Archive for the ‘Marketing Insights’ Category

Marketing Classics: Four principles from the book that changed David Ogilvy’s life

January 26th, 2015 1 comment

Have you ever read an advertising or marketing book more than once? How about more than twice?

David Ogilvy once insisted about a book,

“Nobody should be allowed to have anything to do with advertising until he has read this book seven times. It changed the course of my life.”

What book was he referring to?

Marketer, meet Claude Hopkins, one of the original 1920s ad men who could masterfully blend both art and the rigor of science to marketing campaigns. He is known for many iconic ads of the past, including Pepsodent Toothpaste, which some credit with getting Americans in the habit of brushing their teeth.

Hopkins was studied and admired by both David Ogilvy (who most of us know) and Rosser Reeves (who many of us know as Don Draper).

Hopkins summarized his theory of advertising in a short, easy-to-digest, book called Scientific Advertising. This was Ogilvy’s go-to book. I remember the first time I read through it. What really struck me about it was its relevance to what we were discovering (or I guess is should say rediscovering) almost a century later here at

Now, I confess, I am only on my third round through this book, so I know I am not quite yet fit to work for Ogilvy, but I thought it would be fitting to share with you a few of Hopkins principles that seem relevant for us to remember nearly 100 years later.


PRINCIPLE #1: People are selfish

First, Hopkins warns the reader, “The people you address are selfish, as we all are They care nothing about you interests or profit. They seek service for themselves. Ignoring this fact is a common mistake and a costly mistake in advertising.”

Much of the advertising in Hopkins day had turned inward and focused primarily on what the business wanted the customer to do — mainly buy a product or service. They had forgotten that before you can move someone to action, you have to help them understand what is in it for them.

It’s humorous sometimes how we can fall into the same trap today as advertisers. You can see it in something as simple as our call-to-action copy. We use phrases like, “Buy now,” “Add to Cart,” “Register” or, even worse, “Submit.”

All these display the symptom that Hopkins was getting at — we are too focused on what we want from the customer, rather than what the customer wants from us.

We run simple A/B experiments (like this series) all the time in which changing emphasis from something like “Buy Product X” to “Get Product X” has a significant impact on customer response.

And it does not simply come down to using a word like “get.” It’s about the mindset behind the word “get.” As Hopkins pointed out, people are interested in what they “get,” not what the business “gets.”

This is as true today as it was then, and the most effective marketers today know how to empathize with the customer.


PRINCIPLE #2: Generalities are worthless

In the ’20s, Hopkin wrote, “Platitudes and generalities roll off the human understanding like water from a duck. They leave no impression whatever.”

If this was true in Hopkins day, how much more true is it today, when the average consumer is bombarded with hundreds of marketing messages a day?

 Hopkins continues, “To say, ‘Best in the world,’ ‘Lowest price in existence’, etc. are at best simply claiming the expected. But superlatives of that sort are usually damaging. The suggest looseness of expression, a tendency to exaggerate, a careless truth. They lead readers to discount all the statements that you make.”

If anything, consumers today are more jaded than they were in Hopkins’ day. The average postmodern consumer meets our campaigns with a disposition of disbelief. As Hopkins pointed out almost a century ago, and our experimentation confirms still today, our value claims must be stated with a degree of specificity to establish credibility.


PRINCIPLE #3: Advertising is salesmanship

In Scientific Advertising, Claude Hopkins was trying to close the gap between what advertising had become and what it should be. “Advertising is Salesmanship … the only purpose of advertising is to make sales … It is not for general effect … It is not to keep your name before the people … Treat it as a salesman. Force it to justify itself.”

In Hopkins day, advertising had forgotten its objective. It had become fluff that simply tried to bring some general sense of awareness, but it was not held to the same standard as the average salesman in his day.

To intensify his point, Hopkins pointed out that, “Some people spend $10 per word on an average advertisement. Therefore, every ad should be a super-salesman.”

Ten dollars per word? That’s nothing, Hopkins. Today, we spend over $100,000 per second of airtime during the Super Bowl. It is obvious the stakes are as high, if not higher, today when it comes to justifying our marketing. The question is, are we holding our advertising to the basic standard of producing results? Or as Hopkins might put it, are we still putting up with a lousy salesmanship?


PRINCIPLE #4: Advertising is a science

Finally, Hopkins states that “The time has come when advertising has in some hands reached the status of science … we learn the principles and prove them by repeated tests. This is done through keyed advertising, by traced returns, largely by the use of coupons.”

If only Hopkins could know that in just a few generations, the Internet would enable us to observe consumer response to marketing campaigns in real-time.

But still, he reminds us that, even in the past, advertising is not primarily speculation, but science.

It involves human decisions that can be tracked, observed and patterned. We may not have all the answers to why people say “yes,” but we do have the tools to discover the answers to these essential questions at the heart of all advertising.

The tools and our ability to listen and observe to the customer will only increase as technology does. Marketer, we have no excuse today for not turning to craft of marketing and advertising into, as Hopkins says, a science.


Was Ogilvy right about Hopkins?

Perhaps reading Hopkins seven times is a bit extreme, but I would agree with Ogilvy — anyone who is trying to market an offer to a consumer would benefit from reading Hopkins.

Times may have changed. The mediums have definitely changed. However,  what makes us tick fundamentally as humans is the same 100 years ago and will be the same 100 years from now.

Hopkins wasn’t the first to leverage advertising as a scientific window into the psychology of the human decision process. He wasn’t the last to transcend intuition with science when crafting advertising campaigns.

However, for a guy who probably never conceived of the tools marketers and advertisers would have at their fingertips today, he did hit the nail on the head when it came to his approach to advertising and the principles he discovered in his day.

So, if you are looking for a good marketing or advertising book to start off the year with, let me join Ogilvy and encourage you to pick up a copy (or download a now publicly-owned electronic version) of Hopkin’s classic, Scientific Advertising.


You might also like

Display Advertising: 3 basic questions every marketer should ask themselves about banner ads [More from the blogs]

Value Proposition: Which of your value claims is most appealing to new customers? [More from the blogs]

Email Segmentation: Targeted program reduces advertising costs 73%, leads to 3,000% ROI [MarketingSherpa case study]

Creating Customer-centric Messaging for Optimal Lead Generation [MarketingSherpa webinar archive]

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Conversion Factors That Impact Your Online Marketing

January 12th, 2015 2 comments

Why do people say “yes” to your offer?  Any time there is an ask for something, whether you are asking people to purchase something, give you something or to do something, the person can either say “yes” or “no.”

In this short article, I will explain the conversion heuristic and how it can help you optimize your online marketing efforts and get to more yes(s.)


What is a conversion?

Definition — Conversion:  noun. The act or process of changing from one form, state, etc., to another[1]. If you are a marketer, it is your primary responsibility to help convert a prospect’s interest into an action.

There are many different actions a marketer may wish the prospect take, such as entering their information into a contact form, subscribing to an email newsletter or making a purchase.

When your prospect is presented with your request to do something, they can say “yes” or “no.”  If the prospect says “yes” to your request and they take action, a conversion has occurred.

Read more…

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2014 Year Review: Most shared posts in Web opt, button copy and email marketing

December 29th, 2014 No comments

What is on the mind of marketers today?

This year, we shared a multitude of discoveries achieved in the MarketingExperiments research lab. We learned about hot topics in marketing today including responsive design, the effectiveness of green marketing and how to improve a Web form without significantly reducing the number of fields.

In the MarketingExperiments Blog, we covered a wide range of topics on website optimization, testing strategies and real-world tests straight from the lab.

To help aid your efforts going into 2015, read on for the most shared posts this year, indicated through retweets and shares by you, the reader.


Top Post of 2014 — Less is More: Maximize conversion by removing website distractions

Early in 2014, we heard from a MECLABS Senior Research Manager for his take on a simple and powerful strategy for Web optimization: Less is more.

In a test within the checkout pages for an online retailer, the MECLABS research team identified a number of elements causing friction and distracting customers from completing their purchase.

In the control of the checkout, the page included both side and top navigation, unnecessary text as well as exit points, which all served as distractions from the key goal of the page: conversion.

In the treatment, the team removed the navigation and other exit points from the page as well as the distracting and unneeded text. The result? A 10% increase in checkout completion, equaling to a 20% increase in revenue per visit to the checkout process.


According to Jesse Kraker, Senior Research Manager, MECLABS, “When optimizing your website, you should evaluate each page element and consider whether it is helping the goal of your site or distracting visitors. Any potentially distracting element is an opportunity to test how your pages perform with those elements removed.”


Read more…

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Co-creation: The next realization of value-based marketing

November 17th, 2014 No comments

“If I am your ideal customer, why should I purchase your product rather than any other product?” – Flint McGlaughlin, Managing Director, MECLABS (parent company of MarketingExperiments)

At MarketingExperiments, researchers have used this question to develop value propositions over the past 20 years.

Many things have changed over the past couple decades, which has now, more than ever, left room for the customer to answer the value prop question.

Recently, Professor Wouter Van Rossum, a leading expert on value proposition and product development, held an Academic Lecture Series at MECLABS headquarters in Jacksonville, Fla., where he discussed the evolution of a value proposition in a post-Twitter world.

“Companies don’t want to hear [feedback],” Van Rossum explained, “They don’t like to hear it.”

But, in an era where customers can ask questions and interact with not only the company, but fellow dissatisfied customers online and demand a more and more personalized experience, it “more or less forces companies into co-creation.”


Defining co-creation

Co-creation implies a situation where both parties profit in terms of exchange value.



A “perfect example of co-creation,” according to Van Rossum is Threadless, a company that allows designers to submit art for T-shirts, among other commodities. Customers then vote on designs they want to purchase.

If the design is picked up by Threadless, the designers earn a portion of the profits from T-shirts sold and this creates an exchange of value.

Co-creation of exchange value, according to Van Rossum, implies that the company should determine a value proposition that will account for the customer’s contribution and result in a win-win situation for both the customer and the business.

In the case of Threadless: The company queues up designs that they know will be popular and purchased. The designer earns not only monetary rewards but also has work to add to their portfolio. Both parties benefit from the relationship and business model.

Read more…

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Customer Anxiety: One element of the MECLABS Conversion Heuristic explained

November 13th, 2014 No comments

If you have participated in a MECLABS, MarketingExperiments or MarketingSherpa event or education program, you may have been exposed to the patented Conversion Heuristic.

It looks like this:

C = 4m + 3v + 2(i – f) – 2a

If you haven’t seen this before, it can be explained in minutes. However, it can take decades to master.

My hope is this MarketingExperiments Blog post will help you gain a basic understanding of the Conversion Heuristic, and specifically, understand the anxiety element in the heuristic.

Each letter in the Conversion Heuristic represents a psychological, emotional or physical element affecting a prospect’s choice to say “yes” or “no” to your offer.

Each number represents the weight or importance each element carries in guiding the prospect to your offer, or away from your offer.

The element “C” represents the probability of conversion. A conversion in this instance describes the event when a prospect becomes a customer.

This event is the foundation of business; without conversion, a business ceases to exist. To increase the probability of conversion, it is important to understand the elements within the Conversion Heuristic. In this post, I will highlight the “anxiety” element present in every conversion process.

Here is the Conversion Heuristic again: C = 4m + 3v + 2(i – f) – 2a

C = Probability of conversion

m = Motivation of the customer

v = Force of your value proposition

i = Incentive

f = Friction

a = Anxiety


Customer anxiety

It is very important to remember that your prospects are people. They have thoughts, feelings, needs and desires. When there is product or service being offered to a prospect, that prospect may have questions or concerns.

This psychological concern occurs within the prospect’s mind.

Anxiety is a real concern that the prospect may have regarding your offer. The prospect may not even be aware that it is happening, but when corrected or addressed, there can be some significant lifts in your conversion rate.

Here are some examples of anxieties that people may have when making purchases online.


Is my credit card information safe?


  Read more…

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How to Improve Conversion of Your Online Ads

November 10th, 2014 1 comment

From pay-per-click advertising to display ads, all online advertising is a micro-yes, a step in the process to the ultimate conversion.

To help you improve conversion of this micro-yes, Flint McGlaughlin, Managing Director, MECLABS, created the MECLABS Online Ad Sequence based on online advertising experimentation for both B2B and consumer marketers.

How can you improve conversion of your online ads? Focus on the three factors identified in the sequence:



Let me explain the elements in the sequence in a little further detail.


Effectiveness of the ad

This isn’t an equation to be solved. This is a heuristic, or thought tool (kind of like checklist) to guide your thinking as you look to optimize your online advertising.

The more you improve the elements to the right of the equation side, the more you will be able to increase the effectiveness of your ad.

  Read more…

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