Confessions from Ogilvy: Brand Building 50 Years Later

12 04 2014

When I first  began my higher education, now roughly a decade ago, I was dead set on being an artist. My practical parents insisted I take a business class for every art class, and somewhere along the way my interests merged with their practicality and I started fantasizing about becoming a hotshot marketer… advertising manager, copyrighter, creative director, whatever. That’s when my love affair for Ogilvy & Mather began. After all David Ogilvy is the “King of Advertising,” so not surprisingly, his book Confessions of an Advertising Man was on my list of must-reads.

It was first written in 1963, so I was expecting it to be a bit archaic. Yet it was republished in 1987 and again in 2004 with forewords addressing how relevant it is nearly fifty years later. Sure, I caught some datedness as related to the male dominance in Ogilvy’s examples, but the only time it bothered me was when it occasionally confused me. At one point, he writes about “the young housewife of 1963…” and it wasn’t immediately apparent that he was talking in current context about his demographic.

Some things just haven’t changed though. Core psychology addressing salespeople and purchasing behavior is still very much the same. While there were a few technical differences with advertising effectiveness today, Ogilvy addressed himself in his own forward. For example, research states that coupons are more successful at the bottom-right now where they can be caught visually even if a reader is quickly flipping through pages, as opposed to the top-middle as they were in the sixties. Similarly, pitchmen in commercials used to sell more products at 90 words per minute, but are now more effective at a faster pace of 200 words.

In many ways Ogilvy & Mather was so far ahead of it’s time that it’s not difficult for Ogilvy’s advice to transcend the fifty years since first publication. While his book never addressed the term “corporate culture,” his ad agency has had the most reputable culture for decades. Ogilvy is the one that coined the phrase, “pay people peanuts and you get monkeys.” He was also more in tune with the work force than most office environments in the 1960s when he declared: “When people aren’t having any fun, they seldom produce good work.”

This book provides many obscure advertising facts that it would take years of marketing research to learn on your own. For instance, using factual information is employed most to sell with direct response marketing, but are rarely used in ordinary marketing, to a fault. Additionally, though white text on black background may look trendier, it’s more difficult to read and will most likely be passed over by consumers. And contrary to popular belief, according to Ogilvy, what works in one country will also be effective in others. Another good one: five times more people will read the headline than the body, so essentially the headline will make eighty cents of every dollar. One of my favorite pointers though, was that advertising isn’t really to persuade people to try your product; more often it’s to persuade them to come back to the brand more than any other competitor.

This leads me to the most powerful theme that I took away from Confessions. Branding can produce decades of sales, but selling products with discounts or any other means will usually stop being useful by the time the product runs out. Ogilvy quotes a speech that he made in 1955, “The time has come to sound an alarm, to warn manufacturers what is going to happen to their brands if they spend so much on deals that there is no money left for advertising to build their brand. Deals don’t build the kind of indestructible image which is the only thing that can make your brand part of the fabric of life.”  The companies that took heed to this warning half a century ago are still going strong today. Nike, Johnson & Johnson, Dove, Coca-Cola, and Budweiser are iconic. Their branding has been so successful that every reader can fondly recall commercials from at least one of those companies because they’ve successfully penetrated our culture. This didn’t come by accident. In fact, Dove’s campaign was written by Ogilvy himself and ran for over thirty years.

It’s no secret that people have an unsavory opinion of salespeople, and marketers are lumped into the same category. This notion exists because of too many “suits” taking advantage of their customers and not following Ogilvy principles. He only represents good products with good brands which can be sold with honest advertising. Ogilvy insists that if you tell lies about products you’ll be found out and reprimanded by the government – or worse, the consumers who will never buy from you again. He says bluntly, “You wouldn’t tell lies to your wife. Don’t tell them to mine.”

This book excited me in marketing all over again. Confessions teaches something that was beyond me when I was simply a college beatnik imagining that I could transform this whole art thing into a marketing career: successful marketing is only part creativity, mostly it’s hard work and research. Honestly, I learned more in the preface than I’ve learned in many entire series of self-help books. However, as this really wasn’t a self-help book, there’s not much that’s designed to take away and apply to daily professional life. There are still tips that everyone should be mindful of though, such as not taking credit for collaborative work, not doing something you wouldn’t show your family, and surrounding yourself with people at least as good as you rather than creating inferior subordinates to make yourself look better. That being said, this isn’t the type of book that I’ll highlight areas for personal improvement, but rather it is an advertiser’s bible that will perhaps someday rest on my desk to be thumbed through for daily inspiration.

-Nikki M Jones-

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“Family Game Day” Sweepstakes

21 11 2012

I just learned that a Publix sweepstakes that we collaborated with the Miami Dolphins has been published on the Path to Purchase Institute’s website… Take a look!

-Nikki M Jones-





Delhaize Kiosk Innovation Ad

9 09 2012

Ok, so this is not a revolutionary commercial by Kellogg standards, but I’m crazy proud of it right now even if it is a still-frame video.  Delhaize has kiosks at the front of their Food Lion & Harveys stores and when shoppers enter the store, they swipe their loyalty card at the kiosk to print personalized coupons. Before the coupons print there’s a quick clip that plays, and in this case, not only did I route the offers through Finance for those coupons to be created, I worked with the Brand team to develop this commercial from existing assets and copy. Hmm, it’s not sounding that impressive, but when you’re starting by importing screen shots into PowerPoint from story boards this is quite an accomplishment!

-Nikki M Jones-





Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals

9 07 2012

I recently had the priviledge to participate in a partnership with Food Lion and Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals. It’s really a culmination of what Shopper Marketing is all about. It’s a Food Lion exclusive packaging for Cheez-It, Frosted Flakes, and Pop-Tart brands and for every box sold, a $.25 donation was made to the charitable organization. Not only does it stay with mom through the entire desire, decide, delight path… it really is making a difference. It’s not immediately apparent that you’re making a difference when you’re putting PWRs through, pushing graphics and the children’s stories through Legal, and scheduling Tony the Tiger for store appearances… but all you need is to see Michelle Coria or Kyla Roerty at Food Lion and you understand what Cause Marketing is all about.

-Nikki M Jones-





Kidz Kitchen Event

13 03 2012

We just successfully executed an event that’s been months in the making. Working with the Publix team, the Miami Dolphins, and Eventive Marketing to pull together Kellogg’s Kidz Kitchen has been an amazing experience. I’ve had the pleasure of watching it come to fruition since I began my role in Shopper Marketing. In the end, over 12,000 consumers attended the over-arching event, Fun & Fit as a Family, with roughly half of them attending Kidz Kitchen and the celebrity chef demos, with talent like Rachel Ray, Guy Fieri, and Robert Irving. We distributed 11,000+ recipe cards and thousands more samples to keep both Kellogg and Publix top of mind.

I, personally, was able to contribute by developing those recipe cards with our creative team and working with the printer and sampling agency to deliver all samples, ingredients, and the recipe cards to the event. I also helped to ensure the tee shirts, chef aprons, and hats were approved by Legal and the safety testing. There was also numerous POP that I helped to develop to promote the event in store – (that even had a QR code / SMS text offer for a discount to the event!) as well as signage at the event to bring her back in store.

Click here for photos from the event: Summary & Measurables

-Nikki M Jones-





Special K Hutch in the Produce Aisle

19 01 2012

Had to share this program that I led recently, as it’s the first time I’ve had an opportunity to work with Merchandising Services for so many elements. Publix ran an IRC (Instant Redeemable Coupon) for $1 Off Fresh Fruit with the Purchase of Any 2 Special K Cereals. We wanted to draw incremental sales though – beyond shoppers that were already in the cereal aisle. The solution was to create a hutch for Special K Cereal to be placed in the produce section with space for strawberries to be stocked on top. We also had a lug-on created for each panel of the hutch to call out the offer beyond the IRC placed on package… Pretty cool, right?

-Nikki M Jones-





Lessons from a Mason Jar

11 01 2012

It’s Day 3 of the final semester in my Master’s program at WMU and I already feel sleep deprived. In the precious moments between 6-6:10 this morning, I seriously considered picking up some “dry shampoo” to buy a solid 40 minutes of additional sleep. While I’m in school, my schedule is a daily marathon: up at 6am (well, depending on who wins the battle between the snooze button and me), a mad dash to get ready for work, drop off the kiddo at school by 7:30, in the office by 7:45. At work, I regularly have appointments every hour, on the hour until lunch, at which time I occasionally eat, though more often grab groceries, refill prescriptions, get an oil change, pay bills, run to the bank, post office, or home to fill a crock pot. I leave the office as close to 5pm as possible, so that I can pick up the aforementioned child from her after school location soon enough as to not feel forgotten. We run home with enough time to pick up or make a hastily prepared meal. And then I drive fast enough to get to class by 6pm. Afterwards, from 9pm to midnight, I alternate the nights that I spend working on the mural that I’ve volunteered to paint and hitting the gym with an hour or two to spare for homework. By the time I arrive back at home, I’m yearning for my pillow so badly that the only wind-down time that’s required is the five minutes spent to change and brush my teeth. You’re already exhausted, aren’t you? It’s clearly time to re-align a few priorities.

This brings to mind a lesson I learned years ago… on the first night of class at Spring Arbor University. The class was filled with weary-eyed professionals, not your traditional students, and the instructor knew we’d be facing a balancing act over the coming years. He stood at the front of the class placing various rocks in a mason jar and proceeded to give us an illustration in time management from Stephen Covey:

When the jar was filled to the top and no more rocks would fit inside, he asked, “Is this jar full?” Everyone in the class said, “Yes.” Then he said, “Really?” He reached under the table and pulled out a bucket of gravel. Then he dumped some gravel in and shook the jar causing pieces of gravel to work themselves down into the spaces between the big rocks.

Then he smiled and asked the group once more, “Is the jar full?” By this time the class was onto him. “Probably not,” one of them answered. “Good!” he replied. And he reached under the table and brought out a bucket of sand. He started dumping the sand in and it went into all the spaces left between the rocks and the gravel. Once more he asked the question, “Is this jar full?”

“No!” the class shouted. Once again he said, “Good!” Then he grabbed a pitcher of water and began to pour it in until the jar was filled to the brim. Then he looked up at the class and asked, “What is the point of this illustration?”

The point of the analogy is if you don’t put the big rocks in first, you’ll never get them all in. In fact, the sand and gravel of my time could easily fill my entire day if I don’t carve out space for the fundamental priorities. Here I am, thinking I’ve mastered this lesson because I’ve reached a place where I’m making time to pursue higher education by scheduling out time in my calendar for every detail, yet I’m still starting my day by choosing between adequate sleep and showering? Maslow would be so disappointed in me.

It’s been nearly a year since I wrote about my “Re-Resolutions,” and I’m proud to say I achieved nearly all my 2011 goals. It’s true, I still haven’t learned Spanish (maybe after graduation?); however, my education and career have significantly advanced, I read all the books I set out to read, I volunteer more, I work out regularly, I no longer have the time to waste on trivialities such as television and social media games du jour, and I even wake up earlier. Now the question begs to be asked — were these the right goals?

On one hand, I think they were exactly what I needed to achieve to be where I want to be. But on the other hand, I wonder if it’s time to go back to the basics of Covey’s lesson. Is it necessary to plan this much of my life? I suspect that if I reversed the lesson and stopped planning so much, I would better learn where the pebbles and sand really lie in my life. So, my 2012 Re-Resolution? Surrender. Plan less, live more. God has a plan and purpose for my life… I’d hate to miss it because I already set up a conflicting appointment.

-Nikki M Jones-