I’m often surprised by the number of marketers who lack a solid appreciation of the history of advertising and marketing. In many fields, practitioners understand that knowing where you came from is a prerequisite for understanding where you’re heading. In marketing … not so much.
If I’m describing you, then studying the work of John Caples would be a good place to start.
During the 1920s-1960s, Caples was a Jedi master of copy writing, with a Yoda-like ability to write headlines that generated unheard of response rates. This alone would have been enough to earn him a spot in the Marketing Hall of Fame, but in addition to his writing chops, Caples embraced the concept of scientifically testing the effectiveness of his advertising.
He did this using split runs, where newspapers would swap in different versions of an ad during a single press run. The ads included uniquely-coded response coupons, enabling Caples to measure ad effectiveness based on actual response rates. It was a brilliant marketing tactic that was all but lost as advertisers moved to less measurable mass market radio and television ads in the 1950s and beyond.
But what goes around, comes around, and we’re now in a place where we have the customization of the 1920s, and the mass reach of the 1950s. We can test multiple versions of online ads easily and efficiently, driving response rates through the roof and eliminating the frustrating and ineffective “my favorite ad is better than your favorite ad” boardroom arguments. Now we can test them all — and may the best ad win.
In this Wonderful World of Marketing episode I’ll step you through one tool that helps you do just this. Let me know what you think @gradconn. And if you’re inspired to learn more about your industry, here are a few links to get you started:
Must-reads from the Direct Era include:
- Scientific Advertising and My Life In Advertising by Claude Hopkins
- Tested Advertising Methods; How to Make Your Advertising Make Money; and Making Ads Pay by John Caples
- The Man Who Sold America by Jeffrey L. Cruikshank and Arthur W. Schultz
Some of my favorite books from the Mass Era: