7 Small Business Marketing Tips Inspired by Mad Men

A photo collage of a vintage camera, television, typewriter and a radio

I don’t make time to watch television because I get too impatient with the commercials. I find myself analyzing them to figure out how they were made, and why. I pick apart the copywriting, and silently critique the camera angles. It feels like work!

brand marketing tips taken from the hit TV show Mad Men

But this time of year, once a week, I reserve time for Mad Men. The AMC channel’s Emmy award-winning drama series is well written and beautifully filmed. The characters are engaging and believable, and many of them can teach us something. Read on for small business marketing advice you can glean from Mad Men’s colorful cast.

Be relentless like Don Draper

brand marketing with Don Draper's relentlessnessI’m not suggesting you relentlessly pursue the opposite sex, if that’s what you were thinking.

Don Draper’s life began inauspiciously. He was the son of a prostitute who died in childbirth, and his childhood and young adult years were difficult.

Despite this, he has managed to carve a career out for himself. He talked himself into a job at an advertising agency where he quickly became creative director and one of the most powerful players on Madison Avenue.

When it comes to marketing your business, be relentless like Don. Keep at it both when you aren’t seeing results and when business is good. Relentless, consistent marketing efforts are the only kind that really work. Give it all you’ve got.

Get mad like Betty Francis

brand marketing with Betty Francis' powerful attitudeBetty Francis, Don’s ex-wife, puts up with his elusive manner and philandering ways for years. Finally, she breaks and asks for a divorce.

What are you putting up with in your business that it’s time to get mad about?

Lackluster sales? A schedule that is wearing you down? A product or service that needs updating?

Get mad enough to do something about it.
Work on promotions that will boost sales. Reconfigure your work schedule so you can enjoy your life. Spend some time thinking through how you can meet the needs of your target market with your products.

Start by getting mad enough about whatever is not right, then make a break and change your business.

Be fearless like Peggy

brand marketing with Peggy Olson's fearlessnessPeggy Olson is a female copywriter in an agency that is dominated by men, building a career at a time when women were just beginning to come into power in the workforce.

Despite being told time and again that her contributions don’t matter and her work isn’t valued, she has a powerful inner confidence that sees her through. It inspires her to ask for a job as a copywriter, and to demand her own office and a raise.

Ask for the sale from a position of inner confidence in the quality of your product or service. Make your call to action fearlessly, like Peggy.

Step up like Pete

brand marketing with Pete Campbell's commanding naturePete Campbell is a jerk. He struts around like a peacock, and defends his territory like a lion.

But when his wife announces she’s expecting their first child, his actions take on new purpose, and he is able to secure a major account for the agency.

When the chips were down, Pete stepped up.

What can you do to step up to the challenges your small business presents? How can you meet them with a steady gaze and sense of purpose?

Emphasize your assets like Joan

brand marketing with Joan Harris' no-nonsense attitudeJoan Harris is the curvy agency office manager. She may not posses Peggy’s copywriting skills, or wield the power of the agency’s partners, but she is the glue that holds everything together.

How does she do it?

When everyone else is in a panic, Joan struts in with her charms, and figures out a solution. Her cool demeanor makes everything work smoothly. She implements systems, assigns tasks, and accepts no slackers.

What systems can you implement to make your small business marketing work better?
Are you slacking off in some area that you need to whip into shape?

Just don’t panic about it. Joan doesn’t “do” panic, and neither should you. Keep a cool head, implement a solution, smile, wink, rinse and repeat.

Be eloquent like Lane

brand marketing with Lane Pryce's eloquenceLane Pryce is a Londoner who ends up as a partner at the agency. He is the voice of reason among the hot-headed partners, and his eloquent — and dry — delivery helps cool down explosive situations.

When your marketing efforts are lagging, try looking at how you’re delivering them. Solid copywriting and elegant, polished graphics will go a long way to convince your target market that your products or services are worthwhile.

Unflappable consistency is Lane’s approach, and your marketing will benefit if you make it yours, too.

Confront your problems like Freddy

brand marketing with Freddy Rumsen's ability to confront problemsFreddy Rumsen has to take a leave of absence from the agency to confront his alcohol addiction, which starts to affect his work. He returns this season as an active member of Alcoholics Anonymous, and with a new — and healthier — outlook.

Your small business may have its problems. All businesses do. The only way to solve them, though, is to confront them.

Confront your business problems, and reach out to the resources you have available. Gather information, get support and make a fresh start.

How about you? Do you find inspiration in any of these characters? Leave a comment and tell me about it. And click the Share This button below to share this post on Facebook, Twitter, StumbleUpon and more in one easy step.

Pamela Wilson

Pamela Wilson

Pamela Wilson coaches people to build profitable online businesses. She's an online educator, author, and keynote speaker. Read reviews of the tools used to run this site and business. Have you taken the free Focus Finder quiz yet?

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16 thoughts on “7 Small Business Marketing Tips Inspired by Mad Men”

  1. Excellent job on this Pamela. Lots of good advice in there. It’s funny how you can learn lessons from the most unlikely places.

    • I’d be proud to be responsible for a new addiction, Sarah. Let me know what you think when you’ve had a chance to watch!

      It’s definitely a series you want to see from the start. The way they grow the characters is really interesting.

  2. Great post, Pamela! I love the way you found something to admire about these characters:-) Another lesson I’ve learned from MM is how to sleep at work all day…hmmmm, maybe that’s not such an admirable thing!

    Keep it up!

  3. Hi Pamela,
    I must admit, I wouldn’t miss an episode of MM…even though I find none of the characters very likeable. I would never have thought to apply their techniques to my business. Great post…

  4. I read this post a few times. It’s REALLY good.

    Peggy is my hero. I’ve confronted a ton of steretypes in my life and kept pushing forward. Her grit inspires me to keep at it. In many ways, this is the same guts required to be a successful blogger.

    Thanks for smart moment of reflection.

    • Thanks, Stanford! Glad to see your site is up again. “Somebody” tweeted you this morning and you had a rush of traffic, eh? 😉

      I love Peggy, too. Her character has been one of the most interesting to watch in terms of her grit, but also her evolution. Thanks for stopping by!

  5. Good article. A few nitpicks:

    “Peggy Olson is a female copywriter in an agency that is dominated by men, building a career at a time when women were just beginning to come into power in the workforce.”

    Peggy was in a WORLD dominated by men, building a career at a time when most women were totally confined to the jobs of secretary, billing clerk/bookkeeper, nurse, teacher, stewardESS, and cleaning lady. Not much more, not for any reason. N.O.W. wasn’t even formed until 1968 or so, and it very started small. The gains for women in the workforce — the kind that your depiction refers to — didn’t really get going until well into the 70s.

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