Bakers Rising (My Life in Advertising, Chapter 6)

When you’re shopping, how closely do you monitor the price tags? We tend to think we’re very price-conscious. We do pay attention to price, it’s true, but there are many more factors at work.

Price is often one of the least important concerns when we find the right item.

For example, we can get generic shoes at many stores. Do you buy the cheapest shoes you can? Or do you look for something that expresses a bit about your personality? If not shoes, maybe you prefer that people use your title when addressing you. Maybe you like to see your name in lights. Maybe you drive a fancy car.

Everyone has a desire to express and elevate their status, and the right item to do that will make someone say, I gotta have this, price be damned.

Chapter 6 of My Life in Advertising, Personal Salesmanship. While Claude C Hopkins worked at Swift and Company selling the lard substitute Cotosuet to home users, the company was having a hard time selling to bakers. The price was higher than the competition.

Hopkins insisted that price has nothing to do with salesmanship, and he sets out to prove it.

People want prestige and recognition, including their name in print on an advertisement such as this.
People want status, prestige, and recognition. Printing the bakery name on an advertisement was reason enough to buy the placards for the window, and with it, the Cotosuet used in the baked goods.

The very day, Hopkins visits a bakery and asks the baker to appraise an ad for a perfect pie, made of course with Hopkins’ Cotosuet. Hopkins and the baker discuss the ad together, as contemporaries. Hopkins reviews the technical aspects of the print. They discuss the pie and merits of the visual image. The baker talks himself into loving the ad. Once the baker hears the bakery’s name could be printed on this poster for the perfect pie, the baker was hooked. Genius. Hopkins sold these cards promoting the status of the baker, with the accompanying Cotosuet, to bakeries all over New England.

Hopkins then sells Cotosuet by placing bakery names on the side of traincars, appealing to the vanity of the bakery owners. He continues to bake massive cakes. Hopkins sells more Cotosuet than the whole Boston sales team and not one buyer complains about the price.

Hopkins sold his product by appealing to the desires of his buyers, including their names in big letters on the sides of traincars. Photo "Unidentified Engine" by William Creswell, Flickr, CC-By-2.0
Hopkins sold his product by appealing to the desires of his buyers, including their names in big letters on the sides of traincars. Photo “Unidentified Engine” by William Creswell, Flickr, CC-By-2.0

When the CEO of Swift and Company inquires how he does this, Hopkins explains how he didn’t talk of his product, but of things beneficial to the buyer. “The average salesman openly seeks favors, seeks profit for himself. His plea is, ‘Buy my goods, not the other fellow’s.’ He makes a selfish appeal to selfish people, and of course he meets resistance.” Tweet This

Everything Hopkins does or advertises is in service to the customer. He doesn’t ask people to buy. He doesn’t quote a price. He’ll often offer a free sample. Every sale is subject to return. This is the powerful psychological trigger of reciprocation — when someone receives a gift or favor, they often seek to return the favor. Hopkins employs this to great effect.

“Everywhere we see advertisers merely crying a name. They say, ‘buy my brand. Be sure to get the original.’… I always offered a favor.  Now I talk of service, profit, pleasure, gifts, not any desire of my own.”

This is Chapter 6 of the current PRL book selection, Claude C Hopkins’ My Life in Advertising. PRL is reviewing books on the topics of Persuasion, Influence, and related fields, to better our understanding of Persuasion methods and tactics. Join us because the tools of persuasion will make your life easier.