The Lessons We Learned from Mad Men That We Won’t Forget

Posted by: Leah Swartz

(Spoiler Alert)

If you are anything like me, you tuned in Sunday night to say a final goodbye to Don, Peggy, Joan, Roger and Betty. For the past seven and a half years we have experienced the mad men era of advertising first hand. From cigarettes, to pantyhose, to fast food, to Lincoln motors, we watched how advertising evolved from black and white print ads in the 1960s to the one of the most iconic ads ever made for Coca Cola in 1971 (Did Don go back to McCann to make the advertisement? Did he start his own firm? Did he turn back into the Draper we all love and hate? We’ll never know).

6845148294_f2a68998c9_zWhen I started watching Mad Men, I had no idea I would end up in advertising and marketing. However, throughout college and now in my professional career, Mad Men has proven to be far more than just a great show to watch on Sunday nights but also a teacher of sorts. The sixties era drama has shed light on how to make it in this business and what brands should be doing to connect with their consumers.

  1. Find your why

It took seven years for Don to figure out his “why” and it takes some brands even longer. Reimagining a brand strategy from the inside out takes time but pays off big. Ball Jar is an iconic brand that has always been associated with old ladies and canning. When sales started to decrease, the brand took a step back and thought about what its why really is. Now, instead of focusing on just canning the brand has established an editorial authority around DIY, sharing and the maker community.

  1. Embrace change

The Mad Men crew is the perfect example of how quickly things can change. One day you have a client, the next day you don’t. One day you own your own business, the next day you don’t. One day you’re on top, the next day you’re not. Running away from change will be your downfall. Embracing barriers and facing obstacles head on will only make you stronger and your brand stronger. Constant innovation is the key to success. Brands that remain stagnant for too long can guarantee that they will not hold on to millennial Brand Love®.

  1. Use nostalgia to connect with consumers

One of the most remembered episodes of Mad Men was The Wheel, when Don presented the idea of nostalgia to Kodak. Don explained, “Nostalgia: it’s delicate, but potent.” Connecting with consumers in a nostalgic way is crucial to win over brand loyalty. However, we cannot rely on nostalgia alone. The key becomes integrating past memories with the present to create future interactions and experiences with a brand.

  1. Your customer is not always right

We know that your customers may think they are always right, but we know the truth – more often than not, you are nodding along with what they are saying only to think of another way to present your current idea in the next meeting. Sometimes brands get bogged down in what they think they know about their customers rather than taking the time to explore the things they don’t know. Like Don, it is your job to pull out the truth and enlighten brands about what a new generation of consumers want.

  1. Drink your liquor straight

Unlike Don, it is important to be transparent and honest – especially in your marketing strategies. Don’t water down who you are with fluff – millennials will see right through that. This is a generation that wants to connect with brands on a personal level and see what goes on behind the scenes.

Even though Mad Men is over, the lessons it taught us will live on. Advertising is a constantly changing game and in order to keep up, brands and stakeholders alike must be able to roll with the punches, embrace change, and never stop reimagining who they are.

Photo via Flickr: Christina Saint Marche

About Leah Swartz

Leah worked on the FutureCast team as a Senior Content Specialist. Her articles about Millennial trends and engagement tactics have been featured in PSFK, Forbes, The New York Times, American Business Journals and more. She...See Leah's full bio.

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