We all depend, more or less, upon the public for our support. We all trade with the public – lawyers, doctors, shoemakers, artists, blacksmiths, showmen, opera stagers, railroad presidents, and college professors. Those who deal with the public must be careful that their goods are valuable; that they are genuine, and will give satisfaction. When you get an article which you know is going to please your customers, and that when they have tried it, they will feel they have got their money’s worth, then let the fact be known that you have got it. Be careful to advertise it in some shape or other because it is evident that if a man has ever so good an article for sale, and nobody knows it, it will bring him no return. In a country like this, where nearly everybody reads, and where newspapers are issued and circulated in editions of five thousand to two hundred thousand, it would be very unwise if this channel was not taken advantage of to reach the public in advertising. A newspaper goes into the family, and is read by wife and children, as well as the head of the home; hence hundreds and thousands of people may read your advertisement, while you are attending to your routine business. Many, perhaps, read it while you are asleep. The whole philosophy of life is, first „sow,” then „reap.” That is the way the farmer does; he plants his potatoes and corn, and sows his grain, and then goes about something else, and the time comes when he reaps. But he never reaps first and sows afterwards. This principle applies to all kinds of business, and to nothing more eminently than to advertising. If a man has a genuine article, there is no way in which he can reap more advantageously than by „sowing” to the public in this way. He must, of course, have a really good article, and one which will please his customers; anything spurious will not succeed permanently because the public is wiser than many imagine. Men and women are selfish, and we all prefer purchasing where we can get the most for our money and we try to find out where we can most surely do so.
You may advertise a spurious article, and induce many people to call and buy it once, but they will denounce you as an impostor and swindler, and your business will gradually die out and leave you poor. This is right. Few people can safely depend upon chance custom. You all need to have your customers return and purchase again. A man said to me, „I have tried advertising and did not succeed; yet I have a good article.”
I replied, „My friend, there may be exceptions to a general rule. But how do you advertise?”
„I put it in a weekly newspaper three times, and paid a dollar and a half for it.” I replied: „Sir, advertising is like learning – ‚a little is a dangerous thing!'”
A French writer says that „The reader of a newspaper does not see the first mention of an ordinary advertisement; the second insertion he sees, but does not read; the third insertion he reads; the fourth insertion, he looks at the price; the fifth insertion, he speaks of it to his wife; the sixth insertion, he is ready to purchase, and the seventh insertion, he purchases.” Your object in advertising is to make the public understand what you have got to sell, and if you have not the pluck to keep advertising, until you have imparted that information, all the money you have spent is lost. You are like the fellow who told the gentleman if he would give him ten cents it would save him a dollar. „How can I help you so much with so small a sum?” asked the gentleman in surprise. „I started out this morning (hiccuped the fellow) with the full determination to get drunk, and I have spent my only dollar to accomplish the object, and it has not quite done it. Ten cents worth more of whiskey would just do it, and in this manner I should save the dollar already expended.”
So a man who advertises at all must keep it up until the public know who and what he is, and what his business is, or else the money invested in advertising is lost.
Some men have a peculiar genius for writing a striking advertisement, one that will arrest the attention of the reader at first sight. This fact, of course, gives the advertiser a great advantage. Sometimes a man makes himself popular by an unique sign or a curious display in his window, recently I observed a swing sign extending over the sidewalk in front of a store, on which was the inscription in plain letters,
„DON’T READ THE OTHER SIDE”
Of course I did, and so did everybody else, and I learned that the man had made all independence by first attracting the public to his business in that way and then using his customers well afterwards.
Genin, the hatter, bought the first Jenny Lind ticket at auction for two hundred and twenty-five dollars, because he knew it would be a good advertisement for him. „Who is the bidder?” said the auctioneer, as he knocked down that ticket at Castle Garden. „Genin, the hatter,” was the response. Here were thousands of people from the Fifth avenue, and from distant cities in the highest stations in life. „Who is ‚Genin,’ the hatter?” they exclaimed. They had never heard of him before. The next morning the newspapers and telegraph had circulated the facts from Maine to Texas, and from five to ten millions off people had read that the tickets sold at auction For Jenny Lind’s first concert amounted to about twenty thousand dollars, and that a single ticket was sold at two hundred and twenty-five dollars, to „Genin, the hatter.” Men throughout the country involuntarily took off their hats to see if they had a „Genin” hat on their heads. At a town in Iowa it was found that in the crowd around the post office, there was one man who had a „Genin” hat, and he showed it in triumph, although it was worn out and not worth two cents. „Why,” one man exclaimed, „you have a real ‚Genin’ hat; what a lucky fellow you are.” Another man said, „Hang on to that hat, it will be a valuable heir-loom in your family.” Still another man in the crowd who seemed to envy the possessor of this good fortune, said, „Come, give us all a chance; put it up at auction!” He did so, and it was sold as a keepsake for nine dollars and fifty cents! What was the consequence to Mr. Genin? He sold ten thousand extra hats per annum, the first six years. Nine-tenths of the purchasers bought of him, probably, out of curiosity, and many of them, finding that he gave them an equivalent for their money, became his regular customers. This novel advertisement first struck their attention, and then, as he made a good article, they came again.
Now I don’t say that everybody should advertise as Mr. Genin did. But I say if a man has got goods for sale, and he don’t advertise them in some way, the chances are that some day the sheriff will do it for him. Nor do I say that everybody must advertise in a newspaper, or indeed use „printers’ ink” at all. On the contrary, although that article is indispensable in the majority of cases, yet doctors and clergymen, and sometimes lawyers and some others, can more effectually reach the public in some other manner. But it is obvious, they must be known in some way, else how could they be supported?