How Claude Hopkins Tapped Into Human Curiosity and Revolutionized the Advertising World

by HeatherGeo

Ever wonder how pork and beans became a household staple? Imagine this scene, it’s 1910 and a tall lanky salesman knocks at the front door of a farmhouse. A woman answers, he introduces himself and simply asks if she has ever purchased a can of pork and beans. Intrigued, she answers, “why, no I make my beans at home.”

“Would you consider purchasing canned pork and beans, if they were as good as home made?” asks the salesman. “Possibly,” says the woman, adding, “if they tasted good. I never thought about that.”

This was a typical Claude Hopkins approach. Extensive canvassing and  tireless review of results. Through canvassing nearly a thousand homes, the initial research showed that only 4% of people bought canned pork and beans, the rest baked their beans in the kitchen.

So, the problem was not to say a certain brand was the best, but to win people away from home-baked beans by selling them on the idea that canned beans taste as good as home baked beans and saves time and energy in the kitchen.

Look on any advertisers must-read selection of books, and you will undoubtedly see Claude Hopkins, “Scientific Advertising.” Hopkins, made a fortune in the advertising world and upon retirement wrote a book outlining his strategies.

The book transcends just the advertising realm and is a must-read for anyone in the marketing industry. In a time when door to door salesmen were the norm, Hopkins extensive product research revealed what people wanted long before they knew.

Hopkins approach was so successful at the age of 41 he was hired by advertising agency, Lord & Thomas Albert Lasker, which paid him a whopping salary of $185,000 per year in 1907.

Hopkins book “Scientific Advertising” was released in 1923, after he retired.

Here are some points from the book:

  • The only purpose of advertising is to make sales.
  • No two advertising campaigns are ever conducted on lines that are identical. Individuality is essential.
  • Once must be able to express himself briefly, clearly, and convincingly just as a salesmen must.
  • Ads are not written to entertain.
  • When you plan or prepare an advertisement, keep before you a typical buyer.
  • The best ad ask no one to buy.
  • The writing of headlines in one of the greatest journalistic arts. They either conceal of reveal an interest.
  • Address the people you seek, and them only.
  • One may do business in a shed, another in a palace. That is immaterial. The great question is, one’s power to get the maximum result.
  • Advertising is much like war minus the venom
  • Names that tell stories have been worth millions. So a great deal of research often proceeds the selection of a name
  • It is a well-known fact that the greatest profits are made on great volume at small profit
  • To attack a rival is never good advertising.
  • Show a bright side, the happy and attractive side  not the dark and uninviting side of things.
  • Do something if possible to get immediate action –tell what delay may cost.
  • There is great advantage in a name that tells a story.

Claude Hopkins

Claude Hopkins Author of Scientific Advertising

Work Ethic:

  • Specialized in writing simple reason-why copy.
  • Did extensive pre-campaign research.
  • Created ads based on service that offered wanted information.
  • Tracked campaigns by meticulous research.
  • Developed successful campaigns for Schlitz Beer, Van Camps Pork and Beans, Goodyear Tires, Palmolive Soap, Quaker Oats, Pepsodent Toothpaste.


Wrote Scientific Advertising and revolutionized the advertising and marketing world.

Action Tip: Do a yearly customer persona keeping in mind the central question your customers will ask, “what’s in it for me?” Picture this person in your mind as if you are sitting across the table from them having coffee.

For further reading: 

Scientific Advertising

My Life in Advertising 

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

HeatherGeo October 2, 2012 at 5:54 AM

Thank you so much for your kind comments! I really appreciate you taking the time to comment. If you click on the link in the post you can download the Scientific advertising paper. It’s great information.


Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: