David Ogilvy's 5 Best Lessons
May 03.2013
Archived under: Branding 

Transform your branding & communications.

The original Mad Man, David Ogilvy has left an endearing legacy of advertising smarts that are still every bit as applicable today as they ever were.

From Rolls-Royce to Dove to Schweppes and Shell, David Ogilvy acquired the largest clients in the world and worked his marketing magic. He revolutionized the way companies communicated their brands to their audiences. We look back on some valuable lessons that can help shape your marketing and communication strategy, as taught by the father of modern advertising himself.

Innovation trumps education.

You don’t necessarily need to be trained in your chosen field of work to excel in it. Ogilvy was expelled from prestigious Oxford, but by the time The Ogilvy Group was bought out by WPP in 1989, it was worth $864 million. Not bad for a firm created by a founder with no marketing degree.

The lesson? To quote Ogilvy, always have and pursue a “BIG IDEA”.

Get specific.

All the SEO keywords or industry buzzwords in the world won’t necessarily convert a lead into a customer. But rather creating insightful, educational copy and aiming it a target audience is a more successful approach. Said Ogilvy, “The more informative your advertising, the more persuasive it will be.”

The lesson: Pack your copy with stats & facts.

Do your research.

Ogilvy famously declared, “You don’t stand a tinker’s chance of producing successful advertising unless you start by doing your homework“.In recovered correspondence, he once admitted to writing as many as 20 drafts of a headline for any one product, and spending copious amounts of time pouring over competitor advertisements that had appeared over the past 20 years.

The lesson? Know your audience, know your product, know your market and your competition.

Image is key.

Ogilvy thoroughly developed the concept of a brand image, calling it “complex”, and spending countless hours finding ways to develop the notion. Today, the importance of having a well thought out image for your brand is just as important. During the creative process, Ogilvy explained: “You now have to decide what ‘image’ you want for your brand. Image means personality. Products, like people, have personalities, and they can make or break them in the market place.”

The lesson? Don’t skimp on creativity. Find your brand’s personality, and develop it.

Be truthful.

Going back to our notes on candor (link to the other blog), lacking it within your advertising will irk would-be consumers and disenfranchise investors. Ogilvy said it best: "Never write an advertisement which you wouldn't want your family to read. You wouldn't tell lies to your own wife. Don't tell them to mine."

The lesson? Be clear, honest and informative with your copy and the results will follow.