Six Business Lessons From ‘Claude C Hopkins’ and his ‘Scientific Advertising’

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. One of the main reasons for his success was that he lived as one of his product’s users. He lived among those users. He knew about them very well. He understood their needs, desires and behaviours better than any other advertiser. That helped him a lot.

Claude Hopkins had written about his experiences and lessons in the book ‘Scientific Advertising’ and the following content is predominantly from this book.

H.P.Crowell, of ‘The Quaker Oats Company’ was struggling to sell a couple of his products, ‘Puffed Rice’ and ‘Wheatberries’. Every expert advised him to drop the products from his catalogue as selling them would be infeasible. Crowell finally approached Claude C. Hopkins.

Hopkins did a detailed research. He was looking for some remarkability that could be used to promote the product. Remarkability, that could arise curiosity in a consumer’s mind- Something out of ordinary, unusual, interesting and worthy of attention by consumers.

During research, Hopkins learnt how Professor Anderson accidentally discovered ‘puffed’ grains. He studied the process of making the puffed grains. He saw how every food cell was exploded resulting in multiplication of grains to eight times normal size. He saw how every atom was made available for consumption. He was ‘astonished’ to see grains being shot from the guns while making puffed grains. And then… the ‘light’ blinked in his mind — The Remarkability — Shot from the gun! — He coined the phrase “Food shot from the gun”. He was sure that this phrase would arouse curiosity. He saw a couple of other remarkable things — Magnified size and Professor A P Anderson.

PERSONALITIES — Hopkins believed that personalities appeal more than the company name. It provides authenticity. He was of the opinion that consumers consider companies as soul-less. He firmly believed that if you make a man famous, then you would be making his creation famous. He decided to use Professor A P Anderson in his advertisements.

Hopkins’ advertisement focused on those three Inner ‘Remarkabilities’ — Shot From The Gun, Magnification, Personality.

Hopkins, thus transformed the fate of the Quaker Oats Company. He was a pioneer in ‘Viral Marketing’ by targeting the ‘remarkability’ factor.

PALMOLIVE — 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 was not through ‘fear’ factor but through ‘Hope’. He had earlier refrained himself from using fear elements in his advertisements.

He did a 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 an information that Cleopatra used palm and olive oils. He saw an opportunity to tap this ‘beauty’ emotion.

And the Palmolive soap still survives.

Hopkins was asked to find a way to promote ‘Palmolive Shaving cream’. He saw that all the users of shaving cream were loyal to certain brands as they had been using those brands for many years and they were unwilling to try any new product. He observed that Palmolive shaving cream could hardly claim any exceptional benefits than other brands and came to the conclusion that without any new value proposition, it would be tough to promote the new product. The best way to find a new value proposition is to go and observe the users. He did a detailed research of user’s behaviour. His observational research showed him that men want abundant lather, enduring lather and quick action.

DESIGN FOR OBSERVABILITY — Palmolive chemists showed Hopkins that Palmolive shaving cream could moisten the beard within one minute which had potential to quicken the cutting action and it was better than other brands. The chemists also showed that Palmolive shaving cream maintained its creaminess for ten minutes on the face. Now the challenge was how to communicate the benefits to the customer as soon as he opens the Shaving cream can? How to make the difference visible to users?

The easier it is for the individuals to see the benefits, the more likely they are to adopt. We have to tempt them to use the product. The solution — It was already provided by the user research. It was ‘Thick Lather’. He asked the chemists to multiply the lather to 250 times — Far better than any other brand. People subconsciously associated the thickness of lather with the product quality which other brands had failed to note.

Van Camp approached Hopkins to sell Factory baked Pork and Beans. Hopkins went to the market and looked at other competing brands. Every brand was shouting that they were the best brand. He could not find any differentiation. He looked at Van Camp’s technicalities and it was similar to any other competitor product. Hopkins had to find a way to sell Van Camp product among those brands.

What is the best way to find a solution? Yes, User research. Hopkins proceeded to conduct a research. He came across a shocking revelation — 94% of house-wives baked their own pork and beans. Every brand was competing for the remaining 6% of consumers. People were not at all buying the factory baked pork and beans.

Hopkins realised that he was not competing against any competitor brands but with the ‘Non-Consumption’. He had to fight against the ingrained behaviour. He had to find a way to change the consumer’s habit.

How to proceed?

Identify a weak-spot in the existing behaviour — Hopkins knew that the first challenge to overcome non-consumption was to look for a weak spot in the existing consumer’s behaviour where the user would have the least resistance for change. He proceeded to observe more users searching for that golden weak spot. During research, Hopkins observed that women required 16 hours to bake beans at home and many a time, the baked beans ended up being indigestible. He saw that the housewives did not have a good quality of water, high-temperature ovens to bake good quality beans. Hopkins felt that this was a major weak spot in the user’s behaviour — The user needed more effort, more time and had to put a lot of cognitive load in preparation.

Hopkins began the campaign targeting the Women’s weak spot — Comparing Home baked and Factory baked beans. He also showed them how Van Camp selected the beans, type of beans used, type of water used, how it was baked in steam ovens at 245-degree Celsius. He also offered a free sample for ‘taste’ tests when people approached the company.

SIMPLIFY- To make people come forward and try the product, it was important to communicate that it is easier to use the product without any training. In the above ad, Hopkins was mentioning how that a user would need less effort, time, money and cognitive effort to prepare the beans and at the same time, those activities need no or less training.

REWARD — Why is reward important? How does it feel when a person receives a reward? The reward is the reason, why people will repeat your behaviour. A pleasant experience is a reward. A woman wants to serve a wonderful food when her husband comes back home after a day of arduous work. She would feel pleasant when her husband was happy with the food. She felt unhappy whenever the beans become indigestible. Hopkins saw that repetition of behaviour lies in making women happier. Happy women depend on men liking the factory baked pork and beans.

Next, Hopkins turned his attention to working men. He noticed that men at their noonday luncheons in downtown often ordered factory baked pork and beans. It was clearly evident that men liked the factory baked dishes. Hopkins arranged his agents to supply Van Camp’s pork & beans to all the restaurants and luncheon counters at the workplaces. He made sure that Van Camp’s products were served in thousands of places. Finally, he announced the fact to women that many men were going every day to places where Van Camps were served. He made women think. They were already getting ready to quit the long and hard task of baking beans at home and the knowledge that men liked factory baked beans made the quitting much easier.

Van Camp’s Pork and Beans became an enormous success. It could sell at a premium price. It was like any other competitor’s product on the market but told facts which no other competitor told. Hopkins spoke in the language of the consumer. He represented consumer rather than the manufacturer.

Hopkins further writes that if Van Comp’s competitors went from house to house, observed so many women, they would have been the first to catch the massive market. Unfortunately, they didn’t.


Claude Hopkins was working in a company called Swift & Co. The company asked Claude to travel to Boston to solve a sales problem. In Boston, the sales team were struggling to sell the product ‘Cotosuet’. Claude reached Boston and spoke to them. Everyone was of the opinion that it would be impossible to sell the product without lowering the price but Claude felt that was not the best method to sell a product. Claude asked them to show one of their toughest customers. They took him to Fox Pie Company of Chelsea. It was one of the largest companies in that neighbourhood.

It’s not about us, It’s about them. Claude met Mr.Fox in his bakery. He was busy and not interested in talking to Claude. He wanted to dispose of them as soon as possible.

Claude remembered the valuable lesson which he had learnt earlier in his career — “It’s not about us, It’s about them”. It’s not about our profits, It’s about how we could solve a customer’s problem, elevate their life, help them to achieve their ambitions, and fulfil their aspirations.

The only way I can get you to do anything is by giving you what you want — Dale Carnegie

Dale Carnegie mentions an example — What do we do to catch fish when we go for fishing? We think about what would entice or seduce the fish? We think from the fish’s perspective — so we dangle a worm in front of the fish as a bait. It’s not about you, It’s about what fish wants. Somehow many of us fail to translate this learning to our business and our life but Claude Hopkins was proficient in this.

Claude began his meeting by wishing Fox and then told him that he travelled from Chicago to get his help and consult him for one of his requirements. He told Mr.Fox that he was looking for an expert on ‘Pies’ and many recommended him to consult Mr.Fox. Remember, Hopkins was yet to talk about the product ‘Cotosuet’.

Claude showed Fox about his new ‘Pie’ design and asked his suggestions. He told him the problems faced by him. Before printing the design, he wanted Mr.Fox’s approval. Mr.Fox happily helped him and enjoyed the situation. After discussions, Mr.Fox told Hopkins that the new ‘Pie’ design was a wonderful design and would help him to have the whole trade of Boston. Claude urged him to take that card and asked him how many stores in Boston were selling Fox Pies? He replied “About One Thousand” — Claude said: “I will furnish you 1000 cards then as you have been good to me…I need to reciprocate your help”. Fox felt that with new pie card his business would grow. As expected, his business grew and he ordered loads of Cotosuet. Claude did not sell his product but offered a solution and helped his customer.

Once, Claude Hopkins was requested to help in promoting the Schlitz Beer. Schlitz Beer was then in the fifth place. Schlitz Beer was like every other beer in the market. Every brewer was shouting “Pure” in large letters. Though Schlitz too was shouting ‘pure-er’ than other brands, Hopkins knew that the product could not be promoted based on ‘-er’ positioning. He had to find something that sets the brand apart. He had to communicate ‘Pure-er’ in a different way to the customers. He had to convey that Schiltz Beer cares for the people than any other brands.

Claude Hopkins went to brewing school to understand the science of brewing and then he went through the brewery process. He was astonished to see plate-glass rooms where beer was dripping over pipes. He was pleasantly surprised to know how rooms were filled with filtered air so that beer could be cooled in purity. He saw how great filters filled with white-wood pulp were used in purification of beer. He saw how the employees cleaned every pump and pipe, twice daily to avoid contaminations. He saw how every bottle was cleaned four times in a machinery, how they went 4000 feet deep inside for pure water, how beer was aged for six months before it went out to the market, how they developed the original mother yeast cell by conducting 1100 experiments to bring out the utmost flavour.

Hopkins wondered why the manufacturers were not telling those things to people. The engineers told Hopkins that every manufacturer did the same process and there was no difference. Yet no manufacturer told this story. Hopkins believed that sharing this information would make consumers believe that the Schlitz brand was putting a real and deliberate effort in caring for their customers. It would project that whatever Schlitz did, was for the benefit of its customers and not from the perspective of earning more profits. It could build trust. Trust brings loyalty. Loyalty brings repeat sale.

He saw that sharing the information would give Schlitz brand a vast ‘Brand differentiation’. If others too claim afterwards, it would only serve to advertise Schlitz brand. Being first to mind is important.

References: Images from CharmaineZoe’s Melange page,,,, Scientific Advertising by Claude C Hopkins, Hooked by Nir Eyal, Diffusion Of Innovation by Everett Rogers, Contagious by Jonah Berger, What Great Brands Do by Denise Lee John, The Power Of Habit by Charles Duhigg, Emotional Branding by Marc Gobe.


21 KEYS to SUCCESS in BUSINESS -A Guide for Every ASPIRING ENTREPRENEUR by Shah Mohammed M.

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