The Man who Retreats before His Defeat

September 23, 2011  |   Advertising and Marketing   |     |   0 Comment

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

Advertising isn’t magic. There is no element of the black art about it. In its best and highest form it is plain talk, sane talk—selling talk. Its results are in proportion to the merit of the subject advertised and the ability with which the advertising is done.

There are two great obstacles to advertising profit, and both of them arise from ignorance of the real functions and workings of publicity.

The first is to advertise promises which will not be fulfilled,—because all that advertising can do when it accomplishes most, is to influence the reader to investigate your claims.

If you promise the earth and deliver the moon, advertising will not pay you.

If you bring men and women to your store on pretense and fail to make good, advertising will have harmed you, because it has only drawn attention to the fact that you are to be avoided.

It is as unjust to charge advertising with failure under these conditions, as it would be for your neighbor to rob a bank and make you responsible for his misdeed. In brief, advertised dishonesty is even more profitless than unexploited deception.

The other great error in advertising is to expect more out of advertising than there is in it.

Advertising is seed which a merchant plants in the confidence of the community. He must allow time for it to grow. Every successful advertiser has to be patient. The time that it takes to arrive at results rests entirely with the ability and determination devoted to the work. But you cannot turn back when you have traveled half way and declare that the path is wrong.

You can’t advertise for a week, and because your store isn’t crowded, say it hasn’t paid you. It takes a certain period to attract the attention of readers. Everybody doesn’t see what you print the first time it appears. More will notice your copy the second day, a great many more at the end of a month.

You cannot expect to win the confidence of the community to the same degree that other men have obtained it, without taking pretty much the same length of time that they did. But you can cut short the period between your introduction to your reader and his introduction to your counters, by spending more effort in preparing your copy and displaying a greater amount of convincingness.

You mustn’t act like the little girl who sowed a garden and came out the next day expecting to find it in full bloom. Her father had to explain to her that plants require roots and that, although she could not see what was going on, the seeds were doing their most important work just before the flowers showed above ground.

So advertising is doing its most important 24work before the big results eventuate, and to abandon the money which has been invested just before results arrive, is not only foolish but childish. It would be just as logical for a farmer to desert his fields because he cannot harvest his corn a week after he planted it.

Advertising does not require faith—merely common sense. If it is begun in doubt and relinquished before normal results can be reasonably looked for, the fault does not lie with the newspaper nor with publicity—the blame is solely on the head of the coward who retreated before he was defeated.

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