Marketing advice from 50 years ago is surprisingly still relevant

Marketing Shapes Image

It’s mind-blowing to think about how much marketing has changed in the last 50 years. Technology and consumer habits have evolved significantly, and marketing has followed the customers.

The cutting-edge of marketing in 1970 was full-color television commercials. Advertising teams were beginning to explore campaign concepts that played on customer emotion, because researchers were still working out the links between marketing and behavioral psychology. Newspaper ads printed in black-and-white and radio spots were a prominent part of marketing mix.

The internet and smartphones have changed everything and nothing at the same time. In 1970, consumers were wary of being lied to and would ask friends and family for product recommendations. Then and now, the best marketers skip the sales pitch and speak to customer’s pain points directly. The basic components of great marketing are mostly the same over the past several decades, even though technology and media have evolved.

10 Pieces of last-Century marketing advice That still matter

1. Be Honest

Never write an advertisement which you wouldn’t want your own family to read. You wouldn’t tell lies to your own wife. Don’t tell them to mine.

David Ogilvy,

The 1963 bestseller “Confessions of an Advertising Man” helped position Ogilvy as the Father of modern advertising. The ad exec believed that marketers who lied would face certain punishment. According to Ogilvy, the worst punishment was losing your customer’s trust and business.

Customer trust in 2020 is at all-time historic lows. Ogilvy couldn’t have foreseen the current climate of fake news and data privacy breaches, but he knew customer trust
was priceless.

2. Be Interesting

People read what interests them, and sometimes it’s an ad.‍

Howard Luck Gossage,

Real-life Mad Men character Gossage was an advertising philosopher and brilliant visionary. In fact, he earned the title “the Socrates of San Francisco” for his wise observations in the 1960s. Over 50 years later, many marketers are still struggling
to create audience-centric content.

Only two-thirds of content marketers prioritize their audience’s informational needs over their own sales pitch, according to the Content Marketing Institute. However, 88% of the top-performing B2B content marketers put the audience first.

3. Balance the 4 Ps

Place, price, product, and promotion are the four pillars of a successful marketing strategy.‍

Jerome McCarthy,

Before Marketing Professor Jerome McCarthy coined the 4ps in 1958—to sell a product at a certain price, you need to put promotions in the right places. While marketing channels have changed dramatically between 1958 and 2020, the 4ps is still an important framework to create a marketing strategy.

4. Understand the Customer

Understand the customer so well that the product or service fits him and sells itself.‍

Peter Drucker,

Peter Drucker was an Australian-born consultant and author, and according to Bloomberg, “the man who invented management.” 47 years later, his advice rings true. 91% of customers still prefer highly-relevant, personalized marketing messages in 2020.

5. Double Yourself

You have to double yourself. You have to read books on subjects you know nothing about. You have to travel to places you never thought of traveling. You have to…endlessly stretch what you know.

Mary Wells Lawrence,

Mary Wells Lawrence’s copywriting career was launched in 1953. Just 13 years later, in 1966, she was an agency owner and the first-ever female CEO to be listed on the New York Stock Exchange.

Mary Wells Lawrence is responsible for coining iconic ad slogans like “flick your bic” and “plop plop fizz fizz.” Clearly, she’s also the originator of some brilliant career advice for marketers. Relentlessly improving yourself is a recipe for professional and personal excellence.

6. Word of Mouth Matters

Word of mouth is the best medium of all.

William “Bill” Bernbach,

Bernbach retired as CEO of his legendary New York ad agency in 1976, after a three-decade career at the top of his industry. Today, peer recommendations and case studies are key to winning the trust of consumers. Bernbach knew how important it was to use social proof and third-party experts to tell your story.

7. Be Fun

Creative ideas flourish best in a shop which preserves some spirit of fun. Nobody is in business for fun, but that does not mean there cannot be fun in business.‍

Leo Burnett,

Burnett knew a thing or two about making fun advertising, even for brands which aren’t traditionally fun like insurance companies and appliance manufacturers. Burnett was the mastermind behind AllState’s “Good Hands” campaign and the Maytag repairman, before retiring in 1967.

60 years later, B2B brands still need to strive for fun marketing with great stories and concepts.

8. All Hands on Deck

Marketing is too important to be left to the marketing department.‍

David Packard,

Packard was technically a co-founder, not a marketer. In 1939 at just 27, he became the “P” in “HP,” Over 50 years ago, Packard observed the need for marketers to see the bigger picture by collaborating with product, sales, and customer service.

9. Be Narrow

The key to branding, especially for smaller firms, is to focus on a limited number of issue areas and develop superb expertise in those areas.‍

Philip Kotler,

Business school professor Kotler’s 1967 book “Marketing Management” was groundbreaking in many ways, including the fact it was the first marketing textbook to discuss analytics or behavioral science.

Kotler’s branding advice is invaluable 53 years later. Brands who define a niche and work to develop thought leadership can outpace the success of less-focused competitors.

10. Afflict the Comfortable

A good ad should be like a good sermon: It must not only comfort the afflicted, it also must afflict the comfortable.‍

Bernice Fitz-Gibbon,

Fitz-Gibbon was a retail advertising pioneer at brands like Macy’s, and later, a pioneer for other women marketers at her own ad agency. However, your prospective customers are never fully comfortable. Customers always start looking for solutions to pain points. However, Fitz-Gibbons knew that buyers start the journey by searching for answers, not branded solutions.

Marketing Wisdom from Last Century

It can be tempting to get nostalgic about the simpler days of advertising. In the “Golden Age,” marketers were competing with a lot less noise to capture attention. While competition is fiercer, there’s also a lot of advantages to marketing in 2020 compared to 1970. Modern marketers have an incredible wealth of consumer data and insights at their fingertips. While many things have changed and will continue to change, the best marketers have always been truthful and created audience-centric content.

Jasmine Henry

Jasmine Henry

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