Many things are possible in advertising which are too costly to attempt.
That is another reason why every project and method should be weighed
and determined by a known scale of cost and result.
Changing people’s habits is very expensive. A project which involves
that must be seriously considered. To sell shaving soap to the peasants
of Russia one would first need to change their beard-wearing habits. The
cost would be excessive. Yet countless advertisers try to do things
almost as impossible. Just because questions are not ably considered,
and results are untraced and unknown.
For instance, the advertiser of a dentifrice may spend much space and
money to educate people to brush their teeth. Tests which we know of
have indicated that the cost of such converts may run from $20 to $25
each. Not only because of the difficulty, but because much of the
advertising goes to people already converted.
Such a cost, of course, is unthinkable. One might not in a lifetime get
it back in sales. The maker who learned these facts by tests makes no
attempt to educate people to the tooth brush habit. What cannot be done
on a large scale profitably cannot be done on a small scale. So not one
line in any ad is devoted to this object. This maker, who is constantly
guided in everything by keying every ad, has made a remarkable success.
Another dentrifrice maker spends much money to make converts to the
tooth brush. The object is commendable, but altruistic. The new business
he creates is shared by his rivals. He is wondering why his sales
increase is in no way commensurate with his expenditure.
An advertiser at one time spent much money to educate people to the use
of oatmeal. The results were too small to discover. All people know of
oatmeal. As a food for children it has age-old fame. Doctors have
advised it for many generations. People who don’t serve oatmeal are
therefore difficult to start. Perhaps their objections are
insurmountable. Anyway, the cost proved to be beyond all possible
There are many advertisers who know facts like these and concede them.
They would not think of devoting a whole campaign to any such impossible
object. Yet they devote a share of their space to that object. That is
only the same folly on a smaller scale. It is not good business.
No one orange grower or raisin grower could attempt to increase the
consumption of those fruits. The cost might be a thousand times his
share of the returns. But thousands of growers combined have done it on
those and many other lines. There lies one of the great possibilities of
advertising development. The general consumption of scores of foods can
be profitably increased. But it must be done through wide co-operation.
No advertiser could afford to educate people on vitamins or germicides.
Such things are done by authorities, through countless columns of
unpaid-for space. But great successes have been made by going to people
already educated and satisfying their created wants.
It is a very shrewd thing to watch the development of a popular trend,
the creation of new desires. Then at the right time offer to satisfy
those desires. That was done on yeasts, for instance, and on numerous
antiseptics. It can every year be done on new things which some popular
fashion or wide-spread influence is bringing into vogue. But it is a
very different thing to create that fashion, taste or influence for all
in your field to share.
There are some things we know of which might possibly be sold to half
the homes in the country. A Dakin-fluid germicide, for instance. But the
consumption would be very small. A small bottle might last for years.
Customers might cost $1.50 each. And the revenue per customer might not
in ten years repay the cost of getting.
Mail order sales on single articles, however popular, rarely cost less
than $2.50 each. It is reasonable to suppose that sales made through
dealers on like articles will cost approximately as much. Those facts
must be considered on any one-sale article. Possibly one user will win
others. But traced returns as in mail order advertising would prohibit
much advertising which is now being done.
Costly mistakes are made by blindly following some ill-conceived idea.
An article, for instance, may have many uses, one of which is to prevent
disease. Prevention is not a popular subject, however much it should be.
People will do much to cure a trouble, but people in general will do
little to prevent it. This has been proved by many disappointments.
One may spend much money in arguing prevention when the same money spent
on another claim would bring many times the sales. A heading which
asserts one claim may bring ten times the results of a heading which
asserts another. An advertiser may go far astray unless he finds this
A tooth paste may tend to prevent decay. It may also beautify the teeth.
Tests will probably show that the latter appeal is many times as strong
as the former. The most successful tooth paste advertiser never features
tooth troubles in his headlines. Tests have proved them unappealing.
Other advertisers in this line center on those troubles. That is often
because results are not known and compared.
A soap may tend to cure eczema. It may at the same time improve the
complexion. The eczema claim may appeal to one in a hundred while the
beauty claims would appeal to nearly all. To even mention the eczema
claims might destroy the beauty claim.
A man has a relief for asthma. It has done so much for him that he
considers it a great advertising possibility. We have no statistics on
this subject. We do not know the percentage of people who suffer from
asthma. A canvass might show it to be one in a hundred. If so, he would
need to cover a hundred useless readers to reach the one he wants. His
cost of results might be twenty times as high as on another article
which appeals to one in five. That excessive cost would probably mean
disaster. For reasons like these every new advertiser should seek for
wise advice. No one with the interests of advertising at heart will
advise any dubious venture.
Some claims not popular enough to feature in the main are still popular
enough to consider. They influence a certain number of people–say
one-fourth of your possible customers. Such a claim may be featured to
advantage in a certain percentage of headlines. It should probably be
included in every advertisement. But those are not things to guess at.
They should be decided by actual knowledge, usually by traced returns.
This chapter, like every chapter, points out a very important reason for
knowing your results. Scientific advertising is impossible without that.
So is safe advertising. So is maximum profit.
Groping in the dark in this field has probably cost enough money to pay
the national debt. That is what has filled the advertising graveyards.
That is what has discouraged thousands who could profit in this field.
And the dawn of knowledge is what is bringing a new day in the