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Don Draper on the Mad World of Internet Marketing

By Bethany Bloise

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During a recent meeting with a client, our marketing team was asked a very interesting question: “If Don Draper were here today, would he be telling us to do Internet marketing?”

Despite the fact that Don Draper is a fictional character in AMC’s hit television series, Mad Men, which is set in the 60’s and features an agency (much larger than ours) on Madison Avenue, I think if Don were an Imagebox employee, he would be right on board with our strategy.

Here are three examples of how a real-life, present-day Don Draper would fit in with our Internet marketing team:


“Why I’m quitting Tobacco.”

Whether it be social media posts or blog titles, we strive to make our headlines as eye-catching as possible so that people will click and read our content. A great headline poses some kind of a question to the reader that they must have the answer to, or it promises to provide some secret details they can have if only they click the link! And, of course, you need to fulfill the promise you make in your headline and write great content. In order to get a great response from your headlines, you have to understand what will interest your audience and where they go to seek out information.

Take a look at the killer headline Don used in a memo after the loss of his agency’s biggest client, Lucky Strike Cigarettes:

Why I'm Quitting Tobacco

Today, that’s still compelling enough that I would click this, if it were a blog headline. In the 60’s, smoking was just starting to be seen as unhealthy, and Don knew how much attention this letter was bound to get when he published it in The New York Times. Consequently, his agency won the attention of a new client, The American Cancer Foundation.


“Success comes from standing out, not fitting in.”

One point of Internet marketing for small businesses is to give them a chance to stand out online just as much as a much bigger company, which, as Don says, is the key to success. In addition to keeping ahead of the latest trends in marketing technology and choosing the right channels for publishing your content, emphasizing your business’s unique selling points is what really makes you stand out.

Even the most painfully obvious selling points of your business are worth sharing with your audience. Don suggests using “They’re toasted” as a tag line for Lucky Strike. The client responded that, of course they are – all cigarettes are toasted, even the competition’s cigarettes. However, if you claim something before your competition does, it positions you above the competition, as Don says: “No, yours are toasted. Theirs are poisonous.”

For example, maybe everyone in your industry has impeccable customer service, but if you claim first, “When you call, we pick up the phone,” that sets you apart from everyone else. Identify what you want to be known for, and make it a main selling point for your business.


“You want some respect? Go out and get it for yourself.”

Your business won’t be an authority on the Internet unless you go out make it happen. We like to reference a similar phrase to Don’s: “The conversation about you is happening whether you’re part of it or not.” By using your website and social media to promote content, you’re taking charge of your business’s image. You can use those channels to control how your business is branded, and instead of watching the conversation happen, you can create the conversation.

Another of Don’s quotes is: “If you don’t like the conversation, change it.” With philosophies like these, I think Don would understand and embrace the online tactics we use for Internet marketing.

Even though Don is a television character from an era where chain-smoking and whiskey sours were part of a day’s work, we can still learn from his insights on marketing strategy and success. How do you think Don Draper would respond to modern-day marketing and social media?