I’ve been into the book The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg in the last day or so, and discovered an amazing story.
In this story is not one but two lessons that could help lift you out of whatever doldrums you find yourself in, and make you a millionaire.
The story was actually one I was familiar with. When Duhigg mentioned Claude C. Hopkins, you can guess my ears perked up! Hopkins’ work, Scientific Advertising, of course, is one of my top recommended books for new direct marketers. It alone contains nearly every core principle you need to know to become a success in this field. (I even recorded myself reading it aloud, and give away the MP3s FREE in a ZIP file here.)
But Duhigg, in The Power of Habit, referred to a Hopkins story you won’t find in Scientific Advertising itself. But rather, in My Life In Advertising, Hopkins’ autobiography. (You can get both Hopkins books together here — even with the free MP3s above, I recommend every direct marketer own a physical copy of this book.)
On to the story…
You may not know this, but most people in America didn’t brush their teeth regularly before Claude Hopkins intervened…
In fact, it was so bad that the US military considered bad dental hygiene a national security risk when they started recruiting soldiers for World War I!
But in the early 1900s, an old friend approached Hopkins with Pepsodent toothpaste. At the time, Hopkins already had a bevy of national successes under his belt, and was pretty sharp at understanding what the market did and didn’t want.
He knew Americans just didn’t brush their teeth, so he tried to turn the Pepsodent folks away. They persisted, and finally Hopkins agreed to take on the challenge, on one condition. He wanted an option on Pepsodent stock — meaning, if he was successful, he’d get a share of the company.
They agreed, and Hopkins dove in.
Hopkins was a student of human behavior, and of habits — that was his secret…
What Hopkins had discovered was that in order to have a product make its way into daily usage, he had to identify two things. He had to identify a cue that people could use to remind them to use the product. And he had to identify the reward they would enjoy as a result of using the product.
Hopkins nailed down the feeling of having plaque on your teeth as the cue (he found this buried in the middle of a dental book, deep in research — a lesson for copywriters!). And the reward of brushing was a whiter, more attractive smile.
Hopkins’ headline and subhead that followed…
A Dangerous Coating
That robs teeth of their whiteness
A way to remove it that quickly restores brilliance. Film, it is agreed, also fosters serious tooth and gum disorders. Please accept free 10-day supply.
You feel the film building up on your teeth — a simple swipe of your tongue will tell you it’s there — and it’s time to reach for that Pepsodent. And since that film builds up every day and especially while we sleep, it becomes a daily habit.
Within a decade, more than half the American population was brushing their teeth daily.
Hopkins later remarked, “I made for myself a million dollars on Pepsodent.”
I plugged that into an inflation calculator, assuming $1,000,000 in 1927 money, the year My Life in Advertising was published. In today’s money, that’s $13,431,437.
13 million buckaroos because of his understanding of habits, and how they are created.
Back to The Power of Habit book, and the lessons that could make YOU a millionaire…
So, Hopkins made today’s equivalent of $13 million by understanding the process by which a habit is created.
But what is that process?
Well, that’s what the book goes into detail about.
But, in short, Hopkins recognized that every habit needs three steps…
— A CUE to trigger the behavior…
— The ROUTINE of carrying out the behavior…
— And a REWARD for completing the behavior…
And, habits can be altered — created, changed, destroyed — by impacting those steps.
In this is a huge lesson for marketers, one that made Hopkins a millionaire, and that has made folks like Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook a multi-billionaire.
Just think about it. Facebook. You get that little notification on your phone. It says there’s an update on Facebook. You open the app. You see what the notification was for. Then, because you’re there, you check the feed. You get a little surge of dopamine for both, rewarding you like an addict for knowing what the notification was for, and what dumb video your friend just shared.
The same thing with news websites, Google, and a whole lot more.
The candy in the checkout lane at the grocery store. Girl Scout Cookies. The works. There are millions and billions of dollars that change hands every day because of tiny little habits.
To tap into that, and perhaps even shift it in your favor, will also shift the flow of that money toward you.
And yet, there’s another deeper lesson involved in this, that makes it even more powerful…
Brain science and our understanding of habits has come a long way since Hopkins’ day.
And in The Power of Habit, Duhigg revealed another deeper factor at play, that helped Pepsodent along to success. That helped make Hopkins a millionaire. That has made billions for Zuck.
And that’s craving.
It’s not just the white teeth that people liked about Pepsodent. In fact, Pepsodent was no better than most other toothpastes available at the time at whitening teeth.
But it had a few secret ingredients. Citric acid. Mint oil. And a few others. The inventor had used these to help the paste maintain its consistency, and give it a minty flavor he preferred.
There was an unintended consequence of those ingredients, though. They acted as mild irritants, that made users’ gums tingly after brushing.
And that tingling sensation was associated with the freshness — and promised whiteness — that Pepsodent offered.
That sensation became something users craved, over anything else.
In fact, users reported to competing companies that if they missed a day of brushing, it wasn’t so much the brushing or the clean teeth that they missed, but the tingling sensation!
And so it was this craving that really drove the cycle — from cue, to routine, to reward.
And it’s the craving that ingrains that habit, and makes it stick.
Which leads to the second lesson on how to become a millionaire…
Where you’re at today, what you’re going to achieve, what you have, the success you enjoy, the failures you suffer… Nearly everything in your life…
Is a result of your habits.
Yes, there are other factors, but most of them can be altered or overcome or amplified by habits (both good and bad).
And the truth is, if you want to be successful, you will probably need to adopt success habits. Success habits aren’t necessarily easy. In fact, some of them can be hard to get started on.
If you take the easy route — the path of least resistance — you’re probably not going to do great things in life. You won’t achieve extraordinary levels of success, however you measure it (including money).
But if you choose to proactively cultivate habits of success and achievement (again, no matter how you measure these), then you’re going to enjoy success and achievement beyond your wildest dreams. And if you can really ingrain these habits, you’ll be amazed at how the success and achievement just continues to grow.
The question is: How do you create positive habits, and get rid of negative ones?
Well, the short answer is above. You need the cue, the routine, and a reward that will create a craving to start the cycle again, and repeat it again and again and again and again until it’s so deeply ingrained that you’ll repeat the cycle even when the reward isn’t there.
But there’s a lot more to it.
If you want to create positive habits and get rid of negative ones, it will help to have a DEEP understanding of habits themselves, and how they work.
And so I recommend you grab a copy of The Power of Habit for yourself. You’ll find it an interesting and entertaining read. And perhaps — just perhaps — you’ll understand habits on a level that could make you a millionaire through the success habits you create AND by applying an understanding of habits to changing peoples’ lives for the better (like Hopkins did by getting them to brush daily) and being paid for this work.
Yours for bigger breakthroughs,
Editor, Breakthrough Marketing Secrets