3 Content Marketing Lessons We Can Learn From Mad Men

Djs Madmen Post
September 29, 2016

At its core, Mad Men is an exhilarating glimpse into the decadent and energetic world of advertising agencies in 1960s New York City. It’s difficult not to fall in love with the hustle and bustle of the ultra-competitive advertising industry as Don Draper swaggers through meetings with a cigarette hanging from his mouth, wooing executives with his brilliant marketing ideas.

But apart from the excessive smoking, drinking, and the casual misogyny, the core principles of marketing in Mad Men aren’t very much different from those of modern digital marketing. In fact, a lot of Don Draper’s advertising mantras are still relevant and applicable to content marketing today.

Let’s take a look at three important content marketing lessons we can learn from AMC’s hit show.


1) Great marketing = great storytelling

How does one create a compelling and memorable ad for a common everyday household product? That’s probably the question Don was wrestling with as he came up with the ad for a floor cleaning chemical.

Don’s TV commercial for Johnson’s Glo-Coat floor wax showcases one of the most creative uses of storytelling seen on the show. The spot opens like a spaghetti Western movie, complete with signature guitar twangs of the Wild West — until it reveals in a stunning twist that the lonely cowboy in the room is just a little boy who’s trapped under the kitchen table waiting for the floor to dry.

If anything, Don is an amazing advertising exec because he is a master storyteller. He has the ability to spin the most mundane product with an intriguing narrative that grabs the viewer’s attention while highlighting the appeal of the product.

And that same principle applies to content marketing today: Whether it’s a blog post, a short video or an infographic, a great piece of content tells a visual story that intrigues the audience. In fact, research shows that 92% of consumers favor brand ads that feel like a story.

The good news is that TV is no longer the only channel of distribution for marketing content with great stories to tell. National Geographic’s Instagram account is a stunning album of photos from contributors all over the world. The New York Times’ Snapchat Stories give a casual behind-the-scenes feel to news presentation. Squatty Potty’s hilarious YouTube ad — which has racked up millions of views — is just one example of brands flocking to the video sharing platform to promote their products.

The resources and demand are there — it’s just a matter of finding out if storytelling is the right tool for your product.


2) Know your customers

There’s a simple reason why Don is one of the best marketers in Mad Men: he has the uncanny ability to analyze and understand the needs and wants of his client’s customers.

Whether they are Lucky Strike smokers or Jaguar drivers, Don has an impressive understanding of their demographics, spending habits and general preferences.

This is perhaps the most important lesson not just for content marketing, but also for marketing and advertising in general.

Creative content doesn’t simply come out of some magical whim — it’s a result of thorough research and understanding of your audience. And understanding your audience will allow you to craft and distribute content in a way that addresses the specific needs and wants for your product.

Now, in this digital era, it’s never been easier to obtain and analyze extensive and comprehensive data on consumers. Tools such as Google Analytics and SEMRush have streamlined this process, which includes conducting keyword research, assessing visitor analytics, referencing buyer personas and more.

Keyword research indicates what the potential customers are actually looking for on the internet. If you can figure out what people are searching for, you can figure out how to market the product.

Visitor analytics shows you who is looking and how they are interacting with your product. Bounce rates, CTRs, and conversion rates are just a few of the metrics that give you an insight into customer behavior.

A buyer persona is a great tool of reference that allows you to visualize the individual customer. Again, this is all analytics based on hard data — their average age, income, location, desires, problems, spending habits and more, all wrapped into a single profile. Learn more about creating buyer personas here.

Great marketing isn’t simple guesswork; hard data should be the backbone of any content marketing efforts. Just imagine what Don Draper could do if he had Google Analytics.


3) Teamwork is everything

Even though Don seems like the lone wolf who plows through the difficult requests from his clients by himself, he’s in fact surrounded by an army of characters who support him and even guide him through difficult situations.

From the budding copywriter Peggy Olson to the insufferable account executive Pete Campbell to the fierce office manager Joan Harris, everyone on Don’s team contributes to the company’s growth.

A great marketer must realize that marketing is a huge machine with individual cogs that must work together perfectly in order to operate properly. A single marketing effort includes everything from advertising to branding to design to packaging to sales to promotions, all executed by a team of copywriters, designers, analysts, marketers, and salespeople.

Close collaboration between sales and marketing — perhaps the biggest rivalry within advertising — can result in more leads. Similarly, the content team has to work closely with analysts in order to create and package content that fits the right demographics through the right channels.

Dons of the world do not run content marketing efforts single-handedly — marketing is a collective effort that requires a close understanding of the audience and the product on every level.


It’s all about the audience

So there you have it, three marketing lessons you can learn from Mad Men. A common thread in this list of lessons is one immutable fact in marketing: the customer is always king.

This is most evident in content marketing, where everything depends on how well you interpret the needs and wants of the customer. With no accurate analysis, there can be no great content or effective distribution.

As the great Don says, “Advertising is based on one thing: happiness.” It’s the marketing team’s job to deliver that happiness, which belongs to the customer. With hard analytics, creative content, and teamwork, great content marketing will achieve that goal.


Have any of your own insights into how Don Draper would fit into the modern content marketing world? We’d love to hear them. Tweet us at @Perfect_Search!

Psst. If you’ve never seen Mad Men, don’t worry. The entire series is on Netflix. Go forth and binge. 

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