5 Marketing lessons from David Ogilvy you must know

 Our Dads often speak some wise words in day-to-day life. 

Spend your money carefully.”

Be brave.

Live a life of a purpose.” 

Usually, they give rather good advice, right? 

Well, just imagine what lessons you could get from the “Father of Advertising” himself, David Ogilvy. 

There’s much to be said for hearing to the oldies. They’ve seen life, they know people, they have several experiences and got the wisdom.

In this post, we’ll go through the treasure trove of priceless advice that David Ogilvy proved to work— displayed by his multi-billion dollar advertising empire. 

1. Believe/Trust in the product

Wise words from David: “Good copy can’t be written with tongue in cheek, written just for a living. You’ve got to believe in the product.”

I know. This sounds pretty simple. But it can be complicated to proceed. Let’s say if you’re trying to get creative and inventive around a product that you’re not feeling excited about, or let’s say you are too bored to work on that particular product, it can reflect in your copy. 

It’s like when you’re telling someone their outfit is fantastic, and it suits them? But in reality, it doesn’t, and you lack conviction. 

It’s the same thing. 

It brings the question: how can you believe/trust in what you’re selling, even if it doesn’t interest you?

The answer: you need to believe/trust in how much it means to your audience. 

And to succeed in winning your audience, you need to understand your audience. 

Understanding your audience means that you can predict their needs. Think for a second, you are hosting a dinner at your house, and you have invited your friends. If you know their tastes, without any doubt, it’s going to be a success. It is probably best not to assume what they like to eat, you know you cannot just predict because it’s simply stupid,  or you may have your non-vegetarians friends departing within no time.

The same works for audience analysis. If you know what they believe/trust, you can get enthusiastic about it and communicate that understanding. 

Let’s see How to do it:

There are several types of analysis you can carry out to examine your audience. 

A demographic analysis, i.e., “The Who.”

This type of analysis looks into perspectives such as:

  • Age 
  • Location
  • Gender
  • Income level
  • Education level
  • Marital or family status
  • Occupation

This information tells you who your audience is. 

The psychographic analysis is “The Why.”

Psychographic segmentation is the method of dividing your market based on the different types of personality traits. Hobbies, personalities, values, lifestyles, and habits all come into account when employing this form of customer segmentation.

You’ll study: 

  • Personality characteristics
  • Lifestyle
  • Social class
  • Attitudes
  • Principles and beliefs
  • Activities and interests

How to get this type of information:

You can get this super precious information by using three main ways, and it won’t cost you a fortune or turn you into a stalker.

Use Web analytics

It’s sufficient to carry out a behind-the-scenes kind of examination by looking at your existing site analytics. 

Check out this beneficial article from Moz if you want to dig deeper into this. 

Get Social Listening

Listen to what your audience has to say on your social channel. Take notes of the semantics they use, things they like, and things they dislike, what they crave. This analysis will give you an excellent idea of how to talk to your customers.

Talk to them

I know it seems obvious, but not many brands talk to their customers. 

Hold focus groups, mail out customer surveys using a tool like Survey Monkey. The whole purpose is to understand what it is they care about and want in their life.

And guess what? The statements/words they use can tell your copy to help capture what they believe/trust.

2. The Headline is 80%

Wise Words of David: On average, five times as many people read the headline as read the body copy. When you have written your headline, you have spent eighty cents out of your dollar.

A powerful headline is going to make or destroy your copy. David Ogilvy was known for his powerful headlines that clutched the audience’s attention. 

Take a look at this world-famous Rolls Royce one, for example.


Rolls Royce ad “At 60 miles an hour, the loudest noise in this new Rolls-Royce comes from the electric clock.”

This headline is recognized as David Ogilvy’s favorite headline. 

And you can see why. 

The exciting part is, there’s no sensationalist phrasing. It’s just pure information. The idea is clear: the car is wholly fine-tuned to be the best.

So how do you create the perfect headline? It’s simple 

Go for instant clarity.

Never try to be too fancy or clever and lose the fundamental message in the process. Your audience needs to understand simply what exactly you’re talking about right away. 

Let’s check out another example from David:

Schweppes ad 

After reading the potential customer has no doubt. They don’t have to solve a complex riddle. The message is simple: if you drink gin and tonic, you’re foolish by not mixing with Schweppes. 

Get specific with numbers.

Our brains are extra responsive to numbers. And according to The Content Marketing Institute, the brain appears to assume odd numbers more than even numbers. Odd numbers also seem to benefit people digest and recall information more easily.

Have a look at these Buzzfeed headlines – see, there’s only one that has an even number, and it doesn’t get as many click-throughs compared to others.

Hint: You don’t need to push for an odd number if it’s going to be too difficult to mention in your body copy. You don’t want people thinking you sound contrived.

3. Nurture your copy

Wise words from David: “Like a midwife, I make my living by bringing new babies into the world, except mine are new advertising campaigns.”

Let’s understand it, and a copy can be an afterthought. This occurs for two main reasons: 

  1. Brands rely too heavily on visuals to sell for them.
  2. Brands believe it’s easy and note down a few words and think it’s enough to sell everything. 

David Ogilvy observed at every ad campaign as one of his babies. He nurtured and strengthened them to turn them into the best-selling campaigns in the history of advertising. 

It’s not simple to write robust and compelling copy. It requires a lot of time and energy. The ablest copywriters could work on polishing a simple headline for weeks, but that nurturing process will work and get results.

4. Never condescend to your customers

Wise Words from David: “A consumer is not a moron. She’s your wife. Don’t insult her intelligence, and don’t shock her.”

The primary message is that talking down to your customers will turn them away. 

Your fundamental motive is to charm them, not make your customer dislike you. You want to give the pitch of your lives, of course. But remember, they just want to solve a problem. 

Harmonize into their pain points. Communicate to them with respect and admiration. And this will go a long way to solving their problems. 

Hint: You have to understand these pain points when conducting your focus groups, surveys, etc., at the research stage. 

Pain points can be grouped into one of four categories, as described by WordStream

  • Financial Pain Points: Your potential customers waste too much money on their current provider/solution/products and want to reduce their spending.
  • Productivity Pain Points: Your potential customers are misusing too much time using their current provider/solution/products or yearn to use their time more efficiently.
  • Process Pain Points: Your potential customers want to enhance internal processes.
  • Support Pain Points: Your potential customers aren’t getting the support they need at decisive stages of the customer journey or sales process.

And once you have recognized their pain point, you can explain to them exactly how your product/service is different and much better than the competitors.

Take a look at this ad from Nike: 

Now, who doesn’t want a quick fitness fix? 

An ad that is thoughtfully tapping into their audience’s pain points.

5. Hire and surround yourself with people who know more than you

Wise Words from David: “Hire people who are better than you are, then leave them to get on with it. Look for people who will aim for the remarkable, who will not settle for the routine.

It’s effortless, right? It makes sense only to try and hire people who know their stuff. 

One big mistake brands make is to see new talent as a bad thing. It seems like they don’t believe in getting an expert. They feel like they are failing.

Effective marketing is collaborative. 

And ultimately, I’ll leave you with one final quote from David Ogilvy: 

“Never use jargon words like reconceptualize, demassification, attitudinally, judgmentally. They are hallmarks of a pretentious ass.

Have fun and never be pretentious even in your life.