Branding Ethics

I love AMC’s Mad Men. I love watching these advertising execs find cool and interesting ways to “sell” their clients on a particular slogan or marketing idea. I love how their ideas develop from nothing into memorable sales campaigns. I love watching as brands develop from the strange sounding names they had in the 50’s and 60’s to the big names we know now. Pampers, Tampex, Vicks Chemicals, Lucky Strike Tobacco. It’s so interesting to see the ones who survived and the ones who fell.

During the four seasons that I watched streaming on Netflix, the company portrayed in the show has one major client who brings them 3/4s of their revenue. When they lose that client, who happens to be Lucky Strike Tobacco, the main character Don Draper takes out a full page ad in the New York Times. I thought it was one of the boldest and cleverest things he had done in the series up to that point. He told the world flat out that his advertising agency had been dumped by big tobacco but that he could finally sleep at night with a clean conscience. He declared that from now on his agency would only ethical clients—clients that had positive agendas. What he did was revolutionary and was probably never done up to that point in history- or at least not as effectively.

He branded ethics.

He took a bad situation, one that was costing his company millions, one that was causing other big clients to lose faith in his agency, and turned it on its ear.

He told the world (or at least to New York City) that he was going to prequalify his clients, not the other way around. He made his company suddenly look like the hero—like Captain America or Superman, righting wrongs and bringing justice to corporate America.

He branded ethics.

Corporations do it now with mission and values statements, with green programs, and sustainability programs.

What about you?

How has your business branded your values? And I don’t mean mission statements or programs intended to generate positive PR, I mean how have you really branded yourself and your business in a way that displays how you feel about people? How you respect people? How you treat people whether they are clients, prospects, competitors, or employees?

I would love to have some answers or how-to’s on this, but I think this is something deeply personal. You really have to dig deep and examine what your core values are and what you want to bring to the table. Whatever they are and however you feel inspired to share them, do it boldly!

Brand your ethics for all to see.

As for Don, I’m waiting to see what he does in Season 5 in 2012!

The full-transcript of Don Draper‘s ad in the New York Times:

“Recently my advertising agency ended a long relationship with Lucky Strike cigarettes, and I’m relieved.

For over 25 years we devoted ourselves to peddling a product for which good work is irrelevant, because people can’t stop themselves from buying it. A product that never improves, that causes illness, and makes people unhappy. But there was money in it. A lot of money. In fact, our entire business depended on it. We knew it wasn’t good for us, but we couldn’t stop.

And then, when Lucky Strike moved their business elsewhere, I realized, here was my chance to be someone who could sleep at night, because I know what I’m selling doesn’t kill my customers.

So as of today, Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce will no longer take tobacco accounts. We know it’s going to be hard. If you’re interested in cigarette work, here’s a list of agencies that do it well: BBDO, Leo Burnett, McCann Erickson, Cutler Gleason & Chaough, and Benton & Bowles.

As for us, we welcome all other business because we’re certain that our best work is still ahead of us.

Donald F. Draper
Creative Director
Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce.”

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