The World’s Most Famous Copywriter?

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Claude Hopkins looks like a crotchety chemist. Or a vacuum cleaner salesman. At least, he does in most of the pictures you’ll find of him online.

Which is appropriate considering that he sold both, as a house copywriter, until at age 41 he got a job writing ads under Albert Lasker, at the Lord & Thomas ad agency.

Today, your average modern ad man might not think much of Claude Hopkins’ “antiquated” ideas.

Many working copywriters might not even know who Claude was, let alone why he mattered.

His most famous book, “Scientific Advertising,” was written and published more than a lifetime ago, in 1923. And it sold for 10 cents. Today, you can find it free online.

So why care about Claude Hopkins and what he had to say at all? Because so much of what he had to say then… still matters. The examples have changed. So has the medium. But the fundamentals are still the same.

Keep in mind, Hopkins ads from the 1920s are still among some of the most famous ever written. He was so talented, Lasker paid him $185,000 a year in 1907.

That’s like making $4,048,173 today. Actually, more than that, since accurate inflation calculators only go back to 1913. And Hopkins earned every penny.

He sold a fortune in Schlitz Beer, by being the first to write an ad about how their “bottles are washed with live steam.”

He sold carpet sweepers as, can you believe it, the “Queen of Christmas presents” and VanCamp’s pork and beans because they were “baked for hours at 245 degrees.” It was Hopkins’ stroke of genius to sell tires as “all weather,” putting Goodyear on the map.

His secret was simple. Find the benefit in whatever he was hired to sell, and make it unique. Own that territory. It was enough to make him one of the most successful copywriters who ever lived.

You can read a free copy of Scientific Advertising yourself, by downloading it from here.

Last modified: May 29, 2017

6 Responses to " The World’s Most Famous Copywriter? "

  1. Julia says:

    Actually, there was no real inflation prior to the establishment of the Fed in 1913. Here’s a nice illustration: http://blog.mises.org/archives/010553.asp. End the Fed!

  2. jackforde says:

    A nice illustration. And I’m with you in principle, except that there was inflation prior to the establishment of the Fed. The chart you sent actually shows it well… with the five years between 1907 to 1913 showing a considerable dollar decline. Here’s another inflation calculator I just found that actually does give pre-1913 numbers, but only goes to 2007, which means it misses a lot of the latest dollar damage.

    http://www.westegg.com/inflation/infl.cgi

    Either way, the bottom line reply is that, yes, dollars have really taken a pounding… and worse, the incentive for the Fed (cheap dollars to spur fake economic growth and to pay down debt) is exactly juxtaposed to the interests of savers and our exploding population of retirees.

    Thanks for the chart.

  3. I’m a younger copywriter who got into the industry just a few years ago. Luckily, I listened to experienced writers and read Scientific Advertising as one of my first books on copywriting. It remains one of the best books on the profession I have read.

    Fundamental truths never go out of fashion. They endure the test of time and surpass all fads and trends. Thanks for the reminder.

  4. “The World’s Most Famous Copywriter?” by John Forde…

    Claude Hopkins looks like a crotchedty chemist. Or a vacuum cleaner salesman. At least, he does in most of the pictures you…

  5. […] This version is from John Forde’s excellent Copywriter’s Roundtable website, in his 2009 blog post about Claude […]

  6. […] I was inspired by reading this short bio of one of the greatest copywriters of all-time, “The World’s most famous Copywriter?” […]

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