What did Don Draper know that we may have forgotten? (Part 1)

Most of you know Don Draper as the iconic, chain smoking, hard driving, client schmoozing ad man on the show “Mad Men.” Being in marketing, I’m always amazed that in every pitch to a client, Don always hinges a million-dollar contract on one or two simple things, such as a tag line or a visual.

In one of his greatest scenes (click here to see the YouTube video), Don is pitching executives from Kodak on a campaign for the new Carousel slide projector. The executive asks, “Have you figured out how to get the wheel into it? We know it’s hard because wheels aren’t seen as exciting technology, even though they are the original.” Don replies, it’s not about the wheel, it’s about nostalgia. “It’s delicate, but potent.” Don proceeds to make a presentation using the Carousel, and at the end the meeting, the Kodak executives are crying and he wins the business.

Don and his team understood emotional involvement. They knew that companies don’t buy things, people do. This is true in B2B as well as B2C. Even if there is a buying committee, a person is the recommender or negotiator. That person what’s to know, what’s in it for me? And, that person wants to feel that he’s part of something important. Don Draper knew that people wanted to wear the same shirts as the man with the eye patch, and smoke the same cigarettes as the cowboy. He knew that emotion is a powerful motivator.

Fast forward to today, and we see a swing to the process side of marketing. When I talk to clients, they ask questions such as, “How do I increase my email open rate?” or “What is the optimum number of keywords to sprinkle in this page?” We tend to forget that there’s a human being on the other end of the line.

In marketing circles, we speak a lot about “engagement” today. Webster defines engagement as “emotional involvement or commitment.” You can’t truly engage people without appealing to their emotions in your content—either in Don Draper’s time, or in ours.

Don Draper’s paradigm was, “I know that 50% of my marketing budget is working, I just don’t know (or care) which 50%.” He just cared what brand of scotch he was drinking. Today’s paradigm for many companies is, “I can measure 100% of my marketing activities, but they are still only 50% effective.” The question is, how can we marry the process and technology today with content that uses emotion to engage buyers?

In Part 2, I’ll explain methods we use to appeal to human emotion to create B2B marketing content that engages and sells to the buyer.

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