3 Modern Marketing Lessons from Don Draper

3 Modern Marketing Lessons from Don Draper


After you peel away the cigarettes, afternoon scotches, and office romances, a lot can be learned from Don Draper and his team of copywriters. Of course, much has changed over the last 50 years, but some of traditional marketing techniques they use on Mad Men still work today.

Here are three modern marketing lessons taken from Mad Men that will help you promote your online store:

1. Evoke an Emotional Response

Showing a little emotion can be a powerful thing. Watch how Don Draper pitches his campaign for the Kodak Carousel. He speaks of the importance of engaging your audience on an emotional level. Even though Draper is pitching a client on an advertising campaign, the principles he mentions work for online store owners as well. Here are two Shopify stores that skillfully evoke an emotional response from their audience by using two very different methods:

  • Chipkos is a very popular footwear company that grew their customer base by making their online store about more than just their products. With every purchase of a pair of Chipkos sandals, they adopt 100 square feet of rain forest on behalf of the customer. People buy their sandals not just because they are great sandals, but because they know they're making a difference in the world. Consider finding a cause you care about, then associate your store, or a specific product with that.
  • Catullo Prime Meats is an online butcher shop that's earned a loyal following by publishing personal content. They make you feel like you're part of the family. The owner, Danny Catullo, brings people into his personal life by uploading how-to cooking videos with his son on YouTube. Check out this video of Danny and his son Antonio cooking chicken wings. Of course the meat and rubbing spice are available for purchase, but it doesn't seem like you're being sold to, does it? This kind of marketing, content, engagement (whatever you want to call it), builds relationships and trust with your audience. Customers and non-customers will begin to like you, and the sales will follow. 

2. Work Within Defined Constraints

Don Draper doesn't have an infinite amount of real estate to sell products. He and his team of copywriters have to work within very defined constraints: limited newspaper, poster and billboard space, and the length of radio and TV ad spots to sell products. He needs to define his target market and decide how to best reach them given those limitations. Often, his messaging needs to be concise. It needs to immediately tell customers why they should invest in a product in as few words as possible.

Too many marketers these days oversell their product to the wrong audience. If you've properly defined your target audience, you don't need to say much to be effective. Avoid unnecessary words. Keep your message concise and get to the point. Don't let your audience get bored with long-winded copy. The shorter the message, the more likely they are to remember it. 

Take Shopify store Tattly as an example: They sell designy temporary tattoos for people that are sick of poorly designed tats. Their messaging is crystal clear on all fronts (site design, social media, blog, about section..etc..). They defined their target market (likely design minded people that are into temporary tattoos) and direct their messaging only to that demographic in as few words as possible.  

3. Strategize Proper Execution

When Don Draper and his team pitch clients, they often have the entire campaign strategized before revealing even a hint of their plans. This means that they've determined when and where their campaign will be showcased months before the public sees it. They don't place ads in a newspaper on an ad hoc basis – everything for the entire campaign is planned out to the letter in advance. You should do the same thing.

When you're starting to promote a new product, or maybe a new online store, start planning as soon as possible. Shopify employee Jesse Storimer recently wrote a book entitled "Working With Unix Processes." During the planning stage he isolated himself in a wilderness retreat - completely away from distractions. Then he set up a "fake" sales page for the book before he'd even written a single word. This page acted as a "sanity check" to see if there was demand for his product. Point is, a great deal of thought and effort was put toward strategizing, which resulted in impressive execution. Jesse expected $1,000 in sales in the first month, and ended up selling $1,000 in the first day. 



  • Paul
    May 27 2013, 02:14PM

    Great analysis. It’s interesting to see how traditional marketing techniques are being reframed for the online world.

  • Tiffany
    February 10 2016, 11:16PM

    Another thing I would add that is important when it comes to marketing is great product and commercial photography. I did not take this seriously at first as a shop owner myself until a fellow e-commerce entrepreneur called me out on it. He referred me to BC-Unlimited which is a global media production agency that focuses on driving sales for e-commerce business owners through their strategized product and commercial photography. Once I worked with them and we came up with a plan to improve the crappy photography of my services (which I had done myself #shame), my sales went up by like 500%! So I’d say don’t underestimate the power of competitive and high-quality product photography.

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