Medical Claims My Eye (My Life in Advertising: Chapter 7)

I am blown away at the number of medical commercials on TV these days (in the US). They’re a huge portion of the evening broadcast. You can’t watch network television without being warned of ED.

What's the TV suggest today? Photo "Television" by dailyinvention, Flickr, CC-By-2.0
What’s the TV suggest today? Visual Messages play a large part in our receptiveness to an advert. Photo “Television” by dailyinvention, Flickr, CC-By-2.0

Did you know that advertising pharmaceuticals directly to consumers is the most common way people receive health communications? It’s true. No one is suggesting the viewers get off their asses to exercise. There’s no money in advertising the health benefits of zucchini — unless you’re the Food Network!

No one wants to hear the bad news of health issues. Instead, we’re fed commercials of attractive actors frolicking in a meadow. The visual message is Happiness, even as the voice-over suggests the medicine might cause exactly what it’s trying to prevent. Everyone is interested in a sunnier life.

Apparently, these ads are an improvement from what was published 100 years ago. Continue reading “Medical Claims My Eye (My Life in Advertising: Chapter 7)”

The Echo Chamber of Social Media Divides Us

Social Media, such as Facebook and Twitter, are great tools for reaching a lot of people… right? Yes, but often new information only reaches those already in agreement.

Social Media sites like Facebook use complex computer software to filter and sort headlines and posts. Do you like the White Sox? You’ll get stories about the White Sox. This software ensures that most people get news that interests them — including headlines and ‘evidence’ that match their current preferences and worldviews. Facebook’s role is to engage you (and show you ads), not to challenge your belief structure.

When every headline you see supports your existing belief structure, of course the other side of a political argument is going to be ‘wrong’ — everyone is working from a different set of ‘facts!’

If you tried converting anyone to your preferred presidential candidate using Facebook, you probably made more enemies than converts.

There are two likely scenarios here.

If you tried to introduce new information to your discussion, it was probably overwhelmed by the existing information on the other side, and lead to cognitive dissonance. When someone confronts an uncomfortable idea, they’ll rationalize it away, ignore it, or refuse it. They want to remain internally consistent with their belief structure. People don’t like to disagree with their former selves.

If that new information did make it into your conversation, it possibly made things worse. Rather than an objective look at a situation when new information comes to light, people will often dig in deeper to their currently-held positions. They want to be seen as socially consistent. Being labeled a “flip-flopper” in light of new evidence is portrayed as a bad quality in presidential politics. People are publicly tied to their identity. They won’t easily give that up.

Social Media filters prevent people from seeing the same information you see. This has been the case for years now. Our nation is growing apart because of it.

Any attempt to sway others by highlighting news stories probably never made in front of their eyes. If it did, they dismissed it outright.

Anything that contradicted someone’s existing beliefs probably caused them to dig in deeper.

People don’t want to think.

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.

Continue reading “Bakers Rising (My Life in Advertising, Chapter 6)”

Those Big Ears Will Give You Confidence

In highschool we had to vote for a student government representative for our homeroom, the room we started and ended each school day. There were two candidates in our homeroom. One candidate was studious and seriously wanted the job — she had plans!

The second candidate was a goof who spent most of his school day talking with people. He was charismatic, but he didn’t have any plans for the school government if he was elected (but let’s be honest, those organizations don’t accomplish much anyways).

Who do you think won?

Everyone is drawn to a charismatic personality. Many of us believe charismatic people are born this way, and their leadership skills are an effortless result of their charisma.

The leader fights for the interests of her group. Photo "IMG_2810_1" by Allie, Flickr, CC-By-2.0
The leader is a member of her group. Photo “IMG_2810_1” by Allie, Flickr, CC-By-2.0

This is the story we tell ourselves. This story keeps us from looking at our own skillset to see where we fall short. But this story is not true.

You, too, can develop charisma and become an effective leader.

Charisma isn’t about being high-energy. It’s not about striking out in bold new directions or making perfect decisions. How can you develop charisma? Continue reading “Those Big Ears Will Give You Confidence”

Swimming in Shortening (My Life in Advertising: Chapter 5)

Have you ever cooked with shortening? It’s a shelf-stabilized, hydrogenated vegetable oil. Shortening has less water and a higher smoke point than butter, and it’s cheaper to produce than lard. Perfect for pastries, I’m told.

Cotosuet Shortening

Shortening doesn’t appeal to me to cook with. Maybe I don’t make enough pastries. Maybe it’s the hydrogenated aspects. Maybe all I can think of is swimming with friends after greasing ourselves up. Yep, this happened.

Chapter Five! Hopkins moves to Chicago to work at Swift and Company, the large meat-packer and food-service company.

His first account is to sell a lard and butter substitute called Cotosuet, a shortening made from cottonseed oil and hog fat. Delightful.

Hopkins conceives the idea to partner with a new local grocery store and a local bakery. They bake a huge cake for the grocery’s opening, selling the Cotosuet to visitors to the store. The store opening is crazy busy. People everywhere come to see the massive cake. The social proof was hard to resist — everyone was buying the Cotosuet so it must be desirable. They sell out of their shortening. Soon after, Hopkins and his team replicate the success in town after town, selling trainloads of Cotosuet.

Hopkins agrees that this may have been a stunt, but warns that “dignity doesn’t get us far. No argument in the world can ever compare with one dramatic demonstration.” Tweet This His stunts sold his product, repeatedly. For Hopkins, sales alone defined success for an advertisement.

“The way to sell goods is to sell them. The way to do that is to sample and demonstrate, and the more attractive you can make your demonstration the better it will be for you.” Tweet This

I’ll admit it, a good demonstration can certainly sell products! I’ve bought a set of steak knives that impressed the hell out of me — from a late-night infomercial! Oh, the shame. Think about one time when you’ve been sold by a good demonstration and let us know in the comments below!

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Swift and Company made all kinds of crazy things. "My mama used wool soap", Boston Public Library, Flickr, CC-By-2.0
Swift and Company made all kinds of crazy things. The plain-speak in these ads is typical of Hopkins’ style. “My mama used wool soap”, Boston Public Library, Flickr, CC-By-2.0

My Grandpa’s Dirty Secret to a Clean Kitchen (and My Life in Advertising: Chapter 4)


Check out this totally fantastic photo from 1989. My family was just moving into our new home.

I had just turned 10 years old. The shorts say it all.

I was looking for a photo of the kitchen carpet in this kitchen from when my grandpa owned the house. I couldn’t have hoped to find a gem like that photo above.

Back to the kitchen carpet. Yes, it existed; it’s barely visible in my photo above. It was patterned in food words. “Onion” was printed in white, for example, and “pepper” printed in green. Continue reading “My Grandpa’s Dirty Secret to a Clean Kitchen (and My Life in Advertising: Chapter 4)”

My Life in Advertising: Chapter 3

Chapter Three of Claude C Hopkins’ book, My Life in Advertising.

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Hopkins opens Chapter Three with a story. The summer after highschool graduation, Claude C. Hopkins took a job as a school teacher on the weekdays and a preacher on the weekends.

“The saver & the worker get the preference of the men who control opportunities. And often that preference proves to be the most important thing in life.” —CC Hopkins, My Life in Advertising

One weekend his mother’s strict congregation asked him to speak. Claude had developed new ideas about religion, different from his strict upbringing. He knew this opportunity would test his relationship with his mother. Claude spoke at the church anyway. His mom was, let’s say, not happy. She took him to a restaurant and broke up with him.

Hopkins couldn't afford to eat regularly, and craved hot pie for dinner. Photo "Mmm... chicken pot pie" by Jeffreyw, Flickr, CC-By-2.0
Hopkins couldn’t afford to eat regularly, and craved hot pie for dinner.
Photo “Mmm… chicken pot pie” by Jeffreyw, Flickr, CC-By-2.0

Continue reading “My Life in Advertising: Chapter 3”