Mad Men’s Don Draper’s Wisdom – Draper-ism

Rarely, comes along a TV show that leaves a lasting impression in the minds of the viewers, to an extent, that viewers seem to relate and imitate the characters as well as their idiosyncrasies. TV Series that manage to pull of a cult fan base, are able to achieve that because of their mesmeric characters, gripping storylines, intricate plots and the fan favourites, ‘quotable dialogues’. The key to a lasting cult lies in delivering consistently in each episode and leaving the viewers wanting for more, *cliffhanger*. One such show that became an obsession worth having, well, at least for me, was ‘Mad Men’.

To the folks who haven’t been fortunate enough to see this spectacle of a show, let me give you a terse introduction of what this saga is all about. Based in 1950s, Madison Avenue was home to mostly all Advertising Agencies operating from New York, the show, though fictional, revolves around an AD agency and the daily proceedings of its employees. The show got the name Mad Men, as an amalgamation of Madison Ave and the Men working in the ad agencies on the avenue. Now that I have scratched the surface, let’s get to know more about the infamously notorious womanizer and also the most influential AD man on the entire Madison Avenue, ‘Don Draper’. Rather than getting to know more about the character, it will make more sense if I shared Don’s lessons, relevant to the ‘management graduate’. Because b-school. I guarantee Don’s wisdom will come in handy in certain ‘mic drop’ instances in your day-to-day b-school activities.

Now, though I don’t appreciate this, let’s surrender ourselves to the social media trend of listicles because that’s what seems to get viral, here I present to you, ‘7 lessons from Mad Men’s Don Draper’. No matter what industry you find yourself in, and despite the fact that the show is set in a time period nearly half a century ago, there’s more than a thing or two you can learn from this fictional character when it comes to working in the modern day business world. So sit back and relax, perhaps pour yourself a drink (that’s what Don does), and let these classic Don Draper lines sink right in.

Simple yet effective2Starting with one of my personal favourites, this is something which probably anyone and everyone can practice, in possibly any task one takes up. The key to a great product or for that matter an advert, considering Mad Men, lies in making it as easy and simple as it can be with supreme effectiveness.

Think Differently

3 Sometimes we find ourselves stuck in situations wherein, people around us tend to make us accept things which are forced and we wish things turned around. Especially in the fields of marketing and sales, it becomes important that one is heard and one needs to know, how to change the conversation.

Work with emotions

4 This is a prerequisite, customer delight, and satisfaction, have been of utmost priority in any sort of communication a company does for a product. Because in the end, the customer is the king, especially the new empowered ones, it’s difficult to get things passed them.

Focus on customer retention, rather than lead generation (do not generalise, for specific cases)

5Keep the customers you already have happy and content, rather than finding new ones. To add more gravitas to the dialogue, ‘a bird in hand is better than two in the bush’. Keeping customers happy, who better to comment on this than Draper himself.

Fail, never shy away, it will be your greatest lesson

6When you have no inhibitions in failing, you feel free to work in such an environment and it becomes more conducive. Either way, when you feel free to fail, and you are brave enough to fail, you take the chances necessary to make it in business.

Change is the only constant
Draper being Draper, this is golden.
Change cannot be fought, you need to live with it, it happens. Pace yourselves, or be left behind.

Things are not what they always seem to be 

8Last one, this one’s quite interesting but a bit dark at the same time. This is the harsh truth of how advertisers and companies have been manipulating and creating ways of selling, what not, on days like Valentines, Friendships and many more. As a businessperson, this is a great lesson because when selling, you must oftentimes create something out of nothing.

. Apologies, if some of you did not get the references, but that’s just motivation enough for you folks, to start watching this epic show.


IMI New Delhi

International Management Institute, New Delhi