This may sound crazy, but there was a time in America, and all over the world, where no one brushed their teeth. I am not talking about the Dark Ages or far away time, but around 100 years ago. When World War I was happening, America’s dental hygiene was very, very poor.
Fresh breath and a bright smile did not indicate status or refinement. Dentists only existed to pull teeth or when something painful needed to be taken care of.
Thankfully, times have changed and most people brush their teeth at least once a day. Half of those people, also floss daily. All these good things were started with a man Claude Hopkins. The story of ‘Pepsodent’ is the big story of his success. He was responsible for the habit of tooth brushing, and made a lot of money doing so.
It took a decade after this campaign initially ran for half of America to be brushing daily. This created an entirely new national habit.
Within a few years, this campaign was exported to more countries and languages using the same basic appeal. These ads earned him over 1 million dollars with this one campaign. To put this in perspective, you could buy a brand new Ford Model A for $385!
Here are the top tips you can learn from this classy campaign.
1. Do Your Research
Hopkins read every dental textbook he could find looking for any nuggets of inspiration to start his campaign. He used very specific, quantified statements based on tests, comparison and data which is the most effective way to make a claim. You need numbers to present – something that is real. Hopkins kept going in his research until something caught his eye, and he started with that.
2. Make Your Prospect Say Yes
What finally popped out at Hopkins was the mention of a strange phenomenon which was plaque. This was not a commonly recognized word then. No one, including most dentists had never even heard of it.
He thought it was a weird word, so he called it ‘a film’ and referenced it in his ads. Part of his ad said to run your tongue across your teeth, and you will feel a film. Why would any woman have a dingy film on her teeth? ‘Pepsodent’ removes the film.
What is interesting is that you can “feel” the plaque. This is not an abstract notion. Anyone can instantly verify whether they are experiencing this problem. This creates an immediate yes. If you were asked if you feel a film on your teeth, how likely are you to check?
If the answer is yes, you might want to go brush your teeth! Hopkins created anxiety about a previously unknown thing and got his audience to say yes. He made them feel self-conscious about something they were previously unconcerned with.
3. Present Benefits Trump Future Pain
It is human nature to respond to something right away. That is why you see timers on offers. If most people don’t act right now, they probably never will.
We are also terrible at predicting and planning for the future. Most have retirement as a goal, but more than 2/3 of the population is short of their retirement savings.
Our brain is not programmed to plan for the future. Hopkins recognized this and knew prevention would never be the key. We will do anything to cure a trouble, but little to prevent it. For example, if you have a headache, you will do something immediately to alleviate the pain.
We want to alleviate the pain and gain that benefit right NOW – not days, weeks or months later. To learn from this, you need to focus on what product or service you have that has immediate benefit. Provide an answer as quickly as possible.
All this being said, you won’t win every single time. Do you think Hopkins wrote just one ad and all of a sudden the whole world changed? He wrote many ads and failed miserably with an earlier campaign for Quaker Oats.
Another lesson to learn from Hopkins is to be persistent and keep going. You never know what is going to be a success until you give try something and stay focused on your ultimate goal.