4 Timeless Marketing Lessons from Don Draper and David Ogilvy

You probably know the names from the golden age of advertising: Bill Bernbach, Neil French, George Lois, and Draper Daniels. The men who shaped the way we view advertisements today.

David Ogilvy, one of the most famous ad men from the 50’s and 60’s, is known as “The Father of Advertising.” Some of his most famous advertisements have strong legacies even today, i.e. Dove soap ads. The well known character Don Draper is even fashioned from these famous men, and their legendary advertisements. For many, these two men, one real and the other fiction, are the face of the long gone golden age of advertising.

David Ogilvy Dove Ad

Even though marketing has changed since the 1950’s and 60’s, there is still a lot you can learn from the likes of Don Draper and David Ogilvy.

1. Know your audience.

 
David Ogilvy is one of the greatest pioneers in using audience research in advertising. When you look at his ads or read the book Ogilvy on Advertising, you can see how important he thought research was.

It is important for you to able to communicate with your audience in a vernacular that they understand. You can only do that through research.

If you’re trying to persuade people to do something, or buy something, it seems to me you should use their language, the language they use every day, the language in which they think.
David Ogilvy

2. Put the customer before yourself.

 
Don Draper, fictional star of the hit show Mad Men, understands that the client should always come first. In one episode, Don lashes out when the new president of the company, Duck Philips, talks about selling clients more lucrative advertising. The short speech looked more toward maximizing profits over the clients’ needs.

Don, being a good account executive, leaves the meeting, and threatens to quit. He understands that as an ad executive, he has to be client-focused. You need to recognize the importance in asking “what can I do to help my customer?” and not “what can my customer do for me?”.

3. Define your product.

 
Your product needs to have a clearly defined selling proposition to distinguish it from the competition. That means that you need to develop a personality which explains what it is and how it can benefit the customer. David Ogilvy understood that products are very similar.

There isn’t any significant difference between the various brands of whiskey or cigarettes or beer. They are all about the same. And so are the cake mixes and the detergents and the margarines . . . The manufacturer who dedicates his advertising to building the most sharply defined personality for his brand will get the largest share of the market at the highest profit.
David Ogilvy

Whether it is the store brand or name brand, most products do the same thing. The biggest difference between products is their marketing. You can only become a name brand if you market your product well. Your marketing will be more successful If your product’s personality is well defined.

Schweppes

4. Be original.

 
You need to be original to attract new business and retain old customers. But customers won’t engage you if you lack a personal touch. People are attached to brands that are accessible, and interact with them on multiple levels. Don Draper demonstrates this in the first season of Mad Men through the Kodak campaign. The product is rather boring, but by being creative and original, Don is able to create a beautiful campaign.

David Ogilvy also talks about the subject of creativity and originality. His words are more of a warning. Being creative is very important in marketing, but not just for the sake of being creative. It is important that you are being creative in a way that aligns with your goals. If your creativity doesn’t connect or build trust with your audience, then you should reexamine your motivations.

In the modern world of business, it is useless to be a creative, original thinker unless you can also sell what you create.
David Ogilvy

Things have changed since the days when advertising account executives could pitch a single ad and change the way we perceived a brand. Marketing is much harder than it used to be. But, even though the way you market may be different, the core values are still the same. These ad men can still teach you to aim for greatness and not to settle for second best.
 

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