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David Ogilvy: 9 Great Business Principles

Updated: Jan 4


Don’t bunt. Aim out of the ball park. Aim for the company of immortals. – David Ogilvy


David Ogilvy, the visionary behind Ogilvy & Mather, was the first leader to effectively incorporate corporate culture into the very fabric of an advertising agency.


This unwavering focus on developing a strong sense of corporate identity and values is perhaps the primary reason behind the unparalleled success of Ogilvy & Mather over the years.


Top-performing organizations prioritize the cultivation of a corporate culture that resonates with employees and commands respect from customers alike.


In this article, we delve into some of the key philosophies that David Ogilvy prioritized and the strategies he employed to create compelling advertising campaigns for clients.


These insights, which are invaluable for any organization, can be further explored in his seminal book: “Confessions Of An Advertising Man.”


DAVID OGILVY'S PRINCIPLES: "THE BIG IDEA" APPLYING IT BEYOND ADVERTISING

David Ogilvy's principle of the Big Idea is not just limited to advertising but can be applied to any business looking to make a mark in the marketplace.


The Big Idea revolves around identifying the unique value proposition of your business and creating a compelling message around it that people can truly buy into. Although some smaller businesses might shy away from making bold claims, successful businesses like Tommy Hilfiger weren't afraid to proclaim their Big Idea.



Comparing himself to Ralph Lauren and Calvin Klein. This big idea would be the kickstart his brand needed to grow into a fashion empire and cause disruption in the industry.


David Ogilvy believed that a great advertising campaign had to be built on a solid foundation - a "Big Idea."


This was the driving force behind the campaign and it had to be something that resonated with the audience and could be expressed in a simple, memorable way. Ogilvy argued that only 1 out of 100 advertisements actually had a Big Idea behind them that could achieve these goals.


To Ogilvy, most advertising campaigns lacked a Big Idea because they were created by people who were too focused on the features and benefits of their product, rather than thinking creatively about what would appeal to the emotions and desires of their audience.



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DAVID OGILVY PRINCIPLES: CULTIVATE INDIVIDUAL IDENTITY TO GAIN AN EDGE


Identity is something we have battled with individually, and so do businesses. During the competitive analysis process, businesses can sometimes get too caught up in what their competitors are doing and lose sight of their own culture.


This can lead to a lack of authenticity and a brand that feels forced.


To gain an edge, it's important for businesses to cultivate their own unique identity.


This means understanding their values, mission, and culture, and using these as a foundation for their branding and decision-making processes. By doing so, businesses can create a culture that is both authentic and successful.


Instead of trying to replicate the culture of another business or being a "me-too" brand, businesses should focus on being true to themselves. This authenticity will help them stand out from the competition and create a brand that customers can trust and relate to.


By staying true to their identity, businesses can foster a culture that drives genuine success and creates a fulfilling workplace for employees.



David Ogilvy 9 Great Business Principles: Foundation of Fundamentals

DAVID OGILVY PRINCIPLES: LEADERS NEED A FOUNDATION OF FUNDAMENTALS


To build a successful business, it's important to have a strong foundation of fundamentals. This includes understanding the ins and outs of your products and services, as well as having the necessary skills and experience to excel in your industry.


JaxonLabs has worked with several General Contractors to develop their brand and digital assets. However, they have observed a common issue that many of these contractors face - difficulty in hiring top-quality Project Managers.


While these candidates possess strong theoretical knowledge gained from universities, they often lack the practical experience that trades workers have. As a result, JaxonLabs has found that the best Project Managers typically come from trades backgrounds, as they have a solid foundation in the technical aspects of the job.


David Ogilvy himself had a similar experience working as a chef in the Hotel Majestic in Paris before becoming an expert in advertising. The most notable part is how he regarded his head chef, Monsieur Pitard.


In addition to all his management responsibilities of determining menus, ordering supplies, and running the restaurant. Monsieur Pitard would step out from behind his desk each week and cook. The chefs under him would gather around and watch in awe as he displayed his skills as a true master chef.


In business, having a foundation of fundamentals can help you better understand your industry and build a strong, successful brand.


DAVID OGILVY PRINCIPLES: OBJECTIVISM & KINDNESS GO HAND-IN-HAND


David Ogilvy believed in the power of both objectivism and kindness. Objectivism is a trait often associated with successful individuals, as it involves a single-minded focus on achieving one's goals.


The term was coined by philosopher Ayn Rand and explored in her books (The Fountainhead & Atlas Shrugged) where she focuses on objectivism in depth.


The exciting part to me is the view David Ogilvy has on objectivism while emphasizing the importance of honesty, strong character, and treating clients' projects as if they were his own.


He also believed in acting with gentleness and kindness towards colleagues, which he saw as key components of a healthy and successful corporate culture.


At Ogilvy & Mather, the company he founded, hard work, thoroughness, and freedom were rewarded, and employees were encouraged to embody both objectivism and kindness in their work.



DAVID OGILVY PRINCIPLES: INTERNAL COMMUNICATION SHOULD BE WELL WRITTEN, EASY TO READ, AND SHORT


We are firm believers in the philosophy “If you can’t explain something simply, you don’t understand it well enough.” There are a number of great thinkers and business innovators that share the same philosophy as David Ogilvy.


Elon Musk, Founder of Telsa, SpaceX, and SolarCity, is another great example.

In the recent book on Elon: “Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future” One notable takeaway is that Elon has all but banished the use of acronyms from meetings and internal communications.


Elon’s point, some people don’t understand what the acronym stands for, and they don’t want to look incompetent. So they simply pretend as though they understand. You may be thinking this couldn’t possibly happen in your organization. But I dare you to investigate when acronyms are being thrown around in meetings.


From this point on, communication is not as effective because everyone is no longer on the same page. So, Elon Musk stopped using them in his organization.


By prioritizing clear and concise communication, both Ogilvy and Musk have shown that they understand the importance of ensuring that everyone is on the same page, which can help drive success in any organization.



David Ogilvy 9 Great Business Principles: Simplify Marketing Objectives

DAVID OGILVY PRINCIPLES: SIMPLIFY MARKETING OBJECTIVES


In the world of marketing, it is common for clients or businesses to overwhelm their marketing materials with a long list of products and services, expecting them all to be incorporated into a single email or a one-page flyer.


The truth is, this approach can create chaos and confusion in the minds of the customers, leading to an ineffective marketing strategy.


Instead of trying to save money, by telling the whole company message in one attempt. David Ogilvy emphasized the importance of simplifying marketing objectives and focusing on the products and services that truly drive value.


By creating simple marketing materials that highlight the core value, businesses can effectively draw customers in with the big picture and have meaningful conversations with them that dive into the different aspects of their business as it relates to their challenges.


This approach can help companies create a clear and compelling message that resonates with their target audience, ultimately leading to a successful marketing campaign.


DAVID OGILVY PRINCIPLES: FOCUS ON THE PROMISED BENEFIT TO THE CONSUMER


In today's highly competitive business world, it is more important than ever to understand your customers and focus on their needs.


David Ogilvy, a pioneer in the advertising industry, recognized this fact and emphasized the importance of focusing on the promised benefit to the consumer.


As a business, it is important to put yourself in your customer's shoes and think about what they really want to hear. While it might be tempting to talk about your company's inner workings or accomplishments, it is much more effective to focus on content that is relevant to your customers and will help make their lives better.


By doing so, you will not only capture their attention but also build a loyal customer base that will keep coming back for more.


The majority of people are inherently selfish, so businesses need to play into this by creating content, and advertisements that feed people’s egos accordingly.


DAVID OGILVY PRINCIPLES: YOU CAN’T BORE PEOPLE INTO BUYING PRODUCTS, ONLY INTEREST THEM


This principle by David Ogilvy may seem like common sense.


David Ogilvy's principle that "you can't bore people into buying products, only interest them" is a reminder that businesses should strive to captivate their customers' attention rather than simply inundate them with information.


While technical specifications and data may be necessary for some products, it's important to find ways to present them in an engaging manner.


A good example is when mobile companies sell data plans, rather than just stating the amount of data offered, successful teams put the numbers in the right context to create a tangible vision of the value the customer will receive.


By highlighting the hundreds or thousands of hours of music and video streaming, for example, customers are more likely to be interested and engaged with the product.


It's crucial to keep the customers' needs and desires at the forefront of all marketing efforts and focus on creating excitement and interest around the promised benefits rather than solely focusing on technical specifications.



David Ogilvy 9 Great Business Principles:  Persistence Building A Brand

DAVID OGILVY PRINCIPLES: ANYONE CAN OFFER A PRICE REDUCTION, IT TAKES BRAINS AND PERSEVERANCE TO BUILD A BRAND


You live by the sword; you’ll die by it. Price competition is one of those things that is often regarded as the low-hanging fruit.


While price competition may seem like an easy solution to drive sales, it can hurt industries in the long run. Studies have shown that once the price becomes the primary factor for decision-making, many industries are hurt as a whole.


Companies like Apple, which rarely offer price discounts, focus instead on building a brand and culture that attracts customers who are willing to pay a premium for their products.


By investing in its brand rather than offering discounts, Apple has created a loyal customer base that is willing to wait in lines for hours just to get their hands on the latest product.


This example shows the value of building a strong brand and how it can pay off in terms of customer loyalty and financial success.



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