David Ogilvy, the advertising genius who some believe was the model for Mad Men’s Don Draper, was widely heralded as “The Father of Advertising.”
In 1983 he wrote about his experiences with a number of famous ad campaigns and commented on different aspects of the business in his book Ogilvy on Advertising. In Chapter 2 he gave a rather lengthy list of qualities that he believed were essential to creating a successful ad campaign.
He called it “How to Produce Advertising That Sells.” Let’s look at just some of the main points made by this master advertising legend, as I think all of them are still on the money today.
1. Do Your Homework
In order to create advertising that sells, you have to do your research first, and then let that guide the way you write about your product.
First you have to find out everything you can about the product itself. What are its features? Its advantages? What are some interesting facts about how it is made, or the ingredients that go into it?
Knowing all this can help you hit upon the “big idea” around which you’ll build your ad. It was this kind of research that helped Ogilvy come up with one of the most famous ad headlines of all time: “At 60 miles an hour the loudest noise in this new Rolls-Royce comes from the electric clock.”
Next, you should to check out the advertising of your competitors. He said this would give you your bearings.
Third, you should do research by questioning consumers of the product to learn how they think about it. Find out the language they use when talking about the product, what aspects of the product matter the most to them, and what kind of promise you could make about the product that would most appeal to them.
You can’t guess at any of these things. You have to get the facts.
You probably here this word used a lot. But what exactly does it mean, and why should it matter to you?
Ogilvy’s definition of this “curious verb” was: “what the product does, and who it is for.” Positioning is how you decide who the audience will be, who your ad must appeal to, and what advantages you will stress about your product based on what will appeal to that audience.
The example Ogilvy gives is that he could have positioned Dove soap as the perfect cleanser for men’s dirty hands. But the better positioning, which he used, was as a moisturizing soap for women with dry skin. This was highly successful and is still the basis of their ads today.
How could you position your product? Consider who your best prospect is and gear your ads to that person. (Don’t try to please everyone. You can’t.) Decide who will be your best bet and run with it.
A dress shop might position itself as the trendy place where teenagers and young women in their 20s shop, or a sophisticated store for upwardly mobile professionals, or the place where mature matrons of a certain income level buy clothing for special occasions and cruises.
Your advertising should be positioned to reflect the kind of business you are.
3. Brand Image
When you think of brand image, you may think of classic advertising figures: the Marlboro Man, the Schweppes Man, Orville Redenbacher, Queen Latifah selling Cover Girl, or Andie MacDowall in ads for L’oreal. The idea is to have some image associated with your product that supports its positioning. It’s often a person. But it can also just be the product itself, like Coca Cola, which is a brand image recognized around the world.
Many direct mail marketers associate their product with a person who seems to be writing the sales letter. Ken Roberts and his image were very much at the center of all the advertising for his financial home study courses. Dr. Mercola or the Mayo Clinic make heavy use of their images to sell their publications and supplements.
Could you, or someone else at your company, represent and speak for your products and services? It needs to be an appealing and/or authoritative figure. You could set this person up as the recognizable face of your company. Done correctly, it could increase brand loyalty and boost your business.
4. What’s the Big Idea?
Sometimes through genius, or just plain luck – often based on tons of research that laid the groundwork for the “aha” moment – someone comes up with a big idea. Ogilvy’s Rolls-Royce ad was an example.
Representing Pepperidge Farm baked goods with an old-fashioned bakery wagon pulled by horses. The Jack-in-the-Box clown as a business executive in a suit. These are all brilliant ideas that worked for decades selling their products.
Ken Roberts always wore a cowboy hat in his promotions, and he put pictures of cowboy hats on all his literature. It was the perfect, and highly recognizable representation of his maverick style. Maybe you can come up with something like that to represent your business. Ideas like this don’t come along every day, but if you ever get one, keep using it.
5. “The Positively Good”
It would be great if you could prove that your product was significantly better than anything your rivals can provide. But that’s not always possible. Sometimes you all produce an equivalent product or service.
But that shouldn’t be a barrier to your advertising. You don’t have to convince customers that nobody else on the planet can rival you. You just have to convince consumers that your product is “positively good.” If they are convinced that you are good, and they’re not so sure about your competitors, they’ll give you the business.
Just tell prospects how good you are. List in detail all your great qualities. Create confidence in the value of your product. You don’t have to compare yourself or mention your competition at all. Just focus on what you provide with confidence.
6. Repeat Your Winners
If your advertising is working well, keep repeating it until it stops working. There’s no need to keep reinventing the wheel. At the same time, you don’t want to be caught up short if it suddenly stops working.
So, you should always be testing alternatives. But as long as your control piece is out-pulling anything else, keep using it. When a new piece out-pulls the old one, then you can roll out to a bigger campaign with the new one.
7. Word of Mouth
Ogilvy said that sometimes advertising campaigns enter the culture. People go around humming jingles or repeating ad slogans. Sometimes they’ll be parodied on Saturday Night Live! This is great free publicity.
The opportunity for word of mouth advertising is even greater today with the growing importance of social media.
You never know when something will take off like this. Ogilvy called it “manna from heaven.” You can’t create this kind of buzz, but you can encourage it by suggesting your customers share information about you with their friends.
And if it ever happens that you do find yourself “going viral,” stay on top of it and take advantage of it. It may not last long, but it can put your business on the map.