The Cannon that Modernized Japan

September 19, 2011  |   Advertising and Marketing   |     |   0 Comment

Another classic short story about advertising from The Clock that Had no Hands And Nineteen Other EssayAbout Advertising By Herbert Kaufman:

Business is no longer a man to man contact, in which the seller and the buyer establish a personal bond, any more than battle is a hand-to-hand grapple wherein bone and muscle and sinew decide the outcome. Trade as well as war has changed aspect—both are now fought at long range.

Just as a present day army of heroes would have no opportunity to display the individual valor of its members, just so a merchant who counts upon his direct acquaintanceship for success, is a relic of the past—a business dodo.

Japan changed her policy of exclusion to foreigners, after a fleet of warships battered down the Satsuma fortifications. The Samurai, who had hitherto considered their 10blades and bows efficient, discovered that one cannon was mightier than all the swords in creation—if they could not get near enough to use them. Japan profited by the lesson. She did not wait until further ramparts were pounded to pieces but was satisfied with her one experience and proceeded to modernize her methods.

The merchant who doesn’t advertise is pretty much in the same position as that in which Japan stood when her eyes were opened to the fact that times had changed. The long range publicity of a competitor will as surely destroy his business as the cannon of the foreigners crumbled the walls of Satsuma. Unless you take the lesson to heart, unless you realize the importance of advertising, not only as a means of extending your business but for defending it as well, you must be prepared to face the consequences of a folly as great as that of a duelist who expects to survive in a contest in which his adversary bears a sword twice the length of his own.

Don’t think that it’s too late to begin because there are so many stores which have 11had the advantage of years of cumulative advertising. The city is growing. It will grow even more next year. It needs increased trading facilities just as it’s hungry for new neighborhoods.

But it will never again support neighborhood stores. Newspaper advertising has reduced the value of being locally prominent, and five cent street car fares have cut out the advantage of being “around the corner.” A store five miles away, can reach out through the columns of the daily newspaper and draw your next door neighbor to its aisles, while you sit by and see the people on your own block enticed away, without your being able to retaliate or secure new customers to take their place.

It is not a question of your ability to stand the cost of advertising but of being able to survive without it. The thing you have to consider is not only an extension of your business but of holding what you already have.

Advertising is an investment, the cost of which is in the same proportion to its returns as seeds are to the harvest. And it is just as preposterous for you to consider publicity as an expense, as it would be for a farmer to hesitate over purchasing a fertilizer, if he discovered that he could profitably increase his crops by employing it.

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