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How Inspiration Happens in Mad Men

I loved the final moment in Mad Men. Don Draper is sitting in a yoga class and feeling serene. The smile that crosses his lips initially makes us think he’s found out what it all means. Then, the camera cuts to the iconic 1971 Coca-Cola ad, implying that in that moment Don smiles because he’s inspired to create advertising gold. This moment was like many in the series that demonstrated how inspiration works.

You’re struggling to come up with a concept for a logo, the perfect CTA is elusive, a subject for this week’s blog just isn’t there. Then, suddenly, you know exactly what to do. However, this only happens if, like Don Draper, you’re proactive when it comes to fueling your imagination. He goes outside the confines of his office. He reads Ayn Rand, watches Planet of the Apes, hangs out with beat poets and artists, etc. What can we learn from this? Feed your creative soul like you would your physical body, and reap the rewards.

How Powerful Nostalgia Really Is

Avid watchers of Mad Men will always remember ‘The Carousel’ pitch. Don is selling the idea that the Kodak Carousel Slide projector is a “time machine” that “takes us to a place where we ache to go again”. He explains that while new technology is exciting, what we need to do is help the target consumer form a deeper bond with a product. One way we can do this is through nostalgia.

According to Lauren Friedman, a Forbes contributor, “the key is to create an emotional hook using nostalgia while also offering something new.” “Reliving positive memories and beloved icons from the past feels good . . . When we feel or care for something, we’re much more likely to act.” In terms of adding technology into the mix, think back to the Pokémon GO craze. A toy that parents of millennials remember, reinvented for the iPhone-wielding generation. Nostalgia is also a key ingredient in the social media marketing mix. where online sharing helps to stir up feelings for things that existing long before cyberspace.

How to Change the Conversation

“If you don’t like what’s being said, change the conversation.” Don says this in the context of New York’s Penn Station being torn down, about to be replaced by Madison Square Garden. Angry people are venting their frustration, but he stays positive; change is inevitable and it can be viewed as something new and exciting, rather than destructive and saddening.

Brands make changes, and generally not everyone is going to be happy about them. Social media sniping happens and sometimes sales drop. Yet, remaining committed to its new product(s), service(s), or new identity is a brand’s best course of action. Yes, the company should listen to its target market’s feedback. Yet, it ultimately needs to persuade its consumers to give it a try, whatever it may be. A brand must change the conversation for successful innovation. Yet, even failure has its silver lining. And, it is here we ironically return to Coca-Cola, where even the failure of ‘new Coke’, led to a deeper appreciation for the iconic soft drink. Just remember:

“There will be fat years, and there will be lean years, but it is going to rain.” (Don Draper)

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