In 1982 advertising tycoon David Ogilvy of Ogilvy & Mather, also known as the “Father of Advertising” gave away his advertising secrets in a now iconic single page ad titled “How To Create Advertising That Sells.”

In this legendary piece of self-promotion Ogilvy gave the world 38 pieces of knowledge that helped his company make over a billion dollars and that turned his clients into household names.

When applied to business, branding, and marketing, Ogilvy’s lessons in advertising can be a game changer for any business.

Ogilvy’s Lessons

Ogilvy’s First (And Most Important) Lesson

The very first piece of knowledge in Ogilvy’s list is about something we take very seriously at Wendigo Jones: Positioning.

We have learned that the effect of your advertising on your sales depends more on this decision than on any other: How should you position your product?

Should you position SCHWEPPES as a soft drink or as a mixer? Should you position DOVE as a product for dry skin or as a product which gets hands really clean? The results of your campaign depend less on how we write your advertising than on how your product is positioned. It follows that positioning should be decided before the advertising is created. Research can help. Look before you leap.

What This Teaches Us: Positioning is everything.

Before jumping into branding, marketing, and advertising, your product or service needs to be positioned appropriately. 

Where does your product fit in the market? 

How is it unique and how can it speak to a specific need? 

Your product/service will never be the only choice, but proper positioning solidifies your offering as the right choice for your customer.

What Are You Promising Your Customers?

The second bit of Ogilvy knowledge reads:

The second most important decision is this: what should you promise the customer? A promise is not a claim, or a theme, or a slogan. It is a benefit for the consumer:

It pays to promise a benefit which is unique and competitive. And the product must deliver the benefit you promise

What This Teaches Us: Make it easy to keep your promises.

Every sale promises some sort of value to the customer, other wise they have no reason to exchange their hard earned money for whatever Joe Shmoe is peddling.

The best way to keep your promise to your customers is to only promise what you know you can deliver on. Make it easy on yourself!

If you own a pizza shop and promise 30 minute delivery, but you’re not exactly sure how fast your new chef is or how many red lights your driver is going to hit along the way, DON’T promise that.

But if you know for a fact that your secret sauce recipe is the best in town because you’ve sampled the competitors, then boom, that’s a promise you can keep. 

Your pizza shop is no longer the “fastest delivery in town” its “the best sauce in town.”

This promise (that you can keep) will often differentiate you from competitors and act as your “brand promise” and become what your business is known for.

It’s helpful to repeat this brand promise as much as possible so potential customers understand the value they will receive.

Your brand promise and your business’s positioning often work hand in hand to create a strong brand strategy.

Give Your Business A First Class Ticket

Number 5 on Ogilvy’s list says:

If your advertising looks ugly, consumers will conclude that your product is shoddy, and they will be less likely to buy it.

What This Teaches Us: Good design increases perceived value.

First class. Just the sound of it makes us think of luxury. If you’re in first class, you know that flight is going to be a breeze. 

You trust that you’re going to have a relaxing, easy journey. And thats the key, trust

A well designed website, brochure, advertisement, etc. earns your potential customers’ trust. Because if it looks good, chances are, it is good.

When It Comes to Strategy, Go The Whole Hog

Ogilvy says most advertising campaigns and marketing strategies are overly complicated.

They have too many objectives and they embrace the divergent views of too many executives. 

By attempting too many things, they achieve nothing.

It pays to boil down your strategy to one simple promise-and go the whole hog in delivering that promise.

What This Teaches Us: A focused, consistent strategy is always better than wasting marketing dollars on ad hoc efforts.

The digital marketing strategies that we create for our clients at Wendigo Jones always have a singular focus, so we don’t muddy the waters with unimportant or superficial goals.

Though our strategies vary from client to client we always want them to engage potential customers and showcase the business’ brand promise.

We accomplish this by crafting thoughtful and appropriate messaging that highlights the value and benefits that our clients provide to theirs.

And this messaging is reinforced by a well designed website and other marketing materials that make it easy for prospects to take action.

More often than not, that action is to buy a product or schedule a call.

How To Make The Headlines

Err, that is, how to write headlines. Ogilvy offers up a lot of advice on what makes a good headline. I’ve paraphrased and expanded on his advice:

Headlines are read 5 times as much as body copy. So don’t squander the opportunity to gain your potential customers’ interest. 

Headlines that promise a benefit sell more than those that don’t. Use your headline to repeat your promise to your customers. Let them know what you have to offer.

Keep headlines simple. Clear is better than clever. Your potential customers don’t have the time or energy to decipher obscure or clever headlines. You’re product or service is meant to make their life easier or better, so make it easy on them from the get.

What This Teaches Us: Use your headlines to state exactly what you do and who you do it for.

The fastest way to get your customer’s attention is to let them know that you are, in fact, speaking directly to them about something that they should know, understand, or care about. Don’t risk losing out on customers by not using your headlines properly.

Wrap Up

David Ogilvy was a master advertiser, and although it’s no longer advertising’s glory days, his advice can still be applied to your branding and marketing efforts. 

Positioning is at the heart of branding and marketing. To position well, you need to know who you’re ideal customer is, what you can help them with, and what promises you can make to them. Once you have that, you’ll have 90% of what you need to start marketing and growing your business effectively.