Mad Men returns this week for a fifth season after a 17-month hiatus. Like many marketers I love watching Don Draper in action on the job. On the surface the type of broad based advertising he produces seems very old school – the kind of stuff that filled magazines and TV shows. If you look a little deeper, you see Don instinctively understands what makes content marketing successful. His work always contains elements of storytelling to build an emotional connection with the customer. He tells stories through the one-dimensional ads to get into the hearts and minds of the prospect. Don puts himself in the customer’s shoes and thinks about their desires, motivation and even fears. What drives them, what do they want? What makes Don so successful is that he realizes the client also wants to be told a story about their brand. They want to feel the love, not be pitched.
This all comes together in the quintessential scene when the clients from Kodak ask him to help them sell a seeming mundane piece of equipment – a wheel to show your slides. Don turns a feature – the wheel – into a benefit and renames it the Carousel and ties it to memories and emotion. His dramatic pitch to the client (click here to see, YouTube disabled embedding) is the stuff of advertising and television legend.
Watching this scene you can imagine how easily Don would have seen the future and embraced content marketing and storytelling. For Don, the ads were just the vehicle to get inside the soul of the customer. He would have found great success creating bonds over the interactive platforms we have today. Don sees the same storytelling ability in Peggy, which is why he has taken her under his wing. She has the same innate ability to understand that people don’t really buy products; they buy what it says about them or how it makes them feel. I like to think that somewhere the 70-something Peggy is on Facebook and Twitter and pinning like mad on Pinterest – on her iPad, of course.