Mad Men Marketing Lessons: Speaking in their language – the secret of effective message development

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    Effective Marketing Messages
    In a season 2 Mad Med episode, Don Draper decides to send two staffers to a West coast aerospace conference, an account executive and a copywriter. He tells the copywriter, “I am sending Campbell (the account exec) to do the talking. I’m sending you to listen.”

    Among the many memorable quotes from Mad Men that marketers can take away as sage advice, this is one of my favorites. the reason is that it gets to the heart of marketing (and selling too, if truth be told). In order to both identify the need of a market and to understand how they think about it and talk about it, you need to listen to them explain it in their own words.

    Too often, companies are in love with their product and the cool features they have built to solve a problem. they love their elegant use of standards or cutting edge technology. they describe their products in terms that use the language of their industry. It makes them feel smart and they think it makes their products seem, therefore, to be the best.

    They will also fall prey to the classic marketing trap of thinking of themselves as the market. They say, “if I describe this in terms of how I think about this, everyone will understand.” [In Mad Men, some of the less talented copywriters don’t even do that. they just assume others are the market and assume they know how they think.]

    But the best marketers are great listeners. they don’t assume they know the market. they listen to what the market wants. They don’t describe a product in their own words. They use the words used by their targets or early customers to describe their problem and that solution. Even effective market research heeds this. In one of my earliest jobs, in market research, we would always run an open ended survey (endlessly coding the free form responses) to get the best way to describe things before writing the closed ended version in the language of the targets. This lesson stuck with me through my career.

    The message development came from listening, not from talking/writing.

    Apparently Don Draper knew that too…one of the many reasons we marketers love the show.

    Photo Credit AMC

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