Time-Tested Tenets of Effective Marketing Haven’t Changed in 100 Years

In the digital age of rapidly increasing technology and here-today-gone-tomorrow fads in fashion, popular culture and consumer tastes, it can seem like the rules of marketing are constantly changing, rendering obsolete what may have been sound advice just 10 or 20 years ago. But despite the near-constantly changing winds at the edges and frontiers of the marketing industry, the vast majority of the core principals remain unchanged and have stood the test of time.

To illustrate this point, in an article for Entrepreneur, Nick Wolny discusses the persistent relevance of a nearly 100-year-old marketing classic—1923’s Scientific Advertising by Claude Hopkins. (Note: the book has been around so long it’s now part of the public domain and available in its entirety absolutely free).

Wolny calls out five lessons from Scientific Advertising whose relevance has stood the test of time. Here’s a brief look at each of these.

  1. To Capture Attention, Create Clarity

How many times have you seen a hilarious, witty Super Bowl commercial and later realize you have no idea what was being sold or who was selling it? Being clear, concise and to the point is often far more effective at getting a message across than gimmicks, jargon and jokes.

  1. Measure the Data or Risk Losing Money

Marketing is not a set-it-and-forget-it exercise. It’s an iterative process that requires regular re-evaluation and analysis of results.

  1. Leverage Human Psychology

The study of behavioral economics is fascinating and directly relevant to any organization’s or individual’s marketing efforts. We’ve dedicated several posts to this subject in the past. Marketers should always maintain a strong understanding of, and appreciation for, the power of human psychology in consumer decision-making and buying habits.

  1. Tension Relief Outsells Prevention

Wolny notes that many of Scientific Advertising’s examples of this concept still apply today: “Toothpaste ads that promise whiter teeth outperform ones that tout the continued prevention of cavities. Soaps that promise more radiant, glowing skin will always outperform a headline like ‘keep clean’.”

  1. Consumers Buy Complete Stories

Americans spend an incredible amount of time consuming media every day. The amount of time spent continues to increase year after year. Consumers crave stories. Marketers that can tell a complete story around their product or service have a better chance at swaying consumers than those that cannot.


With the possible exception of high fashion, marketing is, perhaps, the industry most prone to changing fads. New trends and new technological vehicles that play to those fads mean that many marketing tactics can quickly become outdated. However, as illustrated by a look at Hopkins’s nearly 100-year-old marketing guide, the core strategies that underlie modern marketing tactics have remained consistent and relevant for years and will likely remain so for years to come.

Ignore the time-tested tenets of effective marketing at your own risk. How are you considering the points above as you develop campaigns and content for the digital age?

About Us

Strategic Communications, LLC, works with B2B clients to help them achieve their goals through effective content marketing and management with both internal and external audiences. We work with clients to plan, create and publish high-quality, unique content. Whether on- or offline, or both, we’ll help you achieve desired results.

(Strategic Communications is certified as a Woman-Owned Business Enterprise through the Wisconsin Department of Administration.)

Recommended Reading

21st Century Secrets to Effective PR: Tips and Best Practices for Gaining Media Exposure

Tags: , , , , ,

Leave a Reply

Complete the math problem before submitting a comment. * Time limit is exhausted. Please reload CAPTCHA.