BEFORE we consider the principal forms in which direct advertising is produced and used, it may be well to think for a moment of what it is all about. There has grown up a considerable technique and a special terminology among its practitioners which tend to confuse and even to frighten inexperienced advertisers no matter how soundly they may know their own business and how surely they may be grounded in the principles of merchandising.
Advertising, as a matter of fact, is a very simple art and the same principles that exist in any form of selling underlie its application. The well-known advertising authority, Mr. Charles Austin Bates, not long ago enumerated these principles as:
First: The purpose of advertising is to assist in the sale of goods or services.
Second: It is useless to advertise your product to persons who cannot use it. You must, therefore, find your market before you seek to address it.
Third: You must present your goods to these people in a way that will make them realize that these goods will benefit them and will create in their minds a desire to buy.
Fourth: To accomplish the third result you must put your message in clear and understandable language, and frequently you will be justified in further amplifying your description with pictures.
Fifth: You will then cause your message to be delivered by the most prompt and economical method to the list of prospective customers, and the postal service will almost always be found the most available method of distribution.
Here we have a clarified picture of the whole process of direct mail advertising, and any person contemplating a campaign may well look at his own problem in the light of these simple principles before he undertakes the preparation of a single piece of advertising. It will be understood, of course, that Mr. Bates has drawn the picture sketchily and in very broad strokes. Many questions of detail will come up, but the principles set forth are sound and will prove applicable.
A short time before I had read Mr. Bates’s article I was invited to speak to the Advertising Club of Pittsburgh, and I chose as my subject these words: “The Simple Art of Advertising.” It was curious to note how closely the line of my thought followed that developed by Mr. Bates. In that talk the endeavor was to point out and elaborate the fundamentals of any advertising success, and the essentials were set out as follows:
First: Advertising must be truthful. Lying and misrepresentation will inevitably be found out and will in the end defeat their own purpose.
Second: There must be knowledge of human nature, which is the finest fruit of experience. He who does not know how the human animal reacts to the various stimuli of life is but ill-equipped td make a successful appeal. This is the so-called “psychology of advertising.”
Third: Be clear and moderate in your language. Remember always that the weakest language is the language of superlatives. Endeavor to leave with your reader the impression that you claim no more for your goods than their merit justifies.
Fourth: Before you advertise at all learn your market. Know to just what classes of persons your goods will appeal and be of real use. Find those persons and address your advertising directly to them.
Fifth: Advertise none but sound goods. Although advertising is a mighty force, it cannot perform miracles and it cannot induce people to continue to buy merchandise that they have tried and found wanting.
Any campaign based on these fundamentals and carried on with prudence, persistence and plain common sense, has an excel-lent chance to succeed. Without them, we conceive there is no probability of a permanent success.
What tools, then, are available to the man who wishes to advertise? They are numerous and varied, but their principal forms are of tried and proven worth. In succeeding chapters the more important forms of direct advertising are commented upon and illustrated in some detail. We shall here simply enumerate them:
(a) Letters and advertising letter-heads
(d) Small descriptive books or “booklets”
(e) Large folders or “broadsides”
(f) Envelope and package enclosures
(a) Novelties and “good-will reminders”
(b) Folders and cut-outs of unusual form
(c) House bulletins and manuals
(d) Mailing cards
(e) Picture stamps, coupons, etc.
The purpose of direct advertising is, of course, to sell goods, but there are many variations in the method by which this end may be attained. If the manufacturer proposes to sell his product directly to the final user, as does the Fuller Brush Company, for example, his method of advertising will differ greatly in detail from that of the man who intends to have his wares distributed entirely through jobbers and retailers. In any case it is desirable that as large a part of the consuming public as possible be acquainted with the commodity. This is naturally more essential in the first instance than in the second, because the manufacturer who sells through the usual channels has the advantage of the cooperation and prestige of both the jobber and retailer. Yet the tendency toward branded goods of known origin is very marked in all fields of business, and merchants are becoming more and more reluctant to commit themselves to investments in unadvertised and unknown products. The salesman in seeking outlets for his wares finds his best argument in the fact that his advertising has created a demand for his goods and caused them to be recognized by the public as of a known standard of quality.
The first thing a man in business must accomplish is to make it known to possible customers that he is in business and to explain what he has to offer. The generally accepted form is an announcement, and these very often are dignified and beautiful. They are presumed to convey something of the “atmosphere” of the house, and they may easily carry the impression of worth. Announcements constitute one of the most beautiful forms of advertising when appropriately embellished, tastefully printed, and carried on one of the numerous beautiful papers now available. The antique deckle-edged stocks, such as Buckeye Text papers, are admirably adapted to such uses, as well as to that large class of booklets in which it is desired to produce an effect of dignity and elegance.
The individually typed letter is, of course, a common form of announcement and is the most personal of all. The expense of producing such letters in quantity is considerable, however, and the expenditure of a like sum of money, or even a considerably less sum, will as a rule result in a far more impressive printed announcement.
The catalogue is an essential adjunct to many forms of business. In its simplest form the catalogue is merely a complete descriptive list, usually with prices; but the modern catalogue is often an elaborate and highly ornate portrayal of merchandise, in which description, pictures, selling arguments and a manual of suggestions for use are combined. The catalogue is to most manufacturing businesses the basic printed selling force, and its use naturally increases from year to year.
Booklets and broadsides are more occasional in their nature, and lack the comprehensive character of the catalogue. They serve to supplement it and to keep it up to date. Catalogues are issued as a rule once, or at the most twice, in a year. Developments in the interval may be provided for by the smaller and less expensive pieces.
Envelope enclosures and package stuffers are the most economical of all forms of direct advertising, as their cost of distribution is nothing. Their limitations, however, must be recognized, as they are usually small in size. They can hardly be called basic advertising, as they serve best as reminders and suggestions for an established product.