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Retail Advertising For Any Store

( Originally Published 1912 )

If you have the biggest department store in New York, or the smallest grocery store in Walla Walla, a general store in Four Forks, or a hardware store in Birmingham, you can get some information out of this chapter which will prevent some of your advertising losses, and help you make your advertising more effective.

Newspaper Advertising

It goes without saying that the largest proportion of retail advertising is done in Daily and Weekly newspapers.

Retail merchants often make the same mistake with advertising that they sometimes do with charge accounts; they do not handle advertising as if it were actual money, a real ten-dollar bill right in their hands.

Too often they sign a year's contract for advertising in a newspaper, and then as soon as the novelty wears off, and the drudgery of filling the space with copy comes on, they regard that advertising as a necessary evil, just like bookkeeping. When advertising is viewed in that light, it cannot produce its best results, nor can it succeed.

First let us try and understand "the art of convincing" through advertising whether in newspapers or any other kind of medium.

First Principle of Writing

A large percentage of the retail advertising in newspapers is unproductive and unprofitable. The merchant who is doing the advertising thinks of him-self, rather than of the people who will read his advertising. The very first principle of writing good advertising is to forget yourself and forget your store, and fix clearly in mind your readers.

One big store in New York is said to spend one million dollars a year in advertising, while another big store is said to spend less than one hundred thousand dollars in advertising. The one who spends a million is talking ABOUT HIMSELF all the time ; the one who spends one hundred thousand dollars is talking TO ITS CUSTOMERS.

Do you get the distinction and meaning? Let us go over it another way, so that you will understand, and feel, and realize the enormous difference of the two kinds of advertising.

The Art of Convincing

Some time, when you were listening to a great orator, his manner was so frank, and his words so plain and simple that you felt that he was somebody just like yourself; you felt that you could get up there and do just what he was doing. You did not realize that he was trying to convince you, and argue you down. You were not resisting or arguing back. You felt that the two of you were just talking things over together like two old friends. When it was all over and days afterwards as you thought about it, it would dawn upon you that you had accepted all that he said as truth, and without resistance, you had believed as he believed.

Talking About—Talking To

In other words, you were both on the same side of the fence. Now that is the exact difference between an advertiser who talks to his customers, and an advertiser who talks about himself. One breeds confidence, belief, friendliness, unconscious acquiescence; the other breeds scepticism, and resistance. So much for your own frame of mind while you are preparing an advertisement.

Nature of a Newspaper

Second; let us consider the nature of a newspaper. Says Helm, in the Saturday Evening Post: "News ages more rapidly than any other article known to mankind. Born in the morning, a story reaches maturity in mid-forenoon, shrivels at the meridian and dies on an inside page of the baseball extra. The grass, which grows up in the morning and is cut down in the evening, has the longevity of Methuselah compared with an ordinary news story unsustained by the pap of increasing developments."

Seven or Eight Minutes

How long does the average person read a paper every day? Did you ever hold your watch on a number of different people? Try it, you have something to learn which will interest you. Probably the average time does not exceed thirty minutes each. Did you ever note carefully a great number of people and find out what part of the paper each was reading? Try it also. That will surprise you. Probably taking everybody into consideration, about seven or eight minutes of the thirty are spent in reading the advertisements, while twenty-two or twenty-three minutes are spent in reading the news.

Ten Seconds Reading Your Advertisement

You then have only your share of the seven or eight minutes. The average newspaper contains from eight to twenty pages; those pages will contain from fifty to three hundred advertisements. If your advertisement is an average one, it may get one-fiftieth of the seven or eight minutes ; that means that you can count on not quite ten seconds of the reader's time for your advertisement.

That puts a different light on it, doesn't it?

Did you ever attend an amateur theatrical at one of the regular theatres and see how each "would-be" actor, who is getting his trial, will rush on to the stage and work for dear life trying his hardest to "make good" with the audience? You will notice that the one who gets the most encores is the cleverest person in making use of the first ten seconds of the three minutes allotted to him.

Must Catch Eye First

Now your advertisement—every advertisement, no matter if you use a full page or ten lines, no mat-


ter if it is your first advertisement or you have been in the paper for a quarter of a century—is on trial, and has a ten-second chance. If it doesn't catch the eye and interest the reader at the first glance, it is lost, and figuratively speaking "gets the hook."

Competition for Reader's Attention

You are not only competing with every other advertisement in the paper, but you are competing with every item of news in the paper. Any day there is apt to be some piece of news of a startling nature, and your advertisement may come next to that piece of news so that the reader's attention may be carried past your advertisement because the general interest is so great in reading about the catastrophe or other important happening.

Circulation Among Your People

Third : Now that you understand the difference between writing about yourself and writing to your customers, also since you have had your attention drawn to the nature of a newspaper, the question is "How much of the newspaper's circulation goes among the people who now trade, or can be made to trade at my store?" Circulation anywhere else is of no value to you.

You cannot answer this question until you figure out the average class of people who read the particular newspaper which you are thinking about. Then when you have that settled, you must figure out the average class of people who live in the locality from which you draw your trade. After that, you must decide on the kind of goods, and the kind of a store that you run. Then you can decide what proportion of the people in your locality who might trade at your store read the newspaper which you are considering.

Realize Actual Conditions

This process of elimination is followed out so accurately for the purpose of making you view the facts, and realize the actual conditions which you have to meet in order to get the most profit out of your newspaper advertising.

Read Other Advertisements

Fourth: You must keep in touch with what other merchants are advertising in the newspapers that you are using. If every day they have more at-tractive advertisements and are describing the same kind of goods that you are offering, and are making that advertisement more interesting than yours, and also are quoting lower prices on the same goods than are quoted in your advertisement, then you are just butting your head against a stone wall.

Brains in a Bone Vault

Brains are not made to lock up in a bone vault. Brains are made to use. Not after somebody else has used them nor at the same time that somebody else is using them. The chimpanzees use their brains that way. Brains are made for thinking ahead, for planning in advance, for anticipating, for directing the course of your advertising and of your store in such a way that you are always "doing it first," then letting the other merchants copy you.

Are you saying that "The whole thing is too complicated, you cannot understand it, you are not an advertising expert?"

Successful Advertising Is Simple

In the first place, the proprietor of the store must be himself. Every man is made different from every other man. If in his advertising a man is himself, then his advertising will have a personality of its own.

Most advertisements that you see are "over-written." The merchant is trying to do something "grand." The public detects insincerity and sophistry and fallacy just as quickly in an advertisement as in a sermon or a political speech. One of the first rules of successful retail advertising is

Display in big type the name of the article and the price at which you are offering to sell it

If you do that, then the people who are interested in that article will see that part of your advertisement. If your advertisement is to occupy a page, then the eyes of the various readers as they glance at the page unconsciously will light on the head-lines and prices of the goods in which they are interested.

You can put as complete a description of the goods as you wish in small type. The person whose eyes see the headlines naming the goods which she wants can then spend her time in reading the small type, whereas the people who are not interested in that kind of goods will, of course, not read such fine print —or any other print in an advertisement—unless they know that the goods which they want are being described, or going to be described.

How Much to Spend

"How much shall I spend in newspaper advertising?" As much as is necessary to make your business grow the way it should—but first see that your business has the elements of growth in it. The business can be advertised most successfully which will grow the fastest without any advertising. A dead business, or one that is going backward, is the hardest one to advertise successfully. It is like pouring water in a well to try to pull a dying business out of the ruck by advertising alone. The business should be renovated and reorganized so that it will begin to attract attention and draw trade; then, and not until then, is it safe to invest very much in advertising, either in newspaper advertising or any other kind.

Five Per Cent. of Gross Sales

One big department store, reported to spend a million a year in advertising, is said to do a total business of $21,000,000.00 annually; hence it spends only 5 per cent. of its gross sales.

As a general rule, particularly for the small merchant, from two to five per cent. of the total sales —depending on local and individual conditions—is an average amount to put into advertising.

How Often? How Big?

"How often shall I advertise?" and "How big shall I make each advertisement?" These are two questions which retailers everywhere are constantly asking.

The answer to the second part of the question is, every advertisement should be as large as its importance justifies.

The answer to the first part of the question is, you should advertise as frequently as you have anything to say or to offer in which the public will be interested.

How to Write Advertising

Most people make hard work of writing advertisements. They say they do not know how to begin, or how to end, or what to say which will interest the public.

Well, what have you to sell? What are the things which the public are buying in your store'? They come to the store, look over those things, talk with you about them and buy them, do they not'? Then they must be interested in those goods. They are not interested in you, or what you say about yourself, or your honesty, or your superiority as a merchant, or a lot of other drivel which so many merchants befool themselves into thinking that the public swallows. The public is in the market for certain goods, they want to buy those goods to the best ad-vantage; you have those goods for sale; let the public know it in the simplest and most direct way possible.

Beans, 11c Qt.

If you want to sell beans, and the public wants to buy beans, put an advertisement in a newspaper with the word "beans" in big black type, and below or on the side "11 cents qt." in big black type. Be-low this heavy display describe the beans, saying exactly what you would tell a clerk, or a customer, about those beans. If you are going to sell the beans in a particular way, explain it. When you have said all that comes to your mind, stop; do not keep on with a lot of talk which the public will discredit.

The above would be a good advertisement for selling beans. The same kind of an advertisement would sell anything.

Advertising Has Been Misrepresented

Advertising has been grossly misrepresented and misunderstood. The sooner it is understood, the sooner you and every other merchant get a clear understanding of what advertising actually is and exactly what it will do, the more profitable it will be. In the earlier days of advertising, it was used to mislead. Some foolish merchants who are way behind the times now are still using it in an effort to mislead the public. That kind of advertising is out of date, the public understands it, only a few ignoramuses believe it. What is far more important : such advertising heralds to the public the kind of store which is doing it. It is as if word should go out secretly to all the people in the town that a burglar was coming to town, that he had a black mustache, was heavy set, and wore a brown coat. Everybody would be on the lookout for a man answering to that description. The first one who saw him would telephone the police station.

Fake Advertising Unprofitable

Exactly the same thing is true about exaggerated, untrue and fakey advertising. The public does not telephone the police station. It does not always say even to itself that the advertising is unreliable. It merely lets the store alone which advertises in that way. If it does go to such a store, it does so with the feeling that every person must be on his guard, and watch his pockets carefully or he may lose some-thing.

Vary the Size

The sizes of retail advertisements should constantly vary; since the paper is a "news" paper, and since all successful advertising in such a paper must be "newsy," it follows that the size of the advertisements must constantly vary with the importance of the announcement being made.

Change Copy Daily

Some old-fashioned papers still give a big discount if the merchants will let an advertisement run without change for a week. Such papers simply kill the goose that lays the golden egg. A week, or even a two-day old newspaper advertisement is a monstrosity; it reflects on the stupidity of the merchant, and the asininity of the newspaper.

All of the above is said in a spirit of helping the newspaper as well as the merchant.

A Great Power

Newspaper advertising is a marvellous power. It is the modern gatling gun by means of which the ambitious merchant fights his way to supremacy. Every day, or every week, it carries his story to the public at a mere fractional cost of getting that story to the same public in other ways.

Furthermore, there is a psychological reason back of the success of newspaper advertising as against other kinds of advertising. It is this. The reader of a newspaper has paid his money for that news-paper; it is not given to him, it is not something he does not want; he has bought it, thereby setting a value on it.

Buy Papers for Advertisements

Do people buy a paper for news alone? No; they buy it partly for the advertisements which it contains. Don't forget that fact. Many, many times a newspaper in some big city has had a quarrel with big department stores, whereupon the stores have ceased to advertise in it. What was the result? The newspaper lost so much circulation that it has invariably capitulated and fixed up the difference with the stores.

What made it lose the circulation? The public is so interested in reading the store news, that it would not subscribe for a newspaper which did not carry the store news.

This is particularly true of all newspapers in towns of 25,000 and over.

If a certain store in Chicago which is said to aver-age fifty thousand sales per day—that probably means that five hundred thousand people are in the habit of glancing at this store's advertisements every day in the various Chicago newspapers—should stop advertising in one of the Chicago news-papers, many of the people who are in the habit of trading at this store would stop taking that paper. The store knows that, so does the paper.

This is strong evidence that the public is glancing at the advertisements in the newspaper, hence every advertisement in every newspaper should be so arranged that it will hold for a moment the attention of the readers and thereby get them interested in the goods offered.

The Paper to Use

Sometimes a merchant asks: "Shall I use a Morning or Evening newspaper?" That is for the merchant to decide. The paper should be used, whether morning or evening, which is read most by the merchant's customers.

How will a merchant find out which paper his customers are reading? In the simplest and most direct way. He has the addresses of his customers. Drop them a letter with a stamped postal card enclosed, asking them to reply on the card naming the paper which they read. Anybody could think of that, but why don't they do it?

A merchant will spend money in a newspaper for twenty years and never once think to ask his customers what paper they read regularly.

Canvass Your Section

It isn't safe to depend only on what your customers say. Some other store may have five times as many customers in the same locality as you have. The other store may have gotten those customers by advertising most in the paper which was read most in that part of town. Instead of year after year spending your money blindly, why don't you hire some reliable woman to make a canvass of your section of the town, or of the whole town, asking each woman what paper is read in her house? It wouldn't cost much, and when it was finished you would then invest your money in advertising, not blindly, not on a gamble, not without information, not on a guess or theory, but upon definite tabulated facts.

Number of Publications

Did you ever stop to think how many newspapers and other publications there are in the United States, her Territories and Canada?

At the beginning of 1912 there were:

17,258 Weeklies

3,075 Monthlies

2,600 Dailies

650 Semi-Weeklies

287 Semi-Monthlies

235 Quarterlies

77 Bi-Monthlies

75 Tri-Weeklies

59 Fortnightlies

19 Others

24,345 Total

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