Book Review: “My Life In Advertising” & “Scientific Advertising” – Claude C. Hopkins

When you think of “advertising” there are certain key things that come to mind. Trial offers, free samples, coupons, etc… all marketing methods that are commonplace today.

But at one point, they were groundbreaking. Promotions as simple as “clip this coupon and mail it in” had to be invented by someone. That someone changed the face of marketing and advertising as we know it.

His name was Claude C. Hopkins (1866-1932). One of the “grandfathers” of direct marketing. In an age where most business owners were simply saying some variation of “Buy my product instead of his.”, Mr. Hopkins took a more calculated route.

Through “Scientific Advertising” (what we now call direct marketing) Claude laid the foundation for much of what we do today. Using keyed advertising he tested ideas in small local markets, perfecting his ads before rolling out nation wide.

If you’re interested in the history of advertising I highly recommend his book “My Life In Advertising”. You’ll learn about the origins of some of todays most popular brands and how they grew. You’ll learn where “industry norms”, still used today, came from. It's really fascinating stuff. 

Along the way he gives excellent advice on the basics of direct marketing. Compared to other books on the subject, this one is fairly interesting. Marketing books can occasionally be dry but hearing how Claude pulled off amazing schemes keeps you turning every page.

You’ll read about entertaining, practical “marketing” he’s used to sell very common, every day products. Whether it’s convincing a baker to bake the worlds largest cake to sell more cake mix, or forcing local stores to stock a product by telling customers to go and ask for it there, you’ll learn techniques that are not only entertaining, but useful as well.

The second half of this book is “Scientific Advertising.” Considering the age of the book and the tidal wave of followers it’s created, it’s surprisingly basic. You can really tell it lays the foundation for the entire industry to grow on. It’s simplicity may bore the seasoned direct marketer, but considering it’s importance and brevity, I still recommend it.

There isn’t much you’ll get out of it that you wouldn’t get from something like John Caples or Dan Kennedy. That being said, it’s still a “staple” that should be in your library. If for nothing more than respect of the craft.

Overall, I’m a fan of Claude C. Hopkins’ writing style. It’s simple. It’s to the point. And it’s easy to read. You’ll fly through these books and find yourself looking for others written by him in no time.

Definitely one to add to your list!

Cheers & chat soon
– Adam Nolan