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If It Doesn’t Sell, It Isn’t Creative: 5 Maxims from the Golden Age of Advertising Every Marketer Should Memorize

February 25, 2016
Aaron Polmeer

By Brian Visaggio


The Golden Age of Advertising, that twenty-year spell running through the fifties and sixties, changed how we market everything, pushing beyond merely being clever or descriptive to thinking through how the audience interacts with an ad, and how empirical research can drive its development.

The revolution pioneered by William Bernbach of BBDO and David Ogilvy of Ogilvy-Mather continues to affect how we market, with a much more pervasive presence in our lives than the marketer’s obsession with Mad Men. The lessons learned during that period provided the foundation for everything we do as inbounders.

And, like any good marketer, they enshrined those lessons in quotable, quippy headlines that are easy to remember and fun to say.

“Word of mouth is the best medium of all.” – William Bernbach

The genius behind the Volkswagen “Lemon” campaign laid out one of the core principles behind inbound marketing: that nothing sells as well as word of mouth. Most of the heavy lifting is done by getting your name out there, building your brand by having personality, being engaging and entertaining and, yes, delighting your audience.

That’s something inbound is always trying to achieve: becoming the person or business everyone thinks of first, the one that people talk about and default to, whenever a particular product or service is needed. Bernbach knew that emphasizing creativity, intelligence, and wit would build that positive word of mouth, and could even redeem a product that the public might have already written off.

Look at the Volkswagen campaign; by reclaiming an oft-repeated criticism, he found the opportunity to get people to talk about the car’s quality. And suddenly, everyone was talking about Volkwagen’s industrious little car, building mindshare and driving sales. Pun very very much intended.

This is is something inbound marketers always need to keep in mind. Building word of mouth is ultimately the goal of all inbound marketing, because it drives traffic to a client’s website more effectively than any ad campaign ever could. That’s the end of every inbound campaign: not to make the sale, but to create a brand ambassador who will fill the sales funnel for you.

“If it doesn’t sell, it isn’t creative.” – David Ogilvy

At the same time, creativity isn’t the only measure, and word of mouth that doesn’t translate into sales doesn’t do anybody any good.

As marketers, we’re necessarily creatives. We’re writers and designers with a love for the clever turn of phrase or the well-placed pun. But the most creative, clever, insightful ad in the world, if it isn’t talking to the right people or hitting the right pain points, isn’t worth making.

Ogilvy was the master of the end-game, and he always emphasized that advertising and marketing had a job to do, and that job wasn’t to be funny. He’d be funny if, and only if, that was the best way to sell the product. And sometimes it is! But sometimes it isn’t.

It’s a trap we’ve all fallen into, getting too caught up in …read more

Source:: HubSpot Blog