Reason-Why vs. Appealing to Feelings

Claude Hopkins coined the “reason-why” advertising philosophy. Give the buyer a reason to choose your product over the competition. Reasons varied from product to product, seller to seller, day to day.

Advertising postcard

Postcard advertising the First National Bank in Edwardsville; 3.5 inches x 5.5 inches. August 1910. MCHS document 1980-085.

The First National Bank mass-mailed these color line block postcards monthly to potential customers. The cards gave different reasons for opening a savings account. This one uses the strategy of selling the middle-class dream. An excerpt from the front message:

Thrift & Economy will enable you to take the vacation you have been promising your family and yourself for so long past. Perhaps you missed it entirely this year. If so commence at once to save for a good happy time away from all business cares next year. . . . But there are other things besides vacations! Are you providing for the proper education of your children so that they can earn more & enjoy more of life than you have?

Newspaper advertisement

Advertisement in the Alton Evening Telegraph, March 1, 1919.


Newspaper advertisement.

Advertisement in the Alton Evening Telegraph, March 25, 1919.

These Alton Evening Telegraph advertisements each give a separate reason to buy Noll Bakery’s Butter-Krust Bread. In the first ad, the bakery differentiates itself from the competition with their newly perfected mixing process. In the second ad, the bakery reminds the buyer that homemade bread sometimes doesn’t turn out great. Why risk failure when you can buy fresh bread at Noll’s?

An alternative advertising philosophy concentrated on creating a receptive mood in the buyer. Strategies included using humor, tapping into nostalgia, or fostering relatability through personification of the brand.

Advertising pencil

Advertising pencil

Combination mechanical pencil/level advertising A. & B. Feed & Seed Store. Circa mid-20th century. MCHS object 2013-079-0106. This combination mechanical pencil/bubble level has a third identity as a pun: the body text states that A. & B. Feed & Seed Store is “always on the level” (get it?). The pencil also sports the Edwardsville company’s slogan [link] “Where Feed and Seed Is a Science.”


Hyde Park Beer songbook

Songbook. Old Time Tunes to Go with Good Old Hyde Park Beer. St. Louis: Hyde Park Breweries Association, 1939. MCHS document 1994-026. This songbook of “old time tunes” goes with Hyde Park True Lager Beer: “an old time brew made the old time way.” The nostalgia strategy was a good fit: the Hyde Park Brewery opened in the eponymous northside St. Louis neighborhood in 1876.


Advertising key chain

National Enameling & Stamping Company (NESCO) logo key chain. 2012. MCHS object 2012-083-0001. The Granite City company NESCO re-branded its enamelware products circa 1911 with this red diamond label featuring “NESCO boy.”

In an advertising psychology that skillfully blends “reason-why” and appealing to feelings, some sellers made up a pretend problem, convinced consumers to worry about it, and then sold the solution.

Chin strap box

Chin strap and instructions

Chin strap with box and instructions for use. Circa 1940s. MCHS object 1983-109-0028.

So here is the problem: your neck is getting old. Never mind that everyone’s neck gets old, you don’t want that happening to you. Just wear this contraption fifteen minutes a day for “gratifying results.”

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