Selling Your Product -Targeting Hope Based Appeal

Claude C. Hopkins (1866–1932) was one of the great advertising pioneers. He showed many companies how to sell their products. He was famous for building the habit of ‘brushing’ the teeth daily, among millions of people through ‘Pepsodent’ ads.

Charles Pearce, a sales manager, had a toilet soap product made up of Palm and Olive oils. Every expert suggested to him that the product did not have any advertising potential and suggested him to shelve the idea. He approached Hopkins for a solution. Hopkins did a bit of competitive research. Every manufacturer was promoting their soap by targeting the ‘Fear Psychology’ of consumers-Targeting wrinkles, Smell, Body odour, Changing skin.

Hopkins strongly believed that the better way to motivate consumers to buy the product was not through ‘fear’ factor but through ‘Hope’. He had earlier refrained himself from using fear elements in his advertisements.

He did basic research about the targeted user segment for the new bathing soap. From research, he found out that one of the major ‘Hope’ factors of his target segment was ‘BEAUTY’. At that time, not many advertisers recognised the strength of beauty appeal. He also saw that women were finding ways to improve skin complexion. Hopkins came across a piece of information that Cleopatra used palm and olive oils. He saw an opportunity to tap this ‘beauty’ emotion.

Soon, the sales ran into millions and ‘Palmolive’ became a leading soap in the world.


In the early 1960s, running for fitness wasn’t popular. It was believed that only weirdos or crazy people would run for pleasure or exercise. Runners were mocked at that time. People threw soda or beers at runners. Not a pleasant time.

Nike’s founders Bill Bowerman and Phil Knight firmly believed that if people got out and ran a few miles every day, they would be healthier, could live a longer life and the world would be a better place.

Bowerman thought that people mistake that only elite Olympians are athletes. For him, everyone’s an athlete. He firmly believed that if a person has a body then he is an athlete.

Bowerman promoted the concept of running as a fitness routine, including people of an advanced age through writing articles in magazines. He also created a running program in Eugene that became a national model for fitness programs. In 1966, he wrote a book titled ‘Jogging’, which preached the benefits of jogging and the techniques. The book became a massive hit and millions of copies were sold. The concept of running for fitness spread like wildfire.

Both Bowerman and Phil Knight strongly felt that only Nike’s shoes were the better ones in the market to help people run comfortably. They wanted to promote their shoes not to earn profits but to help people live a healthy life. They were selling Hope and not shoes.

Nike’s ads also targeted ‘Hope’ based appeal and motivated people to live a healthier life. Their first ad ‘Just Do It’ ad is an example.

Just Do It

In 1987, NIKE’s ad agency made a new TV spot celebrating Nike’s early role in founding the jogging craze. People from Nike and the Ad Agency felt that the ad is striking and provocative. But Nike’s founder Phil Knight was upset with the ad. He felt that the ad celebrated Nike Products, not the customers.

Next time, the Ad agency came out with revised ads showing all kind of athletes doing what athletes do. Every athlete spoke with ‘Emotion’ about what they do, what ‘Emotional’ rewards they gain and why they do it in their own ‘Emotional’ words, followed by “Just Do It”.

The ad was not about sneakers, superior performance or breakthrough innovation of Nike products. It was about Emotional rewards -about ‘Hope’ -“Just doing it” whatever he or she feels like doing.

The “Just Do It” tagline and its accompanying advertisement challenged people to achieve their goals and aspirations. After seeing the ads, many took up fitness, quit bad jobs, left bad relationships and took up their other long-pending aspirations.

Phil Knight motivated the consumers to use the product, not through ‘fear’ factor but through ‘Hope’.

Attitude toward the brand is greater when the company targets hope appeal than fear appeal in their advertisements. People loved Nike for its ‘Just Do It’ campaign. Fear appeal might be the best option to grab the attention but to motivate people to change, hope appeal plays a major role.

References: Shoe Dog’ by Phil Knight, Scientific Advertising by Claude C Hopkins, What Great Brands Do by Denise Lee.

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Secular Humanist, Business Growth Consultant, Design Thinker, India. Reach me at or

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