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What Mad Men Can Teach Us About Small Business Marketing

Small Business Marketing Training CoursesI’m a huge fan of the Mad Men series on AMC. Not only is the series intriguing in its 1960s time setting, well-written storylines, and well-developed characters, but it also provides a look back at what many consider the golden years of marketing and advertising.

Back in the ‘60s, technology was changing with the advent of TV, so marketers had a number of marketing avenues to choose from in reaching mass markets. TV, radio, print, and direct mail were all common mechanisms used to communicate with the growing middle class of the ‘60s. The advertising infrastructure back in this time supported big corporations that could afford to invest in the broad reach of mass media but, unfortunately, offered very little in the way of small business marketing. It sounds very different from today’s fragmented and highly changing world of marketing, doesn’t it?

Despite the contrast between today’s marketing and that of 50 years ago, there are some universal lessons that transcend time and are more relevant than ever. Here are three things Mad Men can teach us about small business marketing:

  1. Small business marketing starts with an effective integrated marketing strategy and marketing plan. Don Draper, the show’s main character, is a brilliant marketing strategist. He harnesses his target market’s emotions by creating fear, comfort, security, patriotism, or any other feeling likely to trigger a positive perception and purchase of his clients’ products and services. His strategies are based on broad strategies such as these, and his execution of any given advertising and marketing plan revolves around these strategies. In today’s fragmented marketing environment, defining an overall strategy is a critical foundation to ensure that your small business marketing plan delivers effective results across multiple channels that may be separate, but consistent in their messaging.
  1. Go big or go home. Don Draper is a big thinker and isn’t afraid to err on the side of overreaching at times (for example, in one episode, he insists on responding to an airline client’s recent plane crash by evoking patriotism and looking to the future, rather than dwelling on the crash itself or what the airline was doing to improve safety). He understands that a marketer’s job is to create a brand, perception, or demand for products or services that exceeds current reality, so this is a necessary tactic. However, not many marketers are good at this ability to create something big. In a field riddled with novice web-site designers, alleged SEO consultants, and other internet marketing wannabes, there isn’t nearly enough focus on creating a grand vision for parlaying a company’s marketing message to an entirely different level. This “go big” mentality is critical to any small business growth strategy.
  1. Brands are more valuable than ever. Modern marketing channels such as internet marketing and email marketing have become too tactically focused on quantity as a way to see what sticks rather than developing powerful and sustainable brands. When crafting marketing strategies and tactics, it is important that email marketing, internet marketing, direct mail, advertising, and other forms of advertising are focused on building your brand rather than the shotgun approach of most in the field. Good marketing consultants should focus on building your brand rather than obsessing over web-site volume or page links.

While the days of mass media, smoking and drinking in the office, and gender inequality as portrayed in Mad Men may be a thing of the past for most companies, highly effective – but often forgotten – marketing gems lie between these obsolete artifacts. While much of today’s marketing environment is overly focused on the next big thing rather than what delivers results, good small business marketing consultants will help find the right marketing tactics that work for your situation.

Learn more about Luminary’s small business training and consulting services and how we can help your small business grow to the next level.


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