‘Mad Men’ Marketing – How to Do Marketing Like Real ‘Mad Men’

‘Mad Men’ Marketing – How to Do Marketing Like Real ‘Mad Men’


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I use to have an affliction that I called “marketitis.” It’s the one where marketers who didn’t know better bought into rote marketing techniques like boring TV commercials, SEO and social media, thinking this is how all “good little marketers” behaved.

But that way of thinking belonged to the old guard—the Don Drapers of the world, where marketing was romanticized. These days, the old guard is still here, touting their outdated forms of marketing.

The amount of tripe that marketers and advertisers are force-feeding us via mobile ads and TV commercials is at an all time high, and I blame this on the flaccid approach of traditional marketers.

With that said, we must put an end to the old ways.

So before you would-be Don Drapers head out into the exciting world of advertising, here is my take on how to come up with some unconventional ways of marketing in the 21st century.

Do the Opposite of What Everyone Else Is Doing:

Remember the Seinfeld “Bizarro” episode where Elaine befriends the comedic opposites of Jerry and the gang? It was one of the most memorable episodes of all time. Being different is a marketing technique unto itself.

Too many companies are content with competing against each other based on price and features: a war of attrition that never ends well.

Look at car companies, and you will see the problem is quite apparent.

I hate car commercials, especially those ridiculous ones where the mild mannered American Joe is transformed into a superhero by driving a plain family sedan.

To avoid this, take something—anything—that you and your competitors are doing and do the complete opposite of it.

For example, say you ran a restaurant. All restaurants are typically open to the public, where they can simply walk in and sit down. So, why not do the opposite by completely closing off your restaurant to the public? Make it membership-only to create a sense of exclusivity.

Dig deep by making a list of the traits you and your competitors share and focus on doing the complete opposite.

Frankenstein Marketing:

I love this technique, because you never know what you are going to conjure up.

Here’s what you do.

Write down the industry you are in or the product that you sell, e.g. cars, clothing, SaaS software, and then write down a list of your random interests.

Start mixing and mashing those interests with your product, and see what you come up with.

One of my favorite examples is the Seattle Sounders soccer team. Their ad agency came out with these brilliant and unconventional ads that combined soccer with dating—who would have thought?



Make People Do Something Engaging in Order to Gain Access to Your Product:

I’ve got to hand it to the Moscow subway authorities; they recently came out with a campaign where commuters could do squats in order to get a free train ticket.

I love this strategy because it gets the message out in a fun and engaging way. It also helps your brand become memorable, which, in this case, is the Sochi Winter Olympics.

Molson Canadian had an even better idea. They created a beer fridge that could only be opened by a true Canadian and placed the fridges all over Europe—absolutely brilliant.

This is another example from Contrex. They managed to take something as mundane as bottled water and make it sexy.

Solve or Highlight a Ridiculous Problem with Your Product or Service:

Watching MacGyver taught me that you could use almost any common and ordinary item to get you out of a pickle.

Instead of focusing on the most obvious problem that your product/service solves, why not think of something less obvious?

This hysterical TV ad from a Thai business demonstrates this perfectly. Just watch and learn.

Be Remarkable:

Marketers have short life spans. One day you could come up with a Superbowl-worthy ad, and the next day you could be on your ass looking for new employment.

Being a great marketer is about being remarkable: a drive to be an outlier and an agitator.

When I saw this video of a Boston Celtics fan dancing to “Livin’ On A Prayer,” he instantly became my hero.

Most people on the “fan cam” would have sat and waved as they took in their 15 seconds of fame, but this guy had it in him to do something so remarkable that it will live on in the minds of the people who witnessed it.

You could have sworn that he was possessed by Jon Bon Jovi himself. And imagine if he was a company/brand—you just couldn’t market the business any better.

By all logic and reason, his dancing was blunt and outrageous, but he danced like no one was watching despite being in a stadium filled with thousands of “sane” people.

I liken those same people to the boring startups we see everyday; the ones who are afraid to stand out and be different for fear of being labeled outlandish.

So, I salute you, Boston Celtics Dancing Man, for reminding us all that being foolish and on the edge is the only way to live life.

“If you want to improve, be content to be thought foolish and stupid.” – Epictetus

Reprinted by permission.

Image credit: CC by amira_a

About the author: Jay Deng

Jay Deng is an angel investor and venture capitalist. He invested in two companies whose exits topped $800 million. He is also the CEO and founder of Diva For Less.

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