It is the last season of Mad Men. Of course, I enjoy the show. How could I not? I live it here, right down to smoking in the office (don’t tell the city please). We even have a retro martini bar that is our favorite stop after work.
But there is one thing about the show that bugs me. In advertising, the era of the 60s was famous for its use of advertising icons. In fact, many of those icons have endured until today. Tony the Tiger, The Green Giant and Mr. Clean were but a few still in use. But Josephine the Plumber, the Ajax White Knight and the Frito Bandito were all icons created in the Sixties as well.
So why do we never see Don Draper pitching the use of an icon in the show? It almost seems deliberate that they ignore that part of 1960s advertising. Perhaps an episode that showed Don Draper pitching Cap’n Crunch would be bad for his image. More likely, creating an advertising icon is a lot more work than can be whipped out in a show that has enough realism on its plate to begin with. Either way, to me it is the most glaring omission in an otherwise wonderfully realistic show.
In case you wonder just how prevalent these icons were in that era, here is a list of some that were either created or had their most popular days in that era.
Tony the Tiger Norelco Santa NBC Peacock
Jolly Green Giant The Pillsbury Dough Boy Speedy Alka-Seltzer
Marlboro Man Aunt Jemima Betty Crocker
Madge from Palmolive Josephine the Plumber Mr. Clean
Cap’n Crunch Count Chocula Quisp and Quake
Frankenberry White Knight from Ajax Frito Bandito
Hawaiian Punchy Mr. Whipple Maytag Repairman
Juan Valdez Mr. Peanut Campbell Kids
Charlie Tuna Elsie the Borden Cow Lucky Charm Leprechaun
Sonny of Cocoa Puffs Toucan Sam The Twenty Mule Team
Trix Rabbit Geoffery The Giraffe Mrs. Olson
Raisin Bran Sun Quaker Oats Man Ronald McDonald
Wendy of Wendy’s Morris the Cat Choo-Choo Charlie
Cornelius the Kellogs Corn Flakes Rooster The Hamm’s Bear
“Form follows function – that has been misunderstood. Form and function should be one, joined in a spiritual union.” – Frank Lloyd Wright.
It is true of design, architecture, and branding as well. Your brand is not a function of clever design. It is not a more clever way of saying the same thing others say. It is derived from truth. Your brand promise and what makes you different are joined in a spiritual union. They are one in the same, composed of different elements, and experienced through a different set of senses.
Your brand promise is just a more succinct articulation of what the audience already knows. But, boiling it down to something concrete allows you to manage the elements and sensory experiences that compose the audience’s perception.
But it is as much a tether as a guiding light. The brand promise does lead the way your company is presented, but it also is built in response to where it was already going. They are indeed spiritually united.
Most direct mail programs are considered successful with a response rate around 2%
99% of those seeing your display ads in newspapers, out of home ads on billboards or bus stations, and 99.9% of your e-mail list don’t respond to your ad.
Add in the ignored impressions on your PPC and other SEO efforts. An overwhelming majority of your audience doesn’t respond to the ads you work so hard to make convincing. What of those people? You simply can’t ignore the fact that they have seen, and chosen not to take advantage of your offer.
That group gives you a huge opportunity to move your brand forward. They are valuable in the future. Make sure you are setting yourself up for success with that 99%.
Before you approve any ad, make sure it conveys your brand. Read it from the point of view of the 99% that are not going to take advantage of it. Let them know why you are best for them. By reinforcing your brand, you remind them of who you are and why they should choose you. If not today, someday.
That way, when your audience does not buy the deck furniture you try to sell them (perhaps they are satisfied with what they own, or don’t have a deck, or just can’t afford the luxury right now), at least let them know why your deck furniture is the best furniture for them. That way, when their condition changes, they will already have a preference for your brand instilled in their minds.
Going in, you know that 99% won’t buy. You can’t change that, Just don’t ignore them.
That may be the most important statement any marketer can learn. Sure, it took your whole career to develop that method, product, or perfect service that you provide. Behind what people buy from you is years of work, a huge infrastructure to assure quality and consistency, and countless hours away from your family (not including those spent with your family when you were thinking up ways to make it all work even better).
But nobody cares.
No one buys your product to repay your effort. They buy it because of what they get out of it. If it fell out of a tree, or if you toiled countless hours to provide it doesn’t matter. All that matters is whether they think it will make them richer, prettier, more popular, envied, or lazier.
You would be wise to market accordingly. Don’t bother to tell anyone about the brilliant programmer who helped develop that new GPS iPhone application you sell, all they want to know is that it will easily find their kid’s opponent’s home soccer field.
Don’t boast of the harder enamel used in the boat polish, just let them know they only have to do it once a year, and all their friends will think they hired a service.
If you are pushing your product, quit your marketing job and go into sales. Marketing has to draw people toward your product. You can’t push with marketing.
Peter Drucker, one of the world’s most brilliant business management experts said “Innovation and marketing produce results. All the rest are costs.”
If the head of your company respects that, you are most likely very successful. But what if the head of your company happens to be a genius at both? Then you have Steve Jobs.
When Jobs began his company in 1976, he had the vision to create a computer for daily life. At that time, no one even considered the idea. At that time the world’s most advanced computers were at NASA and the Department of Defense. Today, Jobs’ iPhone carries far more power than anything either of those entities held in 1976. His crystal clear vision was far beyond what anyone else could even imagine. His determination and success in making it happen gave proof of the value of that vision.
Then came the Macintosh in 1984 and with it, what many consider the greatest ad ever. To think it only ran one time is part of its lasting genius. But it was a unique piece of marketing that only he could have created.
Fast forward to the iPod. The mp3 player was already invented, but Jobs marketed it in a way that made it his. The iPod was an unfamiliar product with an unfamiliar interface. One would think an explanation of how it works would be in order. Not Steve Jobs, though. He never showed it, never talked about it. He only had silhouettes dance to it, earbuds in place. The iPod was instantly cool.
He later reinvented the telephone with the iPhone, reinvented the convenience of a laptop computer by removing everything mechanical from it with the Macbook Air, and now has revolutionized portable computing with the iPad.
That doesn’t even mention revolutionizing product naming by adding an “I” in front of everything…that is after he revolutionized naming by calling his products by the least obvious names imaginable. Sure the Macintosh made sense for Apple, but Apple itself makes no sense, nor does naming his progression of operating systems after predatory felines. But that kind of thinking is what you get from a genius in innovation and markeing.
The saying goes “If you build a better mousetrap, the world will beat a path to your door”. It may be the worst advice ever to be passed as common knowledge.
The fact is, mousetraps currently work just fine. More importantly, everyone knows how to set one, and despite the danger in doing so, it is familiar. Everyone knows that when the trap has been successful, you will be left with a dead mouse at best, and a dying one at worst. But you know what to expect.
You may come up with a much better alternative. Certainly, there is plenty of room for improvement in the current industry leader, but the world knows what to expect from it, and understands how to use it. They will be reluctant to learn a new mouse catching system, no matter how much better the results promise to be.
So if you have a better mousetrap, you may not want to tout its great new features. You may want, instead, to make extra certain that you apply strong marketing fundamentals.
Start a new category: Mousetraps that work silently or without unseemly cleanup perhaps.
Push the category: Mousetraps startle you at night, or their use spreads disease. They cause insomnia, or family dangers. Be sure to stress the problem that exists right now. That way, if the problem is of significance to any portion of the audience, that portion will be sympathetic to your message.
Finally, introduce your mousetrap as the champion of the category: Here is a mousetrap that you won’t hear, or that contains and disposes of the mouse without spreading its germs.
All you need to do now is to focus your message on the mouse infested audience that is most likely to be concerned about that category.