There’s a reason why Mad Men is one of the most recognized and heralded shows on television. Heavy with atmosphere and featuring some of the best writing in recent history, the show has gained a legion of devoted fans since first premiering in 2007.
While every character is full of depth, there’s no getting past the likability of Mad Men’s lead Don Draper.
Don Draper is the embodiment of the fast and cutthroat world of New York advertising agencies in the 1960s, giving the character an authentic feel that is rarely seen on the small screen.
The competition between men and women is very strong and advertising is used as a tool of persuasion for all professionals.
The whole routine of the protagonist and his professional and personal relations opened the moral and social changes that the United States passed during that decade.
Despite all his glaring character flaws – alcoholism, ego, infidelity – there is much to be learned from Madison Avenue’s gun-slinging cowboy of advertising.
ImportantAs different as the business world may seem today thanks to the Internet, there are many classic lessons that all businesses owners can still benefit from if they take the time to listen and take action.
Here are five of the best lessons to take away from Mad Men. Pour yourself a tumbler of Canadian Club, sit back on your mid century couch and read on.
Know Who You Are
We’ve seen Don Draper successfully launch lots of ad campaigns, leveraging creative approaches and somewhat unorthodox ideas. When he walks into a room, he means business —he dresses the part, arrives prepared, and is perfectly poised in his delivery.
Confidence, sincerity, and having a presence go a long way in business, there’s a lot to be gained from both talking the talk and walking the walk.
WarningWhether you’ve reached a certain point of success, it can feel natural to ease off the pedal after a moment’s worth of stagnation. Don’t wait around for things to be given to you with an outstretched hand.
Become the master of your craft and take what is yours for your own.
ImportantBet on yourself, because you’re the only person with control over what you can do. Work towards personal happiness ; whatever form that may take.
Do what makes you happy.
Joan chooses to start her own production company at the expense of a budding relationship. Don discovers he truly loves advertising. Peggy and Roger choose personal happiness.
Know who you are and the value you bring.
Nothing will impress others more than authenticity . This is one situation where you DON’T want to be Don Draper, wondering who you should be at any given moment. It will cause you more trouble and angst than you can imagine, so do yourself a favor and stay true to who you are .
People are drawn to — and remember — authenticity.
Each character brings a different skill set to their Manhattan office building, and those who excel are the ones who know what makes them stand out . Peggy Olson is a creative writer who can offer a woman’s perspective in a male-driven industry.
Each knows their strengths and applies to them to their work. You’re good. Get better. And stop asking for things.
Think Outside The Box
Often times, we feel we are forced to accept things being told to us. In business, especially in advertising or marketing, we need to change the conversation in order to be heard .
Ideas make the world go ‘round. Ideas are grand. Be sure to have a steady stream of them.
One scene that struck me was in Season 6, episode 11. While pitching, the client says the budget is too high and there is no way around it. Don spins the conversation on a completely unrelated topic, which, then has the client nearly double the original budget.
Let your creative side shine. Think as hard as you can about your problem, then forget about it and let your subconscious do the work.
It’s not always easy to sell a product or service, especially those which are relatively unknown. Count this as a blessing, however, as this realization is the first step towards success.
Mix things up if they’re not working.
ImportantA simple shift in a new direction can make a world of difference, and the moment you see this in action, you’ll quickly learn that flexibility is key in any industry of business .
Creativity can be the ultimate competitive differentiator.
From his stellar pitch to cigarette-makers Lucky Strike in the series’ first episode onward, there’s no doubt creative director Don Draper has something special: the ability to wow clients with perfectly distilled—and unexpected—ad ideas.
Don Draper has the ability to sell anything, including his image.
For him, it is not enough for you to know that you are the best and the most talented. Your client should also understand that you do indeed offer the best option for him .
Tech Is Not The Devil
First it was medical research about smoking, then it was television, then it was computers. Figure out how technology will affect your business–and get way ahead of the curve .
You can’t fight change. It happens. Accept it or be left behind.
We all smiled when Sterling Cooper invested in “modern” technologies like the typewriter, photo projector, and copy machine. But as outdated as these tools seem today, those tools were essential to keeping the Mad Men’s forward-thinking strategy in place.
The right tools keep you moving forward.
ImportantIf there’s one aspect of life that just about everyone can agree on, it’s that change is inevitable . It’s a constant in relationships, in business and in every other aspect of life — fighting for permanence is a losing battle.
No matter what kind of change occurs, human beings are exceptional in their ability to adapt.
Mad Men is also a good reminder that a lot got accomplished before the advent of computers and cellphones. I’m not saying you should toss your iPad out the window, but don’t forget the value of real connections and conversations .
Don’t forget that relationships are still key.
Though today’s advertising agencies have far fewer secretaries and many more computers, we know that personal relationships are still extremely valuable in the digital age .
Eventually, productivity doesn’t hinge on technology.
WarningThere’s something about being in the same room as someone and looking into their eyes as you attempt to strike a deal that simply cannot be replaced by Skyping.
Stop Talking, Start Doing
Are you doing a lot of talking and not taking enough action? We see too many flapping their gums and not creating or taking action. Head toward the action .
Build your rocket ship on the way to the moon.
Whether it’s all of the travel to California, or Pete Campbell heading to Learjet in Kansas, staying in one place is rarely the answer. Action begets opportunity .
Do not waste time and focus on strategy and business results.
ImportantDon Draper says that if you do not have something important to say, then do not say anything! He is noted by other characters as opening his mouth sparingly. As a result, the words he speaks carry more weight, and more meaning.
Get to the point and be brief! Stop talking and start doing!
The campaigns and taglines he pitches aren’t overly complicated, nor do they require much explanation . They cut straight to the point, purged of all frivolous excess and gimmicks.
Make it simple, but significant.
WarningMeetings can be essential in helping to steer your team in the right direction when tackling a project. One of the most toxic aspects of business is that following up on and executing these discussions sometimes takes a backseat.
Don’t just talk about things — get them done.
It’s possible to lose sight of what you’re doing when you’ve had a long work day. Take a moment to reflect on what you’ve gotten done and what still requires your attention, and put the time into checking things off your list.
Find What Truly Matters
Finding what truly matters in life–and avoiding what doesn’t–is probably the ultimate lesson of this show. Don’t become attached to the wrong things .
There’s always a reason why a potential new client might approach you and your business.
Recognizing the true source of a client’s needs is the only way to truly provide them with the product or service that is right for them , not to mention the fact that it will help show that you’re adept at what you do.
What often goes overlooked is the importance of looking past what a client is asking for and identifying the “need behind the need.”
ImportantHow could you possibly know how to sell yourself and your talent if you have no clue about the market you’re targeting? You’ll save yourself a whole lot of time, energy, and money if you do the research before you start putting your materials and your plan together. So, do as Don does: Know Your Market .
The main reason for Don Draper’s success is his almost preternatural understanding of his audience.
Additionally, I constantly talk about the need for small business owners to find their “thing”. The “thing” is a piece of content that establishes your business as a resource for your existing and future customers.
In Mad Men, their “thing” was the ability to identify and sell clients on winning, cutting-edge advertising campaigns.
Even though the agency in Mad Men wasn’t the biggest, well-staffed organization available, they kept on landing bigger and bigger contracts. They were constantly shifting tactics, exploring options, and they never stopped trying to figure out what works .
If you ask customers what they want, they’ll want something else by the time you can deliver it. So you have to figure it out before they do.
WarningThis sounds obvious, but the truth is that most companies like to keep it safe when it comes to marketing. The problem is that “safe” doesn’t increase sales like “revolutionary” does.
If you haven’t yet plunged into the world of Mad Men, you’ve still got time. It took me a few episodes for it to catch on, but after those I was hooked.
Times sure change, but the fundamentals of business success don’t waver too much. So if you watch closely, there’s a lot to be learned from Mad Men.
The show may be set half a century in the past, but every lesson Jon Draper has to offer remains pertinent to today’s business climate . For those interested in rising in the ranks of the professional world, studying Don Draper can be more beneficial than anyone might have otherwise thought.
Beyond the drama, the show offers a unique glimpse into the process of navigating a career path and overcoming professional challenges.
ImportantKnowing how to sell your fish, show the customer that your product is really good, convince you to buy and stay with your company, are crucial points for your business and certainly you find in the context of the series.
Being an entrepreneur is hard. Everyone talks about being your own boss and freedom, but in reality the cons far outweigh the benefits in the beginning.
Even so, some people can’t deny their need for independence and the potential for overwhelming success. Mad Men does a good job of explaining aspects of business that speak to both entrepreneurs and employees alike.
InfoFor those who are interested by a show that makes you question social dynamics, political corruption and business as a whole, you can refer to my another post on House Of Cards.
For now, start putting these lessons to work — if you do, it’ll be only a matter of time until you rise to the top. Do you have another unorthodox vehicle of inspiration? Drop it in the comments below.
Digital Dandy. Hacker From Heart. Workaholic. Coding Artist. Self-made.