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David Ogilvy: 7 Marketing Quotes from the Father of Advertising

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Image Credit: David Ogilvy

Marketing trailblazer David Ogilvy, has in many ways defined the business world as we know it today. Through his company Ogilvy & Mather, Ogilvy worked with countless well-known brands from Rolls Royce to Dove, crafting some of the most effective advertising campaigns ever created.

The following quotes from the father of advertising, are examples of his timeless approach to advertising and gives us a glimpse into the mind of the man himself:

1. “The more facts you tell, the more you sell. An advertisement’s chance for success invariably increases as the number of pertinent merchandise facts included in the advertisement increases.”

Ogilvy was a firm believer in providing the customer with the facts from the get-go. Of course, you’ve no doubt heard that benefits, should come before features, and Ogilvy agreed: “The key to success is to promise the consumer a benefit — like better flavour, whiter wash, more miles per gallon, a better complexion.”

But that doesn’t mean they should be substituted for the facts and features of a product or service. After all, how likely are you to buy something without having the faintest idea of what it does?

2. “Tell the truth, but make the truth fascinating.”

It’s always better to tell the truth, rather than relying on heavy-handed and misleading techniques. However, common-sense should prevail and compel you to forever remain faithful to the facts. Consumers aren’t stupid – particularly in this day and age – and if you’re bending the truth, at some point or another, you’ll come unstuck, which is a difficult position to come back from. Having said that, it doesn’t mean your truth needs to be boring, as the man himself said, make it fascinating. 

3. “Another profitable gambit is to give the reader helpful advice or service. It hooks about 75 per cent more readers than copy which deals entirely with the product.”

Ogilvy defines two kinds of helpfulness:

  1. Helping a prospective customer understand the product
  2. Offering the consumer valuable advice and information free of charge

The latter point is an early iteration of content marketing. By offering someone a thought or some words of advice, free of charge, they’re much more likely to return to you in the future. 

For example, Ogilvy suggested offering free recipes for companies in the food industry. This is a compelling idea, as it increases the chances of customer engagement, without focusing your marketing solely on the product itself.

4. “Unless your campaign has a big idea, it will pass like a ship in the night.”

Whether you’re writing copy, designing a new website, or undertaking any form of marketing, it’s essential to be completely transparent about your objectives. As Ogilvy elaborates: “Most campaigns are too complicated. They reflect a long list of objectives and try to reconcile the divergent views of too many executives. By attempting to cover too many things, they achieve nothing. Their advertisements look like the minutes of a committee.”

5. “You cannot bore people into buying your product; you can only interest them in buying it.”

One of the cardinal sins of marketing, and many other walks of life, is being uninteresting. In order to grab engaged interest, you need to be charismatic; there is simply no way around it when you’re trying to sell something. No matter how niche your product or service is, there will always be competition in some form, so it’s important to steal a march on them.

In order to gain people’s attention, you need to understand who they are, what they want, what interests them, and what motivates their behaviour. By gaining this valuable insight into the customer, you’ve got an excellent opportunity to speak to them about something they hold an interest in, which makes what you have to say far more appealing.

6. “The consumer isn’t a moron, she is your wife.”

This idea brings all of the previous points together, and without it, nothing much is going to happen. If you don’t take the time to understand who your customer is, there will be no big idea, you won’t be able to provide all the facts, and you certainly won’t be capturing the right kind of interest in your product or service.

You need to demonstrate that you understand your customer’s thoughts and feelings, and you know exactly what they need. You can achieve this, in Olgivy’s words by: “…writing your copy in the colloquial language which your customers use in everyday conversation.”

7. “Golden rewards await the advertiser who has the brains to create a coherent image, and the stability to stick with it over a long period.”

Ogilvy was a big advocate of brand consistency, and his ideas on this subject are still steadfast to this day. Ogilvy understood that, in order to achieve brand consistency over the long-term, you must first define exactly what your brand is with a certain amount of discipline and restraint. Ogilvy says, “Most manufacturers are reluctant to accept any limitation on the image of their brand. They want it to be all things to all people … They generally end up with a brand which has no personality of any kind, a wishy-washy neuter. No capon ever rules the roost.”

Takeaways 

David Ogilvy based his career around 7 core principles that we’ve mentioned in this blog:

  1. Give the Facts
  2. Be Truthful
  3. Be Helpful
  4. Have a “Big Idea”
  5. Don’t Be Boring 
  6. Understand Your Customer 
  7. Stay True to Your Brand

These were covered in his book, “Confessions of an Advertising Man”, released back in 1963. And although at the time of writing, these principles are 57 years old (in actual fact, they are probably older given Ogilvy started his agency in 1949), all 7 are still incredibly essential tools in the modern marketer’s arsenal, and you’d be foolish to dismiss them.

Of the 7 quotes above, which one is your favorite and why? Share your thoughts with us below!

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