I derive much professional pleasure from watching AMC’s Mad Men.
If you don’t watch the show (and OMG you should, it’s brilliant), Mad Men is about the people who work at a fictitious Madison Avenue ad agency in the 1960′s. Having worked in the ’80′s version of this male-dominated creative environment I totally relate to crap women had to endure; and like Peggy Olsen, I rose from the secretarial pool with fiery ambition.
A recent episode once again struck home for me how smart Mad Men is when it touches on branding. At a meeting with Jaguar, the client suggested the agency take out local radio spots to drive foot traffic to the dealerships, a request that made our “hero” Don cringe. The client thought the idea brilliant, but Don knew better.
Rather than tell the guy that local radio would cheapen Jaguar’s elite, brand image, Don said Sure! The ads can talk about how everyone can buy a Jaguar for their driveway. How affordable they are. How all your neighbors are buying one and so should you.
Would local radio have sold more Jags? Yes, it would. But selling morel Jags in the short term would damage Jag’s brand image in the long term. People buy luxury cars in part because they can and their neighbors can’t. They certainly didn’t buy the 1960′s Jaguar for its dependability, as the show proved last season when the car failed during one character’s attempt to commit suicide by asphyxiation.
Here’s another example that’s closer to home. A client of mine owns an upscale men’s clothing store specializing in custom suits. We’re talking $6000 suits. When he and I first spoke, he ran down his calendar of annual sales events. Whoa! I asked why he would sell his custom suits at a discount so frequently, when the men who buy them enjoy knowing that they can afford to pay $6000 for these exquisite garments. Rather than compete with the low-end Joseph A. Bank down the street, I recommended he hold just a few sales events each year. The result: overall sales climbed, and his brand image grew stronger.
The lesson is this: every last scrap of marketing you do must remain faithful to your brand promise and brand image. With each new campaign, social media post or sales presentation you have to gauge whether you’re helping or hurting; or just plain confusing your audience.
Brands, like Don Draper’s Canadian Club, are meant to be consumed straight, not diluted.