Leo Burnett: 12 Advertising Tips That Are Still Relevant Today

Leo Burnett (October 21, 1891 – June 7, 1971)  creator of legendary advertising icons such as the Jolly Green Giant, the Marlboro Man, Tony the Tiger, Morris the Cat, and the Pillsbury Dough Boy, provides lessons for marketers and advertisers alike that are still relevant in today’s world of digital devices and social media.

  1. When you reach for the stars you may not quite get one, but you won’t come up with a handful of mud either. This quote talks to the marketer’s state of mind and business perspective. In advertising as in business, you need to set your goals high and strive to achieve them. This advice still rings true today.
  2. Anyone who thinks that people can be fooled or pushed around has an inaccurate and pretty low estimate of people. Burnett believed in the  American public. With this attitude, he’d be successful on current social media platforms where it’s critical to have faith in your fellow participants.
  3. What helps people, helps business. To build your business, it’s critical to think in terms of fulfilling customers’ needs. It’s not about you or your firm.
  4. Good advertising does not just circulate information. It penetrates the public mind with desires and belief. For Burnett, advertising aimed to excite customers on their terms. He looked for engagement on the part of the consumer long before there were digital or social media platforms to facilitate the process.
  5. Make it simple. Make it memorable. Make it inviting to look at. Make it fun to read. At their core, these words represent the meaning behind brands. They make it easy for consumers to identify products and companies. They’re still at the heart of marketing and advertising.
  6. Advertising says to people, ‘Here’s what we’ve got. Here’s what it will do for you. Here’s how to get it.’ Burnett put advertising in straight-forward terms that customers understood. Today, consumers look for this transparent approach because for them, the trust is gone when it comes to advertising and marketing.
  7. Advertising is the ability to sense, interpret… to put the very heart throbs of a business into type, paper and ink. Long before social media marketing, Burnett talked about the need to present a human, emotional side of your business to consumers to help forge a connection. Today’s social media marketing takes this notion further through the use of digitally enabled platforms where businesses can engage directly with customers and the public.
  8. A good ad which is not run, never produces sales. For Burnett, advertising droves sales. The same holds true in today’s advertising laden environment. With marketing messages, whether it’s traditional advertising, content marketing or social media engagement, it’s critical to keep your name in front of your target audience. Today’s marketers use a more evolved version known as marketing personas.
  9. Plan the sale when you plan the ad. Advertising isn’t an isolated business activity. It requires considering the entire merchandising process. In today’s marketplace, it extends beyond the purchase to provide support and customer advocacy.
  10. I have learned to respect ideas, wherever they come from. With this statement, Burnett could be one of today’s leading edge digerati. On digital, mobile and social media platforms, marketers must engage with prospects, customers and the public. It’s no longer enough to be a large faceless firm. You need to be available to your audience, broadly defined.
  11. Regardless of the moral issue, dishonesty in advertising has proved very unprofitable. While Burnett may talk about dishonest marketing’s dollars and cents approach, the reality is that for today’s customers the trust is gone when it comes to advertising and marketers.
  12. There is no such thing as a permanent advertising success. Burnett’s words are still true today. As a marketer, it’s critical to win your customer’s loyalty every day. Just because you sold them yesterday, doesn’t mean that they’ll keep buying from you. Even worse, in today’s wired world that word will spread faster.

Regardless your perspective and/or appreciation for Leo Burnett, it’s important to understand that he considered a great ad as the most beautiful thing in the world. To achieve advertising success, Burnett thought that it was important to turn yourself into your customer to understand his needs and desires, a perspective that’s still at the heart of great advertising and marketing.

Do you find beauty in your firm’s advertising? If not, what can you do to change that?

Happy marketing,
Heidi Cohen


Want to read more by Leo Burnett? Here’s a link to his books.

Photo credit: Here are two of Leo Burnett’s branded creations.

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  • http://www.knowledgenotebook.com/ Don Li

    Very Informative, #3 is my top pick for this one, thank you.

    • http://www.GreystoneGreeters.com Georgia Mouka

      Don – I’m with you on that one too!

  • http://engage.tmgcustommedia.com andrew

    The more things change, the more things stay the same. Despite the revolution in marketing the core philosophies remain the same. Why? Probably because people are still people and though communication channels have been added, human psychology still works pretty much the same. It just goes to show that we don’t need to throw out all the old just because of the new, we just need to incorporate the tried-and-true with the up-and-coming. Great stuff, Heidi.