David Ogilvy

Lessons Learned From David Ogilvy Still Ring True

David Ogilvy was an advertising legend, the “Father of Advertising,” easily on the Mt. Rushmore of the industry. His life spanned from 1911 to 1999, with his career spanning mostly from 1938-1973.

His books were required reading in business, marketing and advertising classes. His advertising campaigns were iconic. So what does he have to do with marketing now? Let’s take a look at six quotes from David Ogilvy that will help you market your company or product better.

“Start with doing your homework. Study the product. The more you know about the product, the more likely you are to come up with the big idea for selling it.”
Ogilvy spent ten years working at Gallup Research. It was a major influence in his thinking. There he learned that you can’t write copy without knowing who you are writing that copy for, what that person thinks and what that person needs. This still holds true today for more than just copy. You have to do your research to get the complete picture of your customer, your competitors, the market, what’s worked and what hasn’t worked, etc. Research is the component in marketing that helps ensure that your budget isn’t wasted. Research leads to the road map for success.

“Perhaps the most important word in the lexicon of advertising is ‘test’.”
Yep, Ogilvy believed in always testing: testing ideas, headlines, levels of spending, new media combinations, etc. Does this sound familiar now? We see it with A/B testing. We see it with PPC. Don’t be afraid to test different strategies, tactics, spending. Also, don’t be afraid to use more traditional methods, such as direct mail. In an all digital world, sometimes you may find it’s easier to break through the digital clutter with a traditional approach.

“A consumer is not a moron. She’s your wife. Don’t insult her intelligence and don’t shock her.”
Treat your customers with the respect and dignity that they deserve. Your customers are looking to solve a problem. Speak to the problem without speaking down to them. Speak to them with an understanding of their needs.

“On the average, five times as many people read the headline as read the body copy. When you have written your headline, you have spent eighty cents out of your dollar.”
Ogilvy was speaking to headlines in print ads, but they apply just as easily today when it comes to email subject lines or blog post headlines. Simply put, if your email subject line or your blog headline doesn’t engage the customer, then your message–no matter how brilliantly crafted–never reaches its target.

“If it doesn’t sell, it isn’t creative.”
Remember the point of marketing is to sell a product or service to the customers in need of the product or service. If you want people to buy, then they need to see how it will improve their lives or make their work easier. Use the pragmatic marketing approach of looking at the world through your customer’s eyes.

“The more informative your advertising, the more persuasive it will be.”
Always remember the “Why” with your marketing. Why is the product important? Why should they care? Why should they trust you? Why should they buy? As you answer these questions, I must tell you what Ogilvy would tell you, “long copy sells more than short copy,” and that you should be “personal, factual, truthful and interesting.”

These six quotes are just a few examples of David Ogilvy’s timeless wisdom. What worked for Ogilvy in the mid-20th century is still relevant in marketing today. We often think that the world is different now because we live in the digital age, but in reality, the strategies that worked in the past will continue to work. We just have to be smart enough to apply them to our toolkits today.

To hear more great, sage advice from David Ogilvy himself, click here.