people would actually enjoy using your site on a mobile device. Mobile is now an organic, intrinsic part of your marketing strategy. I’ve worked with companies that one would think “got it”, but their site is hard to use, with tiny fonts, difficult to read, difficult to navigate. Mobile hasn’t been a #1 priority.

It can’t just look good on a tablet or an iPhone 6+. It has to look good on an iPhone 5 and the other smaller devices.


For a quick diagnostic, you can use a free tool like Google speed insights to gain an understanding of where you may be lacking in mobile. While this tool is designed to test for speed, it will also point out how your site ranks on other usability aspects, such as viewport, a key metric. The viewport is what the person can see, and if you’re not using an optimized viewport, it makes the whole mobile browser experience just awful.

(Some experts recommend using the Google Mobile-Friendly test. That’s kind of like asking a triage doc at ER to do a diagnostic. It’s not as useful as what you’ll find in Google’s Speed Insights.)

Some tips:

Get responsive. A responsive site design will respond to different browsers and size factors, with one URL. This has a huge advantage with Google’s search algorithm, and it has a huge advantage in speed, since there are no redirects. Plus, you don’t have to maintain several different sites. It’s what Google recommends, so it’s what you should do.

Not responsive? Then fix the viewport. The viewport is what the customer sees on the page. Google can help, but there’s also common sense. Load your website on every mobile device you can get your hands on and see what it looks like. You may be humbled!

Get exposed. You may find that some parts of your site are hidden (especially if you’re using multiple sites for mobile and desktop). A quick check with Google’s Fetch as Google will insure that Google is seeing what you want it to see.

Make it work for mobile

As you can imagine, I don’t believe mobile is an “afterthought”. It should be organic to your efforts. So, that means making the site as mobile-friendly as possible. That means not requiring people to pinch and zoom to read your site.

Here’s some tips.

Fonts: Headlines should be 22 px and body copy 14 px. Otherwise, people will need to pinch and zoom and that sucks.

Fat: Make call to action buttons big and fat. 44 px by 44 px.

Use alt text. Sometimes images don’t load. The user needs to see what the image is supposed to have been.

Workflow. Look at how people actually use the site. This is really important — I’ve seen a massive change in an online retailer’s sales just in how they presented the products. You want the mobile shopping experience to be fairly binary — touch, touch, buy. Simple.

The ultimate in mobile workflow? Tinder. Think of that level of simplicity.

Other tools to consider and Origami — Great mobile prototyping tools.

ImageOptim — optimize images for mobile.

LiveView and Skala — both great tools to preview and optimize mobile sites.

Good luck!

(Hubspot has some other tips, here. Additional credits here and here.)

Marketing Uncategorized

Myths about lead quality

Hubspot has a very good overview of various myths when it comes to lead quality.

Some of my favorites, which I have seen first hand:

Myth 1: Any lead is a Good Lead

Fact: You might think, “Look at all these leads we are pulling in! We need to get our sales team to follow up with these leads ASAP and close some deals!” Well, you could do that, but you will find that most of those leads are not ready to buy—in the time they became a lead to the time it took your sales team to reach out to them they haven’t experienced enough touch points with your audience.

Unfortunately, about 61% of B2B marketers still send all leads they receive directly to sales while only 27% of those leads will actually be qualified for a sales call. Remember, you should not pursue every lead you receive. You need to establish a system that better identifies a “hot” lead from someone who is just poking around.

Myth 3: Lead Nurturing Is Not Essential to Produce High Quality Leads

Fact: Lead nurturing is perhaps one of the best ways to produce high quality leads. Not everyone who visits your site and fills out a consultation form is going to be qualified. This is where lead nurturing comes in. In fact, 79% of marketing leads never convert into sales due to a lack of lead nurturing. Companies that establish a system for nurturing their leads on average produce a 20% increase in sales opportunities versus non-nurtured leads.

Myth 8: I Only Need to Actively Pursue Leads That Have Requested Sales Contact

Fact: It’s true that leads that have indicated a readiness for sales need to be actively pursued. However, you should also actively pursue those leads that have been identified as marketing qualified.

In some cases, you might experience what we at Kuno Creative call, a High Velocity Marketing Qualified Lead. This lead is someone that has shown a high level of engagement in a relatively short period of time but has not necessarily completed a bottom funnel conversion. These leads should be actively pursued through nurturing and perhaps even passed to your sales team for a quick qualification call.

More here.


Apple and the line-extension trap

The phrase “line extension trap” was coined many years ago by marketing gurus Al Ries and Jack Trout to describe the disaster that occurs when a company extends its brand into an unrelated field.

Apple-iMove-Concept-Car-By-Liviu-Tudoran-08And now, reportedly, Apple plans on doing just that, which is… a terrible idea.

When Steve Jobs returned to Apple in the 90s, he spent an enormous amount of time just focusing the company back on its core products. It was a company with so many models, no one could figure out what was wwhat.

And now… it’s exploding outward again. Unfortunately, without a strong central guiding personality, these things typically happen.

One thing I can assure you: If this is true and Apple launches a car, it’s time to sell your Apple stock. It will not go well.

(And in case you’re hopeful, the photo in this blog is actually just a concept by Liviu Tudoran.)


Drip marketing

Drip marketing is part of the Fat Funnel strategy discussed outlined in my other blog post, and it’s not always fully understood. Joe Stych has a great overview here, and you can also read Intro to Lifecycle Emails by Patrick McKenzie here.


Get your design freak on.

UntitledIf you’re a marketer, understanding design trends is vital. That’s why I like this post by on the online design trends for 2015, here.

One thing is clear: It’s all about the imagary.


The road to prosperity: The fat funnel

Leads, leads, leads!

Ask a sales person what they want, and the answer is simple: Leads. And not just any leads – qualified leads.

And so we have the classic sales funnel or the “waterfall”. Raw leads come into the organization, and through a process of attrition, a smaller and smaller number of them become more and more qualified until a percentage of the leads close.

Nothing new here: This is a standard report available on every major CRM program. And much thought is given to the problem of how to get these leads into the funnel.

However, in my experience, the only way to guarantee a successful stream of leads is to develop what I call a fat funnel. A fat funnel is a massive group of people who aren’t even close to being buyers, but who, one day, may convert.

The fat funnel is way up on the “top” of the sales funnel.

You want a really, really fat funnel.

Think of a fat funnel as the top of a large “Y” shaped funnel. The top is really broad, and represents leads that have possibly very little understanding of your value proposition. As the leads flow further down, the understanding (and possible interest in your product) increases. By the time the lead gets far further down the funnel, they’ve moved from being suspects to prospects.

A funnel is a representation of both time, and knowledge. The higher up the funnel, the longer it will take the person to convert to a lead. And, as a corollary, the higher up in the funnel, the less that person knows about you.

The secret to great lead generation is understanding how to develop this fat funnel. If you’ve done your job well, selling becomes a process of picking up the phone with a qualified buyer. What more could a sales person want?

Therein lies the reason why some sales executives are terrible marketers. And why some marketers are terrible sales people.

The reality is that marketing is a totally different skillset to selling; and selling is a totally different skill set to marketing.

Sales deals more in the now. Marketing deals more in a future now. And PR (typically viewed as a subset of marketing, but in reality, its own science) is way, way higher up strategically.

Marketers who are impatient, and want all of their sales right now, don’t make great marketers. Yes, they can be responsible for leads right now, but what I often see is marketers, under the hectic whip of sales, becoming simply demand generation specialists. In other words, focusing all of their day tweaking Google Adwords (I exaggerate… but only a little).

If marketers know their jobs, they know that their view is much broader, and a broader view means a longer cycle of time.

To rephrase my friend the great Al Ries, “PR lights the fire, marketing fans the flames… and sales people cook their daily bread on the flame”.

Again, sales people deal want prospects. Marketers deal with suspects, understanding that all prospects were once suspects. A great marketer is developing a plan to generate that future “now” today.

So what does this all mean in a practical sense?

Build really big lists of people to talk to. And talk to them.

That sounds utterly oversimplified, right? However, it’s a point that is missed in so many companies I work with, I’m often surprised.

I once worked with a company that had a bizarre policy of deleting leads after 90 days if they didn’t buy. And, in one instance of “list cleanup”, they arbitrarily deleted 200,000 names from their database, because the people in the database hadn’t purchased recently. This was a WTF! moment for me. It takes people sometimes years to come around to even thinking of your solution.

Another company I worked with would just get lead-sign ups and then blast the poor leads with weekly “hot deals”. No communication, just yelling in their face with bright red, boldface “50% off today only!”

Let’s get back to first principles: People out in the world are either in your target market, or they aren’t. Those who are in your target market need to be communicated to.

And if you’re not communicating to your target market, something terrible will happen: Nothing.

It starts with awareness of your product. This can be through PR, social media, adwords, SEO, advertising, direct mail, whatever. There’s a vast toolbox of “awareness builders” that is not the topic of this post. A good marketer understands that there is a precise tool needed for any task, and the toolbox also includes, even before awareness building, basics such as branding, positioning, customer research, and so on.

Through these awareness campaigns, accumulate names. Now, some of these names will buy right away, and that’s fine. It’s those that don’t buy that need to be placed into a mechanism for regular communication.

The regular communication is just that – communication. If you’re selling lawn mowers, give tips on how to have a greener lawn, interviews and videos with lawn care experts. Become an authority. Be authentic. Don’t be a spammy “buy now” type. Talk to the suspects, not at them. And talk to them regularly.

The conversation should be 90% real content, and 10% promotional. You have every right to ask someone to buy (and you should). But do it in the context of a relationship.

How do you communicate with your customers? It can newsletters (if you’re using newsletters, read “How to Write Good Newsletters that Don’t Suck.”). It can be inclusion on your own forum, or social media site (building communities is a fantastic tool). It can be a webinar, a free trial, or a freemium model. It can even be regular postcards. Whatever. The way in which you communicate to your suspects is largely a function of the style of your organization. In any event, you want to get that line in with the customer and then develop it patiently over time.

My friend Lincoln Murphy has a good webinar on the subject of long-term conversion, here.

Again, sometimes people will buy immediately or very soon after learning of your company. But looking at actual conversion rates of search engine marketing, it’s very low. However, you would still treat every lead that wanders over to your site like gold (assuming they are in your target market, of course). They may not buy today, but they may very well buy tomorrow.

The key is to realize that a suspect becomes a prospect by percolating over time.

Build big lists. Talk to them often. And the qualified leads will come.