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.
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.
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.
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.
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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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.
A friend recently told me that, despite having no ability to play the banjo, he recently outbid others at a silent auction. Once he expressed a minor interest in the instrument, he found it hard to walk away. Combine this with the scarcity of the item and the time crunch, and he found himself drawn into an impossible situation. He was asking if I had any tips to pass along. Nope! Do you have any banjo tips to share?
Last week I introduced Social Consistency. As you saw, people want to remain consistent to the publicstatements they’ve made. They don’t want to eat their words! Pointing out someone’s inconsistent statements will often force them to revert to those previous attitudes. People like to agree with their previous selves, don’t you think?
Have you seen the Netflix series Stranger Things? It’s like a classic 1980s adventure movie, a mix of ET and Stand By Me, stretched out over eight episodes. If you’ve not seen it and you can handle a little PG-13 horror, check it out.
Warning: minor plot point ahead, here until the end of the short dialog below
In Chapter Two of My Life in Advertising, Hopkins writes about his childhood jobs. Hopkins learned the importance of a good product or good service. He cornered the flier delivery in his hometown by being the only boy to deliver to all of the homes on his routes. The other kids weren’t so thorough. Consistently great service attracts business.Tweet This
Later, during his door-to-door sales work, Hopkins learned that selling with a demonstration or a sample made selling many times easier. Persuasion without a sample was far more effort. Samples, samples, samples! This is the cornerstone of his later career. Continue reading “My Life in Advertising: Chapter 2”