Advertising A Patent Medicine
( Originally Published 1902 )
When a man is sick, or thinks he is sick, he is seized with an intense desire to have somebody—sometimes everybody—sympathize with him.
If he has the grip, he wants his nearest friend to tell him all the unpleasant symptoms of that unpleasant malady-how the body is languid, the brain fevered, the appetite on a vacation, and the whole system in a generally unstrung condition.
There was an old colored preacher who once solemnly assured his congregation that no matter how hard were their trials and tribulations there was one place where could always be found sympathy.
"And dat place," he concluded, "my beloved bredern, is in the dictionary."
Just so with the sick man. When he looks for sympathy and imagines his friends do not give its precious drops, all he has to do is to look in the average patent medicine advertisement and there revel in the terrors of his disease, so vividly portrayed. If his stomach refuses to perform its accustomed duties, he finds a dolorous consolation in the fact that "constipation, biliousness and an evil smelling breath are but precursors to a long train of evils that may conclude in that dread scourge consumption, that torturing trouble rheumatism, that unsightly and loathsome disease scrofula," or in some other equally pleas-ant finale.
And that is the right way to advertise a medicine.
To picture with fidelity on one hand, the miseries of sickness, and on the other the joys of health, means not only to help sell the remedy, but is also an act of altruism by strengthening the energy and determination of all sick readers in their desire to grow well.
While it is true that pure logic is the backbone of almost all patent medicine advertising, yet some preparations rely to a great degree for advertising success upon reiteration, pure and simple.
Even to a thoroughly healthy person, with a thoroughly healthy mind, reiteration is resultful, and upon a mind so worn by illness that it is unable to think and analyze with its accustomed clearness, the simple repeating of
SMITH'S PILLS TONE THE SYSTEM.
Makes an impression likely to long remain.
Testimonial letters are always good. That Jones' physical condition is altogether different to Smith's organism, does not make such an impression upon Mr. Smith as the fact that Mr. J. was cured of the same distress as is now bothering Mr. S. As Smith reads the heartfelt letter of gratitude upon Jones' recovery to health, he instinctively feels whatever anguish the writer went through—he sympathizes with every symptom (for he is now undergoing the same tortures), and Jones' letter can-not but make a strong impression upon Smith in favor of the medicine.
It takes a fortune to advertise a patent medicine. I know a concern that spent $30,000 in advertising a very meritorious medicine, but even that good-sized fortune was found to be inadequate. The man who starts in with less than $50,000, stands an excellent chance of sinking his money before the returns begin to cover the outlay. It may be that by restricting himself to a state or a portion of a state he will succeed in turning the tide his way with a few thousand dollars, and from future profits cover larger territories, but it is best to have an ample capital in reserve for every contingency.
The details of patent medicine advertising are enormous. Not only must the newspaper, magazine, booklet, circular, card and out-door display advertising be kept up, but the druggists must be kept sufficiently interested to display and push the remedy. This last feature alone requires a force of traveling salesmen.
"Patent medicine advertising is the easiest kind of advertising once you get it going," remarked a young advertising manager of a patent medicine concern. I instantly disputed his assertion. It takes a long, up-hill fight to establish a patent medicine, and after it is established it takes the same vim and vigor to hold it. For competition in this field is keen, and it is truly a fight in order " To Have And To Hold."
There are plenty of instances where patent medicines were put upon paying foundations, but only to die of dry rot after reaching staggering success.