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IGNITE CREATIVITY: Strut Your Stuff Case Study

The situation:

I’ve used this concept too many times to pick just one example, so I’m going to share the philosophy with you, shared by the great advertising legend Claude Hopkins way back in 1923.

Hopkins was called in to help Schlitz beer increase its market-share. At the time, each beer manufacturer was claiming that customers should drink their beer because it was "pure beer." The problem was, nobody knew what exactly "pure beer" was. Sure they knew what "pure" meant, but what exactly was "pure beer"?

Hopkins visited the Schlitz manufacturing plant where he was shown the beer-making process. The Schlitz process was not unique -- all the other beer manufacturers made beer in the same way. But, Claude Hopkins, like anyone who'd never seen the process, was amazed at seeing these details for the first time.

The water for the Schlitz plant came from 4,000-foot deep artesian wells, which guaranteed its purity. Special wood pulp filters took out all the impurities of the brewed liquid. Special rooms were filled with filtered air so that the beer could be cooled without impurities. Pumps and pipes were cleaned twice daily to avoid contamination. The glass beer bottles were even steam cleaned four times before being used!

Hopkins was fascinated by both the complexity and quality standards of the whole process. He asked the Schlitz executives why they didn't tell people about all these things they did to make their beer so pure. The Schlitz executives replied that they didn't think it was important because every beer manufacturer made beer the same way.

The solution:

Hopkins countered, "Yes, but the others have never told this story," and went on to create an advertising campaign that explained every step Schlitz took to make their beer so pure. Every beer manufacturer essentially made beer the same way, but Schlitz was the first to explain the process of creating a pure brew and, by doing so, claimed a "preemptive marketing advantage" over its competitors.

After Schlitz said it, not a single competitor dared tout the same processes because no one wanted to look like a Schlitz copycat. Schlitz did pretty much what every other beer manufacturer did but it was the first to tell the full story, and that preemptive advertising won it new customers.

Because it educated its market in this way, Schlitz beer gradually rose from fifth place to a tie for first place in market-share, and it was all because Hopkins took the role of educating the consumer. In My Life in Advertising, he wrote:

This is a situation which occurs in most advertising problems. The product is not unique. It embodies no great advantages. Perhaps countless people can make similar products. But tell the pains you take to excel. Tell factors and features which others deem too commonplace to claim. Your product will come to typify those excellencies. If others claim them afterward, it will only serve to advertise you. There are few advertised products which cannot be imitated. Few who dominate a field have any exclusive advantage. They were simply the first to tell certain convincing facts.

The conclusion:

The question you must ask yourself is whether there are any features of your business, products or services that you can advertise in a preemptive fashion. If you're the first to claim something before everyone else, you'll most likely gain the preemptive advantage because your competitors might be hesitant to claim, "We do that, too!"

The lesson to learn from Hopkins' approach is to educate your customer. Tell them all the pains you take to make your product supreme. Tell them how many vendors you source from, what you do to maintain quality control, how you searched for years to find the right processes and materials and how you constantly train and retrain your staff to service their needs. Tell them everything you do -- all the pains you take on their behalf -- in order to offer them a superior product or service.

Customers want to know what you're doing for them. They want to know you are looking out for them and that you are on their side. The more you tell them about the efforts you undertake on their behalf, the more they'll trust you and believe in the quality of your product.

That's what increases sales, so consider preemptive and educational advertising in your campaigns.

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