08 November 2010

Marketing Lessons from the Mad Men

I’ve started watching Mad Men. For the uninitiated, the show is based on an agency of the 1960s called Sterling Cooper that was based in Madison Avenue, NY. Though the agency of the ‘60s looks nothing like an agency set-up today, the characters are quite stereotypical – the Creative Director who can do no wrong, the cool Account Executive whose writing skills are the envy of even the copywriters, the managing partner who remains an enigma to the rest of the office... and so on.

The point of this post, however, is not how well an agency of the ‘60s mirrors our agency today but how, even though the show is about the agency community in NY in the ‘60s, it seems to market itself like a 21st century agency. How have they done that? By having a presence that goes beyond the realms of the show itself, and I’m not talking about just the usual “About the show”, IMDb listings or online access to the episodes on their official website.

They have created:
  1. Sterling Cooper’s online portfolio featuring all the work that they present to clients and even doodles that the art directors might have drawn during some of the meetings. Being a collector of ads, I found this thoroughly engaging
  2. Twitter accounts of every character in the show, right from the Creative Director, around whom the show revolves, to his wife’s (or should I say *SPOILER’S ALERT*: ex-wife’s) maid. Every character tweets not as the actors but the characters themselves. Considering that Mad Men has a lot of under-currents in their scenes that go unsaid, the Twitter pages seem to, in a sense, bring the under-currents to the surface and engage viewers in between episodes and especially during the long-breaks in between seasons. Not only that, they even reward the show’s followers.
    How, you ask?
    If you’re a fan of Mad Men, the show, you start following @_Madmen on twitter, and next thing you know you have @_DonDraper (the Creative Director of Sterling Cooper, who women seem to swoon over) starts following you. Fans, especially female ones, get quite the kick when they realize The Don Draper is following them on Twitter. (Believe me, they do...I speak from witnessing the frenzy, first-hand)
This type of marketing isn’t restricted to shows based on advertising agencies alone. How I Met Your Mother, is another one such show that transcends the boundaries of their show by creating a blog authored by one of the characters (Barney Stinson) that enjoys frequent reference to it in the show. Not only that, books written by Barney Stinson can be bought at bookstores in the US and even ordered through amazon or flipkart.com.

The number of shows and movies that live beyond the realms of their celluloid selves are numerous. But, what are the lessons that we as marketers could possibly learn from them. Here are a few I could think of. Feel free to add or correct me if I’m wrong:
  1. Create a continuous presence that goes beyond the realms of your product or service
    Whether it’s Barney’s blog posts that feed into the next episode of HIMYM or @_DonDraper following you on Twitter, each of the shows have built a presence that engages viewers and has a conversation with them beyond the realms of the 30-minute or 45-minute show. The more brands start having such a conversation with their consumers, the more loyal consumers it can build
  2. Create sticky properties or personalities
    Properties such as JK Rowling’s “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them” or Barney’s “The Bro Code” (books that are featured in the books or shows) are properties that tell us more about the show or book. JKR’s “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them” even has doodles that Harry and Ron have allegedly drawn in class. These properties were not even advertised as separate products.
    If the property or personality is sticky enough, your brand’s uber-loyalists will discover it themselves (with a bit of some smart search engine optimization) and spread its existence to those who aren’t as involved with the brand. As we all know, WOM is a far more authentic form of advertisement than a takeover of city landmarks or roping in celebrity endorsers
I know from experience that imparting such knowledge is easier than actually putting them into practice, but that doesn't stop me from making such observations.

How many other lessons did I miss out on?


  1. Another example is Castle. A show about a author who along with a NYPD detective solves murders. His teaming up with her is to write books and under his character name a book has been released.

  2. @Ravi: I guess examples for such shows and movies are aplenty. Seems like I've merely scratched the surface... Even Heroes has comics that are published on their website in between episodes as a filler in-between episodes.

  3. This is interesting that you've find something good on the things that you were watching... Well media got a lot of effects for everyday life.

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