Social Media Lessons From Mad Men
Social Media Lessons From Mad Men
Social Media Lessons From Mad Men

In the sixties, when Mad Men ruled, creative content took a long time to produce.  Agencies concepted, polished and pitched. Clients reviewed.  Agencies filmed, edited and delivered.  It took months for print and television ads to see the light of day.

In the age of real time marketing, whether you engage an agency or not, day-to-day you are the agency.  The people you talk to online are the clients.

Every post is a pitch. Every post is a chance to win the hearts of your clients.

Yet, when your Facebook or blog post gets published, it’s just the beginning.  In real time there is only the community manager  to concept and polish your post before it is public.

courtesy infographiclabs via Flickr

We don’t think of social media conversations like an agency pitch to a potential client, but they have a lot in common.  Both show who you are and what you can do for potential customers.  Every tweet, post and video is an opportunity to make a lasting impression on the people who are judging us.  In social media, you are like an agency pitching to thousands or millions of clients … constantly and over a long period of time.

At any moment, the people you are talking to are hearing pitches from your competitors.  Always on, real time marketing means that your clients are deciding whether they want to stick with your “agency” every day.

In the book,  The Art Of The Pitch, much of the guidance offered to agencies when pitching clients could easily apply to social media.  Peter Coughter advises agencies pitching to clients to “give them the gift of you” which is an eloquent and summary of a good social media strategy.

Here are two examples of pitches from Man Men that illustrate the difference between a bad pitch and a good–whether it’s a pitch to to the suits at a major brand or the people in your online community.

What A Bad Pitch Looks Like

In this season’s premiere of Mad Men, Peggy pitches a T.V. ad for baked beans to Heinz executives.  She tells them, “We take advantage of the new micro-photography high speed camera,” to film baked beans that appear to be dancing a ballet.

Then she presents a storyboard as her partner softly hums a tune, where (by the miracle of this new technology), baked beans appear to be dancing a ballet. She ends with the supposedly dramatic tagline “the art (pregnant pause) of supper.”

The pitch does not end well.  The Heinz people tell her, “It’s got no message.”

Don Draper shows up late and apologizes for not getting it right.

Heinz wanted to change the way people feel about baked beans from associating them with the Depression to a cool food for the “Coca Cola kids.” At the end of the pitch the concept had to be explained to them. They didn’t get it.

What Great Pitch Looks Like

Compare this to Don’s pitch to Kodak to sell their new circular projector, they called, ‘The Wheel.”   You can see it in this clip of one of the best the Mad Men episodes.

They were concerned that the technology was not exciting enough.

Don begins his presentation with this line: “Technology is a glittering lure but . . . the public can be engaged with the product beyond flash.”

“While ‘new’ is the most powerful word,” he says, “one must develop a deeper bond with the product.”

He goes on to share a personal story about advice he once received that was meaningful. Don then uses the projector to show poignant slides of his own family over the years, and ends with this: “It’s not called the wheel, “It’s called the carousel.  It lets us travel the way a child travels—around and around and back home again, to a place where we know we are loved.”

When he was done, there was no need for explanation.  You could almost hear hearts pounding in the room.

These lessons taken from the difference between bad and good agency pitches are true of social media as well.

  • Don’t be remote the way Don Draper was for the Heinz account. Put your best people forward in social media.  Make sure the community manager represents your top talent.  Your CEO or CMO can participate too.  If you want to know the kind of heart it takes to be the face of a brand on social media, read this.
  • Get off your high horse.  You are not a corporation talking to “the people.”  You are a person talking to others like you. Peggy was preaching to Heinz. Don was being open and authentic in the Kodak pitch and speaking from the heart. People buy from people.  Success in social media means completely rethinking the corporate mindset.
  • Buying decisions are based on emotion.  You won’t get hearts to pound with every post, but the sum of your conversations must hit an emotional chord before people choose you.
  • It’s not about the technology.  Wordpress, Pinterest, Apps or Facebook provide limits and opportunities.  Don’t lean on the technology to do the work.   It’s a blank page and the creative is up to you.
  • Remember that you are the “creative” talent in your own agency. Put the energy, passion and imagination into your conversations in social media the way an agency puts its efforts into a pitch. Your client list is what’s at stake.

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About the Author

Ilana Rabinowitz
Ilana Rabinowitz is the vice-president for marketing for Lion Brand Yarn and blogs about social media at Marketing Without A Net. Rabinowitz approaches marketing with an uncompromising focus on the customer and a grounding in psychology and neuroscience to understand what motivates people to make buying decisions.  She believes that businesses need to develop their own media as a means of creating a branded experience for customers.  She has spoken at digital marketing conferences including Web 2.0, Blogher Business and Internet Retailer. She is the author of a book about psychology, a book about mindfulness and co-author of a book about the culture of knitting. Follow her on Twitter at @ilana221.
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  • Pitching customer is a great idea. The art of social marketing is all about connecting to your customers. The deeper the bond, the higher your chance of success. It is of prime importance how you connect with them. The best way is to involve the customers with your branding process in social media. And it requires great but consistent effort as building relationship and maintaining them are quite different things. You have to master in both efforts.

  • Ozio Media

    Using social media is about engagement and forming relationships. Marketing people that can do those things will always find an audience for their pitch. Since the public has become comfortable with social networking, they have taught themselves to see past the generic marketing and look for more genuine connections. Pitches that aim at making those personal or emotional connections will be the ones that succeed.

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  • You’re completely correct – being creative and continuously polishing your pitch, and harnessing the creative power of the agency is incredibly important. I own a PR Firm near Chicago and it’s always a constant battle to pitch creatively and think up new ways to get publicity for my clients. Great post.

  • You made several strong points here, and brilliantly contrasted the two pitch examples to underscore your message. In many ways, the “old days” of marketing and advertising were rooted in campaigns as units of measurement. We used campaign waves when we discussed budget and resources as often as when we used campaign waves to talk about impacting business change – then, the efforts were much more episodic. As you suggest, today marketing is much more about steady, sustained growth and relationship-building. Social media can help enable and support a strategy to create better 1:1 with customers, but the cultural philosophy – relentless service-mindedness underscored by empathy – is the cornerstone to actually achieving it.

    •  Heather,
      thanks for your comment and I like that you ended with the idea of empathy.  As businesses we don’t tend to think of our empathy as being part of our job description.  It was always important but now it is critical.

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  • Rhondahurwitz1

    Ilana, you have captured an important truth.  There’s alot of “zombie” social media — going through the motions in a formulaic way, in a grab for eyeballs, but where you can’t feel the real person behind it.  Your way is better … and harder.

    •  Rhonda, the zombie analogy is a good one.  I was just talking to my team and telling them, “if you wouldn’t utter that sentence to someone face to face at a networking event, don’t talk like that on Facebook.”  It really changes the way we communicate to think that we are talking to one person and not an audience.  We just need to remember our humanity during work hours.  That’s probably a good all-round ideas.

  • Great post! I especially appreciate your advice on not “preaching” to your audience but rather appealing to them as a peer. Modern-day marketing is not about telling people what to think. It is about building a relationship and showing them reasons to choose you over the competition.


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