Marketing 101: 5 Lessons from the Father of Advertising

Ah, dear old dad. Our earliest advocates, our partners in crime, our sources of seasoned wisdom. With Father’s Day this Sunday, June 16th, we’re taking time to recognize a day of gift-giving, gratitude, and the men who have shaped us into the people we’ve become.

For many of us, dad is still a sounding board for plenty of advice. From our first reprimands (no, you cannot touch the dog’s eyeball) to present day practicalities (trading your car for a snowmobile is not wise) there are times when we look to pop for direction.

With that in mind, we’re going to pay tribute to one of advertising’s most influential figures. Referred to by Time Magazine as “the most sought-after wizard in today’s advertising industry,” David Ogilvy would go on to become known as the Father of Advertising. During his role as an ad exec and copywriter, he created some of the world’s most iconic campaigns and left behind many lessons to learn from. We can study his campaigns for their success in persuading prospects, influencing readers, and creating memorable content. However, Ogilvy can also teach us plenty about simple productivity, ambition, and human nature. For instance…

“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. We try to write in the vernacular.”

Sure, you could be the industry’s foremost thought-leader in whatever it is you do. However, if your audience can’t relate to your content or feel some sort of connection on a human level, your efforts will be lost. That’s why we must continually research and understand how our audience thinks, speaks, and searches. We can then integrate this language into our headlines, blogs, ebooks, and television ads. The more we know about how our prospect thinks, the better chance we’ll have of connecting with them.

“Talent, I believe, is most likely to be found among nonconformists, dissenters, and rebels.”

The marketing industry is chock full of theory, best practices, and strategy. These are all great things, and should not be overlooked. However, too much playing by the books can result in stale campaigns, overused “ideas” and a general lackluster attitude. Sometimes, it pays to test common convention.

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

Ok, so your idea may be clever. That’s not enough to give it legs. Wit may look good on paper, but it won’t sell products or services. Innovative thinking in marketing is important, but the best marketers also consider connecting with their audience. Trust must be built in order to make a sale, and copy should reflect this motive. The best content is not only clever, but helpful, relevant, and engaging to a reader.

“Do not…address your readers as though they were gathered together in a stadium. When people read your copy, they are alone. Pretend you are writing to each of them a letter on behalf of your client.”

Even the best copywriters can get lost in the idea of trying to connect with a large audience. Writing for a group can be difficult, which is why both marketers and businesses should heed Ogilvy’s advice. Remember that as each person reads your content, they are alone with your words and their thoughts. Keeping this in mind can help us connect with our audience on a more personal level, rather than trying to shout our message to the masses.

“Don’t bunt. Aim out of the ball park. Aim for the company of immortals.”

Sure, our lives can seem pretty uneventful at times; even downright tedious. However, each and every day we have the chance to make a difference. To reach out to our clients and our audience, to help improve their lives, and to make the world a better place. That’s a pretty powerful realization, and a piece of Ogilvy’s wisdom that shouldn’t be ignored.

This Father’s Day, we’re giving thanks to all of the wise figures in our lives. Here’s to the dads out there, and to all of those who inspire us to continually challenge our limits.