The highest paid advertising man of his time. The father of results-oriented marketing and the utilization of market research in ad campaigns. The person credited with making tooth brushing a daily habit. This description can be of none other than Claude C. Hopkins, adman of the early 1900s and author of Scientific Advertising.
‘Nobody should be allowed to have anything to do with advertising until he has read this book (Scientific Advertising) seven times’ - David Ogilvy
Hopkins revolutionized the ad world and worked on the following accounts:
Though there are various articles written about the tangible lessons one can take from reading his book or studying his campaigns, I was struck by one line in particular when re-reading Scientific Advertising:
“The losses occasioned in advertising by venturing on personal preference would easily pay the national debt”
Though our national debt has grown since Hopkins, I’m assuming the amount of advertising dollars spent with little strategy and return has also increased in kind. That being said, I struggle with this statement.
As someone who has a graduate degree in Market Research and Consumer Behavior and is fully immersed in the world of metrics, KPIs, and analytics, I cannot refute how important it is to base marketing decisions on data. However, in this advertising age in particular, storytelling and branding seem to have only grown in importance.
You cannot manufacture a brand from data points. I have worked with companies that will listen and abide by any KPI, but lack the clarity on what makes their brand unique and how to communicate that on every marketing collateral. The sales in these companies usually putter out, customers can smell the hollow shell. If a company was a body, branding would be the soul and metrics would constitute the brain. You need both. Often both inputs contribute to each final product. I’ve worked with Creative Directors and Brand Managers that give art direction that could not be explained by numbers or stats. Often this direction influenced the design of our collateral for the better, because they understood our value proposition and brand personality in a way that deeply resonated with our customers.
“Our brand wouldn’t say that”
“That is off-brand”
Just about the same number of times I have felt intensely agitated by hearing these words (often right before a campaign is set to launch), I have also come to appreciate the results of following their direction. They provide a North Star at times when polling the public is the inappropriate option. Just as our digital age can make garnering market research easier than ever with the advent of user testing and survey platforms, it also requires much more marketing output from brands on a daily basis, rendering extensive testing on each social post or newsletter impractical and overkill.
At what point do we defer to the ‘personal preference’ of the CEO or CD?
Who has the final sign-off?
I wish I could be as black and white as Hopkins, but in our current marketing landscape I’m not convinced a brand’s direction is that linear.