Series Mad Men is renowned for its “sixties” atmosphere, the impeccable wardrobe of its protagonists, and its offices where you can do anything (drink, smoke, copulate, and even play with a lawn mower). As a Facebook advertising fanatic (I just posted a training on the subject that I invite you to discover – it’s free this week), my daily life at the office is not as glamorous as that of the employees of Sterling cooper. But beyond appearances, Mad Men represents above all a meticulous dissection of human psychology…

So when his main character, the genius publicist Don Draper, talks about what sells, we listen … and we learn.

Training & Co'm

1. Sell by emotions


“Advertising is based on one thing, happiness” – Tweet this quote

We all want to believe that we are rational actors, but our final decisions are most often guided by our emotions:

  • A canned soup is not sold on its nutritional qualities, but on the idea of ​​family communion;
  • A slide projector is not sold on its technical prowess, but on the desire to preserve and share memories;
  • Software is not sold on its functionality, but on the frustration it replaces.

Example: Airbnb

Let’s look at the home page of the Airbnb rental site:

Seasonal rentals houses apartments and bed and breakfast for rent Airbnb

There are many arguments in favor of Airbnb:

  • More choice than on other sites;
  • Cheaper than the hotel;
  • Better located housing;
  • More details and photos on your rental.

These arguments are excellent. And yet, Airbnb decides to highlight a much more intangible benefit: “You will feel like you are at home”.

The choice is perfectly strategic: if you want to convince, appeal to reason. If you want to sell, appeal to the emotions.

2. Accept that nothing is permanent


“Change is neither bad nor good. It is, quite simply “- Tweet this quote

Despite the regular announcements that “the world is changing faster and faster” (which undoubtedly has some truth), we must not forget that change is inevitable. It is an uncomfortable reality – one that we accept intellectually, but itchy emotionally.

And the inevitability of change is all the more disturbing when we are in a position of strength:

“Even if the success is very real, its effects are temporary” – Tweet this quote

The lesson Don Draper teaches us is that we have to accept that the marketing campaign that works today will lose its effectiveness.

Nowadays, this idea is taken up by the analytical side of marketing: the measurement of conversions, split-tests, and the idea that nothing is ever taken for granted. (If you want to know more about the subject, I recommend the A / B Test Guide).

3. Talk to your target customer


“When a man enters a room, he comes with all of his experiences. He has millions of reasons for being where he is. You just have to ask him. “- Tweet this quote

Don Draper is an old-fashioned market research practitioner: talking to his client and understanding his motivation. Throughout the series, we see him resisting the growing trends in the 1960s towards sophisticated research reports and “focus groups”.

This dialogue illustrates his distrust of those who prefer to theorize than to speak to their market:

Dr. Greta Guttman: When I was studying with Elder in Vienna before the war, we postulated that what Freud called the “death drive” was as powerful as our desire for reproduction or survival.

Don Draper: Freud, you say? Which agency is he at?

Nowadays, the urge to hide behind our screens is always more tempting. Remember that Google Analytics, your Keyword Tools and your surveys are only part of the puzzle. If you really want to understand your client, you have to meet them.

4. Give meaning to your product

d6faa805b29d6c4f_d0ccd3a9-0aee-2b49-31c4-f48104c80eba_MM_704_JM_1213_0473 ) -31c4-f48104c80eba_MM_704_JM_1213_0473.png 600w, / wp-content / uploads / 2015/11 / d6faa805b29d6c4f_d0ccd3a9-0aee-2b49-31c4-f48104c80eba_MM_704_JM_1213_0473-450×300.png 450w “sizes =” (max-width 500p: 500x”/>

This is one of the most famous quotes in the series. Here it is in full:

“The reason you have never known love is that it does not exist. What you call love was invented by guys like me to sell tights. You are born alone and you die alone, and the world is trying to make you forget this fact by imposing a package of rules on you. But I never forget. I live as if tomorrow does not exist, because it does not exist. “- Tweet this quote

Most people interpret this passage by saying that Don Draper is a cynic who believes in nothing and manipulates others to achieve his ends. But the message is deeper: Don Draper believes the world has no meaning and therefore it’s her role to create meaning.

Whether or not you agree with the initial idea (does love exist beyond our imagination?) Does not matter: a good marketer can give meaning to his product by connecting it to the values ​​of his client.

Example: Slack

Slack allows you to communicate with your teammates at work: features that are not a priori more exciting than any email client.

And yet, this is what the site’s home page looks like:

slack home screenshot March

The Slack marketing team took a purely functional product (“Office Instant Messaging”) and associated it with important values ​​for their target market (“Enabling your team to exceed the limits”). Draper would have had no complaints.

5. Create a category

The first episode of the series announces the color.
The first episode of the series announces the color.

Where does the title of the series come from Mad Men ? According to the pilot episode, the term “Mad Men” was coined … by the advertisers themselves!

“MAD MEN: Term coined at the end of the 1950s to describe advertisers occupying offices on Madison Avenue. They are the ones who invented it. “

It should come as no surprise that advertisers have felt the importance of taking control of their brand.

In this case, the term “Mad Men” has the advantage of being memorable, alliterative (double “M”), evocative (“Ad men” = advertising), provocative (“Mad” = crazy), and exclusive ( only Madison Avenue agencies can claim the designation).

6. You’re not going to win every time


You never win every time: everyone knows it, but not everyone draws the same consequences. Most people conclude that you have to be careful and avoid taking too many risks.

Don Draper has another approach: he has an extraordinary ability to bounce back from his failures. As a result, he is willing to take risks as long as he has a chance to learn something useful.

On the Internet, it is often training on the subject:

You can spend hours reading articles hoping to find the final answer … but you’ll never get it right the first time.

Fortunately, it doesn’t matter: when you’ve accepted the probability of failure, you can simply test different methods and find out for yourself what works.

Example: The AHT Loop

For example, suppose you want to start a profitable Facebook advertising campaign. A reasonable marketer begins by doing his research to determine the best strategy, then carefully prepares his campaign.

But despite all of these efforts, the campaign will likely fail. Why ? Because almost no campaign is profitable the first time!

A better approach is to accept that the campaign will be flawed at first, but may gradually improve.

all versions compared

This screenshot represents 4 successive versions of a Facebook advertising campaign. The thing to remember is that version 1 generates conversions 64% more expensive than version 4.

Including the volume improvement, version 4 generates 8,500% (no, it’s not a typo) of version 1’s profits. (If Facebook advertising interests you, you can go and read the study by complete case). It’s the power of not expecting to succeed the first time around: it would have been easy to declare the campaign losing after the first version.

This process, which creates successive versions of an advertising campaign, is called the AHT Loop (for Analysis-Hypothesis-Test). It was originally developed to apply to Facebook advertising, but it can be generalized to any digital marketing activity. This is a good example of what becomes possible when you are ready to fail every time.


Few series can teach you a real business lesson. Mad Men is one of the few pearls that take the time and nuance to confront the real challenges of a marketing career. Don Draper stands at the crossroads of creativity, market mechanisms and human psychology.

Who says watching shows is (always) a waste of time?