‘Mad Men’s’ Don Draper on Business and Marketing :: I-Connect007

June 17, 2024

I’ve always said I’m weary of people who claim they don’t eat meat or watch TV. I’m also amazed by what we can learn from TV, especially good shows like the AMC original program “Mad Men.” This series presented a virtual treasure trove of sayings, ideas, tactics, and strategies. I am not ashamed to admit that I often watched this show with pen and notebook in hand, ready to steal some of the literal pearls of wisdom that fell out of Don Draper’s mouth. If you don’t believe me, go back to season one and watch the episode titled “Carousel.” It still blows me away.

 Over the years I have collected a number of Don Draper’s most famous and pertinent quotes about advertising, marketing, and business as a whole. Many of them have become the basis of my thinking when I am working on a new strategy program for one of my clients.

So, for those of you who don’t watch TV—or who cannot get past an episode of “The Bachelor”—here are what I consider to be Don Draper’s greatest pearls of wisdom.

“Advertising is based on one thing: Happiness.”

Yes, we buy based on how the product or service makes us feel. Whether it be the kind of beer we drink or the car we drive, it’s all about how the product makes us feel like.

“Success comes from standing out, not fitting in.”

I love this one. So much genius has been squashed by people trying to fit in. By people not wanting to hurt someone’s feelings, or worse yet, being ostracized because of their ideas.

“Change is neither good nor bad. It simply is.”

Why are we so scared of change? The greatest innovators are those who embrace change. Better still are those who create change. Those are the crazy ones, the ones who think differently as Mr. Jobs has succinctly pointed out.

“You want some respect? Go out there and get it for yourself.”

Don’t wait to be appointed, don’t beg to be published, don’t ask for permission to be innovative. Just do it. Jump in the middle of the ring and get it done right now. Do not let your success depend on someone else.

“If you don’t like what’s being said, change the conversation.”

Another favorite. Who said you have to go along with someone else’s narrative? You know what I’m talking about. When people say things like, “This is the way we have always done it,” “Everybody does it this way,” and “We’re no worse than anyone else.” Don’t listen to any of these BS head-in-the-sand sayings that people make. You don’t have to go along with them. In fact, you should not go along with them. Find ways to change the narrative to be more productive and innovative, especially if you want to be outstanding and make your mark in the world.

“People want to be told what to do so badly that they’ll listen to anyone.”

Just look around and you’ll see how true this is. Whether it’s people claiming that their political opponents eat babies in the back of pizza parlors, believing that the Kardashians actually matter and have something to contribute, or believing some strange cult. People are so desperate to believe in something they will believe in anything.

“The day you sign a client is the day you start losing them.”

In many ways this is true. You have to feel about your client exactly the way you felt when you were selling them. You have to have that kind of fresh and serious consideration. In fact, the way to be successful with a client is to never ever stop selling them. Always act like you could lose them in a flash, and you never will.

“You are the product. You are feeling something.”

No matter what you are selling, you are selling yourself. You are the product. When it comes down to it, people buy from people. They buy because of you and because they trust you.

“What you call ‘love’ was invented by guys like me to sell nylons.”

I love this one. It can be nylons, perfume, or diamonds to his-and-her Ford F-150s for Christmas. Nothing truer has ever been said.

These quotes capture some of the wit, wisdom, and cynicism that defined Don Draper’s character throughout the series. How about you? Do you have your favorites? What do you learn from your TV heroes? If  you don’t have one, get one. Do yourself a big favor and reach for that remote.

It’s only common sense.

Dan Beaulieu is president of D.B. Management Group.



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