Advertising Specific


Chapter Seven 

Being Specific


     Platitudes and generalities roll off the human understanding 
like water from a duck.  They leave no impression whatever.  To 
say, "Best in the world," "Lowest price in existence," etc.  are at 
best simply claiming the expected.  But superlatives of that sort 
are usually damaging. They suggest looseness of expression, a
tendency to exaggerate, a careless truth. They lead readers to
discount all the statements that you make.
     People recognize a certain license in selling talk as they do 
poetry.  A man may say, "Supreme in quality" without seeming a 
liar, though one may know that the other brands are equally as 
good.  One expects a salesman to put his best foot forward
and excuses some exaggeration born of enthusiasm.  But just for 
that reason general statements count for little.  And a man 
inclined to superlatives must expect that his every statement will 
be taken with some caution.
     But a man who makes a specific claim is either telling the 
truth or a lie.  People do not expect an advertiser to lie.  They 
know that he can't lie in the best mediums.  The growing respect in 
advertising has largely come through a growing regard for its truth.
     So a definite statement is usually accepted.  Actual figures 
are not generally discounted.  Specific facts, when stated, have 
their full weight and effect.
     This is very important to consider in written or personal 
salesmanship.  The weight of an argument may often be multiplied by 
making it specific.  Say that a tungsten lamp gives more light than 
a carbon and you leave some doubt.  Say it gives three and 
one-third times the light and people realize that you have made 
tests and comparisons.
     A dealer may say, "Our prices have been reduced" without 
creating any marked impression.  But when he says, "Our prices have 
been reduced 25 per cent" he gets the full value of his announcement.
     A mail order advertiser sold women's clothing to people of the 
poorer classes.  For years he used the slogan, "Lowest prices in 
America."  His rivals all copied that.  Then he guaranteed to 
undersell any other dealer.  His rivals did likewise.  Soon those 
claims became common to every advertiser in his line, and they 
became commonplace.

     Then under able advice, he changed his statement to "Our net 
profit is 3 per cent."  That was a definite statement and it proved 
very impressive.  With their volume of business it was evident that 
their prices must be minimum.  No one could be expected to do 
business on less than 3 per cent.  The next year their business 
made a sensational increase.
     At one time in the automobile business there was a general 
impression that profits were excessive.  One well-advised 
advertiser came out with this statement, "Our profit is 9 per 
cent."  Then he cited actual costs on the hidden costs of a $1,500
 car.  They amounted to $735, without including anything one could 
easily see.  This advertiser made a great success along those lines 
at that time.
     Shaving soaps have long been advertised "Abundant lather," 
"Does not dry on the face," "Acts quickly," etc.  One advertiser 
had as good a chance as the other to impress those claims.
     Then a new maker came into the field.  It was a tremendously 
difficult field, for every customer had to be taken from someone 
else.  He stated specific facts.  He said, "Softens the beard in 
one minute."   "Maintains its creamy fullness for ten minutes on the 
face."  "The final result of testing and comparing 130 formulas."  
Perhaps never in advertising has there been a quicker and greater 
success in an equally difficult field.
     Makers of safety razors have long advertised quick shaves.  
One maker advertised a 78-second shave.  That was definite.  It 
indicated actual tests.  That man at once made a sensational 
advance in his sales.
     In the old days all beers were advertised as "Pure," The claim 
made no impression.  The bigger the type used, the bigger the 
folly.  After millions had been spent to impress a platitude, one 
brewer pictured a plate glass where beer was cooled in
 filtered air.  He pictured a filter of white wood pulp through 
which every drop was cleared.  He told how bottles were washed four 
times by machinery.  How he went down 4,000 feet for pure water.  
How 1,018 experiments had been made to attain a years to give beer 
that matchless flavor.  And how all the yeast was forever made from 
that adopted mother cell.
     All claims were such as any brewer might have made.  They were 
mere essentials in ordinary brewing.  But he was the first to tell 
the people about them, while others cried merely "pure beer."  He 
made the greatest success that was ever made in  beer advertising.
     "Used the world over" is a very elastic claim.  Then one 
advertiser said, "Used by the peoples of 52 nations," and many 
others followed.
     One statement may take as much room as another,  yet a 
definite statement be many times as effective.  The difference is 
vast.  If a claim is worth making, make it in the most impressive 
     All these effects must be studied.  Salesmanship-in-print is 
very expensive.  A salesman's loose talk matters little.  But when 
you are talking to millions at enormous cost, the weight of your 
claims is important.
     No generality  has any weight whatever.  It is like saying, 
"How do you do?" When you have no intention of inquiring about 
one's health.  But specific claims when made in print are taken at 
their value.
Return to Book Intro and Chapter Index:  Scientific Advertising
Continue to the next Chapter: Advertising Story




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