Phenomenal book on advertising. Written in 1961. A lot of fundamental stuff in here that stands the test of time. Definitely on my all-time list for marketing books. I organized by notes by principles (in bold).

My Notes

A common fallacy - Advertising is solely responsible for sales going up or down. This is incorrect → the product may be wrong, the price may be at fault, distribution may be poor, budget too low, competitor might be outwitting you etc.

The pulled and unpulled

Advertising exposure is different than advertising pull. Just because someone is exposed to your ad doesn't necessarily mean they remember (or pulled) into it. The unpulled is a poison pill, this mean your ads could literally be driving people away.

penetration and usage pull defined

#1 - PENETRATION - The # of people who remember (and who do not remember) your current advertising

#2 - USAGE PULL - The # of customers in each group. THe difference in these two figures shows how many have been pulled over to the usage of your product by your advertising (aka conversions)

usage pull

A company with a strong message may get its story into the heads of only a few people, and become rich. Conversely, a company with a bad message may get its story into all the heads, and become bankrupt.

Usage pull measures the difference. It is not concerned with the amount of penetration. Instead, it asks only one question: Does your story work? Does it pull people to your product?

Penetration is volatile. Like vapor, it can melt into thin air.

When the pressure falls, or the story changes, the penetration barometer falls and your chance to exercise your usage pull comes down just as fast.

the multimillion dollar error

One of the biggest lessons in the book. Too frequent change of your advertising campaign destroys penetration.

One of the most senseless things in the ad biz: A new management brings down a winning ad campaign for no other reason than a desire to rearrange the advertising landscape.

3 great principles:

#1 - Changing a story has the same effect as stopping the money, as far as penetration is concerned.

#2 - Thus, if you run a brilliant campaign every year, but change it every year, your competitor can pass you with a campaign that is less than brilliant providing he does not change his copy.

#3 - Unless a product becomes outmoded, a great campaign will not wear itself out.

Jack's Note: It's critical for each product line to tell a story that we'll tell for eternity. This applies specifically to the bone broth line.

the advertising burning glass

Principle: The consumer tends to remember just one thing from an advertisement - one strong claim or one strong concept.

Reality campaigns, those that climb the ladder of penetration with the most speed, do not put the consumer in this predicament. Instead, they gather their energies together into a tight coil. They present him with one moving claim or concept which he can easily remember.

We do not mean the campaign should not say a dozen things about the product. These can add depth, color, dimension, and persuasiveness.

"I like to think of the bits and pieces of a product's individuality as pieces of tile. They must be assembled, like a mosaic, into one striking and memorable theme, for the public simply cannot carry all the individual pieces in its head."

The great campaigns, like the burning glass, fuse together all the components into a copy focus that generates not only light, but heat.

no more room in the box

Principle: as your penetration goes up, your competitors' tends to go down. As your penetration goes down, your competitors' tends to go up.

Jack's note: A perfect example of this is hipchat vs slack.

By using proper advertising techniques and devices, you can actually decrease competitors' penetration. You can remove the memories from the consumers' head with stronger concepts tied to your brand

^^^ mental availability bitches

Principle: There is a finite limit to what a consumer can remember about 30,000 advertised brands. He cannot remember all the advertising he reads for he has many other things on his mind - his work, his family, his home, taxes, money, friends, hobbies, sports.

Noah's ark analogy - "there is no room in the ark" = "there is no more room in the box, aka there is no more room in the consumer's mind, aka mental availability is finite.

the window dressers

Principle: Window dressing advertising (aka showrooms) has no persuasion. Therefore there is no usage pull. In other words, the art of the window dresser is not the art of advertising.

the copy leverage (usp)

The USP Principle:

  1. Each advertisement must make a proposition to the consumer. Not just words, not just product puffery, not just show-window advertising. Each advertisement must say to each reader: "Buy this product and you will get this specific benefit"
  2. The proposition must be one that the competition either cannot, or does not, offer. It must be unique - either a uniqueness of the brand or a claim not otherwise made in that particular field of advertising.
  3. The proposition must be so strong that it can move the mass millions, i.e, pull over new customers to your product.

USP campaigns happen to make a claim about the product, the claim happens to have a quality of uniqueness, and it happens to be a claim of an order that is of interest to the reader.

the tired art of puffery

show windows all, tricked up with the gold of the wordsmiths, but is fool's gold. These are empty words.

campaigns with a USP produce usage pull BUT they also get higher penetration as well.

the 3 big roads to Rome

There are 3 broad roads that lead to Rome, and finding a USP in the product is only one.

The other 2 roads to Rome Principle:

  1. The agency can induce the client to change his product, improve his product. A USP is thus specially tailored and built in - not only to the benefit of the manufacturer, but to the benefit of the public as well. This is often the first and the best road to travel.
  2. If the product cannot be changed, and remains identical, it is possible to tell the public something about that product which has never been revealed before. This is not a uniqueness of the product, but it assumes uniqueness, and cloaks itself in uniqueness as a claim.

It is not what they did, but what they advertised they did that mattered.

USP Pre-emption Principle:

Studies of great numbers of brand histories show that the first big advertiser can pre-empt the USP. The first man in the field can rocket up with his penetration, achieving higher levels far faster, because of the newness and freshness of his story.

The better product, advertised equally, will win in the long run.

the deceptive differential


  1. Advertising stimulates the sales of a good product and accelerates the destruction of a bad product.
  2. A campaign that stresses a minuscule difference, which the consumer cannot observe, in actual practice, also accelerates the destruction of the product.

the emersonian mousetrap


there is nothing wrong, or unethical, or disparaging in an ad which compares 2 products if the comparison is true, and if it conforms to just two conditions:

  • the comparison must not come within what we have called the deceptive differential, a straining to magnify minuscule differences
  • the brand against which the comparison is made must be in major distribution, and not be some minor, unknown product, sold only in remote stores.

If it is true you can say it. If it is false you cannot say it.

Often comparison campaigns make worse campaigns. However, many products have advantages that can be made clear only with comparisons. Sing out the difference to the masses if this is the case.

no bed for procrustes

think of a usp not so much as something you can put in an ad. Think of a usp rather as something the consumer takes out of the ad.

Does the ad project a proposition? Is it unique? And will it sell?

the brand imagists

The really valuable part of the brand-image theory is its emphasis on the visual symbol. No one denies that visual symbols can stir deeply buried tides.


It is better to drape a product, on the nonverbal level, with as many activating and pleasant associations as possible. The totality of the advertisement must project a USP as well as a feeling.

A raw and naked USP is one extreme, and the richest brand image, which does not project a claim, is the other.

What you remember of an orator - his dress, his personality, his conviction - is the brand image. What he said - that is the UPS. The combo of the two can have an overwhelming power.

No, we cannot do without words, which are the content, and we would be foolish not to try for the image, which is the form.

The best theoretical objective is to surround the claim with the feeling.

He would be wiser to approach advertising ore as a designer of jet planes, who knows that the end result may still be beautiful, but that the plane must also fly.

the two faces of advertising

Principle: an advertiser can be running two different campaigns - and not know it.

the vampire claim

Principle: campaigns with the highest penetration are the ones that present the reader with one moving claim, or concept, which he can easily remember.

Principle: This does not mean that the campaign may not say many other things about the product; for secondary claims can add depth, color, dimension and persuasiveness to the USP.

the vampire claim principle

Be cautious, in the course of adding secondary claims, that a distraction claim does not suddenly crystallize, ie, a second claim that sucks power away (like a vampire) from your USP.

Basically, the secondary claims need to be related to the USP in order to drive more power to it. "7 or even 17 claims can be combined with tremendous power if they are not vampire claims"

the vampire video

Principle: basically the same thing but applied to video. Introducing a new animation or character that sucks away the USP.

the advertising tool

"one wrong picture can steal a thousand words"

ex: show a giant missle rising from the launch pad, then have the announce talk about the wonders of your shave cream. Penetration breakdown: 75% on the missile, 25% on your shave cream. Pictures like these become vampire video because they have nothing to do with the words. The mind is split between missiles and shave cream.

Principles regarding visual:

  1. Lock the video to the audio. Let the consumer see with his eye what he is hearing with his ear.
  2. Put the announcer's voice under
  3. Seek for a specific video interpretation of the USP.

Does the voice say "this tablet dissolves into 10,000 tiny bubbles?" then show the tablet disolving into 10k tiny bubbles.


We need to find for the USP a video brilliancy of enormous power and clarity - a pictorial flash, like a burst of heat lightning, to illuminate the central concept.


Project the USP. Don't confuse this with show-window advertising or visual symbols.


Advertising is a tool to convey ideas and information about a product. The functional purpose, which is the most complete communication with the public, the maximum projection of the message.

the most dangerous word

The most dangerous word in advertising is: originality.

"they forget they are salesman and try to be performers. Instead of sales, they seek applause"

Too many writers assume that mere "difference", "cleverness", the "queer and the unusual" like the philosopher's stone, for which the ancient alchemists have sought - have within them some mysterious essence which can transmute lead into pure and shining gold. Unfortunately, lead remains lead.

A new definition

Advertising is salesmanship in print.


Advertising is the art of getting a unique selling proposition into the heads of the most people at the lowest possible cost.

An advertisement is an instrument of commerce, and, like a diesel motor, it must be judged on whether it performs what it was designed to do.

Two extremes of advertising:

  1. Advertising designed as an art, without reference to its business function.
  2. Advertising designed for its business function - which may not be considered by some critics to be a work of art.

Great salesman do not carry paintings by picasso in their hands, speak in rhyme, or sing, dance, and play the flute. They are usually very earnest men, who speak convincingly and with knowledge about why their product is better.

the best way to sow the seeds


try to reach more people, not the same people. Reach your audience less often, but make it as large an audience as you can.

Dispersion is a necessity for mass consumption products. Not the case for products that appeals only to a select audience.


More dispersion (aka distribution) leads to higher penetration

The more homes you reach, the more heads you will get your message into, and the more opportunity you will be giving your copy to make sales for you.

When we find a brand that is failing to keep pace with its competitors, we look at its dispersion. This is usally the error.

Distribution is a complicated and precise undertaking.

the madison avenue myth


If the product does not meet some existing desire or need of the consumer, the advertising will ultimately fail.

Advertising does not synthesize desires. Desires instead synthesize advertising.

There is almost no kind of product now on the market that did not exist in more primitive form thousands of years ago.

"Repeat purchases" are the economic scale on which these mass products are weighted, and the power of the advertising man is no great than the power of his product to survive.

At the very least, a manufacturer must match his competitors' products. If he is looking for real growth, he must excel them.

People don't need art, music, literature, newspapers, historians, wheels, calendars philosophy...all that people really need is a cave, a piece of meat, and possibly, a fire.

the new entrepreneurs

advertising is merely a substitute for a personal sales force.

advertising cannot combat a downtrend against a kind of product and ti cannot start an uptrend, unless there is some a priori utility or desire.

True role of advertising principle:

It is not to create some "new desire" and fill it with some useless product for which the public has no real need. The true role of advertising is exactly that of the first salesman ever hired by the manufacturer - to get business away from its competitors. Or as the economists phrase it, "shift the demand curve between products"