I write everyday. At present, I am working on a book under contract, finishing revisions for a publishing agreement on my next book, and working on a collaboration document involving a company for yet a third book. So put simply, I write.
Unfortunately, all too few writers will ever be able to write as effectively as David Ogilvy. Ogilvy used words to sell. He was a craftsmen who demonstrated that the written and spoken word must stir emotions in order for people to get up out of their chairs and go shopping. He believed it was less about the “what” and more about the “why” that turned people into customers.
Today consumers have become more protective of their hard earned dollars and advertising messages deluge us, but Ogilvy’s simple truths about creating experiences through marketing materials seem timeless.
As you probably know, David Ogilvy founded the mighty advertising firm Ogilvy and Mather from a small office on Madison Avenue in 1949. His gifts and genius were found largely in his ability to write advertising copy that drew customers into stores. Some estimates suggest that an Ogilvy ad could sell 19 times the product of a similarly placed advertisement. In addition to writing those unusually compelling ads and building an advertising empire, David Ogilvy wrote several books about his craft including Confessions of an Advertising Man and the classic Ogilvy on Advertising. In the latter work, David Ogilvy wrote “When I write an advertisement, I don’t want you to tell me that you find it ‘creative’. I want you to find it so interesting that you buy the product.” To reinforce this point Ogilvy used the example of two historic leaders, one an orator who was known for how well he spoke and another who when he spoke was known for leading men into action. For Ogilvy, the goal of communication was not eloquence or creativity but the ability to make an emotional connection that prompts people to act. Here are some of Ogilvy’s thoughts that might prompt you to look at the way you craft your brand and create experiences through marketing.
“The wrong advertising can actually reduce the sales of a product. I am told that George Hay Brown, at one time head of marketing research at Ford, inserted advertisements in every other copy of Readers Digest. At the end of the year, the people who did not get the advertising bought more Fords than people who had.”
“You don’t stand a tinker’s chance of producing successful advertising unless you start by doing your homework…When I was asked to do the advertising for Good Luck margarine, I was under the impression that margarine was made from coal. But ten day’s reading enabled me to write a factual advertisement that worked.”
“Consider how you want to ‘position’ your product. The curious verb ‘position’ is in great favor with marketing experts, but no two of them agree on what it means. My own definition is ‘what the product does, and who it is for.’ I could have positioned Dove as a detergent bar for men with dirty hands but chose to position it as a toilet bar for women with dry skin. This is still working more than 25 years later… To advertise a car that looked like an orthopedic boot would have defeated me. But Bull Bernbach and his merry men positioned Volkswagen as a protest against the vulgarity of Detroit cars in those days, thereby making the Beetle a cult among those Americans who eschew conspicuous consumption.”
While I could go on and on with examples from the late David Ogilvy, I will turn his wisdom into challenges for you.
Is some messaging better than no messaging for your brand? What if the “some” is the wrong message?
How much homework did you do before you sought to connect with your customers? How much time did you spend studying your
customer and analyzing the the nuances of your product offerings?
Finally, how well have you positioned your product with consumers? What does your product do and who is it best suited for?
Can you stir up the emotions of consumers – even to the point of taking “a product that looks like an orthopedic boot” and sell it
to people who “eschew conspicuous consumption?”
Ogilvy was a one of a kind, straight-talking, authentic, research driven writer who connected with his audience with lines as simple as “Dove is good for your skin.”
If only I could write like that!
Joseph A. Michelli, Ph.D. is a professional speaker and chief experience officer at The Michelli Experience. A New York Times #1 bestselling author, Dr. Michelli and his team consult with some of the world’s best customer experience companies.
Follow on Twitter: @josephmichelli
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