6 Ad Lessons From Mad Men that Really Work

We’re nearing the final episode of Mad Men, which will bring with it the end of an era. Watching this show is both inspiring and painful, especially for a woman in the marketing world. As marketers, however, we see how modern advertising evolved into the techniques we use today.

The Don Drapers and Peggy Olsons of the 1960s didn’t know what inbound marketing was, and yet their philosophies can be used even now. Using some of the best and brightest quotes from the show, we can see how many of the lessons taught in Mad Men really do work.

Let’s start with the idea of buyer personas and work through social listening. These weren’t concepts the ad men of the past had even considered, and yet they knew exactly how each worked.

Understand Your Audience

“People tell you who they are, but we ignore it because we want them to be who we want them to be.”

This is a big mistake many companies make when branding their company and creating marketing materials. Without a single thought about their target audience—or buyer personas—companies create self-indulgent material that never truly reaches consumers.

With some research, you can really get to know your buyers. Learn where they’re from, how much money they make, what their needs are, and what really speaks to them. That’s how you can create targeted campaigns that they love instead of marketing that pleases your CEO.

Know Your Niche

“That’s not a strategy. That’s two strategies connected by the word ‘and’.”

Once you know your buyer personas, you’ll have a better idea of your niche market. Trying to reach more than one type of buyer with the same campaign will only end up confusing everyone. Do you cater to serious professionals or dabbling amateurs? Will you carry high-end products or discount versions?

Your niche is what will define you. It’s where buyers with a real need will find you. Don’t try to be everything to everyone or you’ll miss the target every time.

Address the Pain Points

“I’m in charge of thinking of things before people know they need them.”

When creating content for your buyers, it’s important to think of all the needs those buyers will have—all the questions, all the concerns—and address them. It’s even better if you can meet those needs before the buyer even knows they exist.

By providing products that meet a need, providing answers that solve their problems, you make your brand invaluable.

Tap Into Buyer Emotions

“Advertising is based on one thing: happiness.”

Need only goes so far, doesn’t it? We can talk all day about solving for buyers’ pain points, but sometimes the desire to purchase goes beyond need. You can create a powerful desire by playing to buyers’ emotions, too.

These emotions run the entire gamut: happiness, fear, sadness, pride, nostalgia. How will life be better with your product? What catastrophes can buyers avoid when using your services? Whose world will change for the better if those buyers make a purchase?

Quality Content Is Important

“Just so you know, the people who talk that way think monkeys can do this.”

There’s so much more to content marketing than just slapping some words down. In the past, SEO relied on a certain number of keywords, regardless of what the rest of the website or article was about. Now, Google wants fresh, relevant, quality content. And that means writers have to have more than a little skill.

Marketers know that a lot more goes on behind the scenes than the companies they represent will ever know. They know the words used, videos shared, tweets composed, and websites built all fulfill specific purposes. No matter how many times someone says, “Anyone could do that,” we know the truth.

Practice Social Listening

“If you don’t like what they’re saying, then change the conversation.”

If there is any one quote in Mad Men that shows how advertising made the journey from then to now, it’s this one. Ads were all about talking to buyers—through television, radio, billboards. The buyers didn’t really get a voice and instead voted with their wallets.

Now, however, we can hear the consumers. With social listening, we know what’s being said about brands, products, services, and even the staff members of the companies we love. Marketers who are quick on their feet can change the story if consumers don’t like what they’re hearing. And telling stories is what we’re all about.

What other marketing lessons have you learned from Don Draper and his Mad Men? We’d love to know your thoughts, so feel free to leave a comment!

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