What 3 Real Mad Men Can Teach Us About Content Marketing Today.

A quick look at legends of copywriting and advertising and how they affect and align with today's content marketing strategies.

I've always believed that the AMC epic Mad Men is being fully supported by the advertising folks from the glory days of 80's & 90's. After all, they are witnessing an uncomfortable transition towards a new world of online & social marketing focused on content, inbound tactics and actual results. So it's only natural they are drawn to a romantic vision of the postwar American advertising scene that's portrayed as a casual & glorious era of martinis and push-up bras -- all encircled by an endless cloud of cigarette smoke.

What's ironic to me is the heavy mental lifting done by the real Mad Men of that famed time is alive and relevant in today's content-driven reality.

First up, William Bernbach one of the three founders of the international advertising agency Doyle Dane Bernbach (DDB). He's probably most well-known for creating the Volkswagen "Think Small" campaign for the Beetle. Here's his take on facts...

"One of the problems is worship of research.
We're all concerned about the facts we get and not enough concerned about how provocative we make them."

My mind immediately goes to infographics. There is no shortage of data out there, just interesting ways to show it or compile mass amounts of it. See an example here. Infographics are ideal for Prezi presentations, SlideShare decks, white board sessions and short videos. Their popularity is exploding because they can translate complex information into simple visual references. I especially like pulling single infographic elements into other sources of content such as a point of view pieces or blog posts.

Next is Rosser Reeves. Often cited as the pioneer of TV advertising, he insisted that an advertisement or commercial should show off the value of a product, not the cleverness of a copywriter. His most famous ad was for Anacin, a headache medicine. The ad was considered grating and annoying by almost all viewers but it was remarkably successful, tripling the product's sales. In 7 years the 59-second commercial made more money than the movie Gone With The Wind had in a quarter-century. Here's just one gem from Rosser...

"You must make the product interesting, not just make the ad different."

Now, replace the word ad with content. Podcasts, white papers, case studies, webinars -- you name it. If your content is not compelling, it really doesn't matter what form it takes. So find that hook to your title that creates intrigue. And make content that's worth experiencing.

Finally, let's learn more about writing from George Gribbin. As chairman of Young & Rubicam, he helped this advertising agency enjoy success for nearly 1/2 a century.

"A writer should be joyous, an optimist."

Sure it's a bit altruistic but also a nice, guiding thought. In the world of online content I feel you can either be likable or controversial to get attention. But at the end of the day you need to have a positive, motivational call-to-action message to be successful.

To conclude, let's go back to Rosser, the most colorful of our real Mad Men who believed the true purpose of advertising was to sell. Here's a paraphrased version of a classic quote:

"Let's say you're advertising isn't working and sales are going down. Your company is the lifeblood for you and others. Now what do you want from me? Fine writing, or do you want to see the damn sales curve stop moving down and start moving up?"

Oh boy, here's where things get sticky on our journey. Content must sell? Yes content marketing is the new intelligent way to sell. But it only works when used carefully and integrated into some kind of lead generation system or capture program. Compelling content builds trust in your brand which starts a nurturing conversation and eventually leads to a relationship and finally a sale.

David Ogilvy another real Mad Man said it best, "You can't bore people into buying your product." And I'm sure the legends of yesteryear would agree this holds true for content marketing today.