Bill Bernbach’s 5 Social Media Marketing Lessons [Quotes]

Advertising legend Bill Bernbach, one of the original mad men, would feel right at home today creating content and engaging on social media platforms.

Known for igniting a creative revolution back in the 1960s, Bernbach created great brands such as Avis (We Try Harder) by understanding the product and why his audience needed it. Out of this appreciation, Bernbach would develop social media marketing content that attracted and engaged prospects.

Here are five of Bill Bernbach’s sayings and the lessons they hold for social media marketing.

  1. Know your product inside and out before you start working. And relate that knowledge to the consumer’s needs. In this marketing nugget, Bill Bernbach described the essence of marketing years before social media was available in any format. His words are particularly true in today’s social media connected world. Regardless of how good or bad your advertising is, your product has to work well and deliver quality to your customers. If it doesn’t consumers will find out quickly, based on product usage or reviews by other consumers. Further, you have to understand your customers’ needs and how your product relates to them. ACTIONS: Optimally, the best thing to do is to make any requisite changes to your product and/or adjust the price to account for its lack of performance. In either case, it’s important to improve the product in the long term.
  2. To succeed an ad (or a person or product for that matter) must establish its own unique personality, or it will never be noticed. Bill Bernbach’s branding advice applies even more to social media marketing where it’s critical to enhance your brand personality across various social media platforms and where your brand is seen across a variety of media formats. ACTIONS: On social media platforms, consider how your brand attributes will be presented. How will they look? How do they sound? How will they act? What type of language do they use? Think in terms of video, photographs and audio.  Do your brand standards extend to these executions?
  3. You cannot sell a man who isn’t listening. This Bill Bernbach gem cuts both ways on social media. Just as you can’t sell someone who’s not paying attention to you, on social media, you need to focus on what’s being said by your prospects, consumers and competitors to ensure that your interactions are relevant and make sense in the content of the social media platform. ACTIONS: Spend time listening to the social media conversation before you engage so that you understand how to act and the type of language to use. Remember people love people who are interested in them. You need to be sincere in your desire to connect on social media with your customers, not just talk in promotions.
  4. Dullness won’t sell your product, but neither will irrelevant brilliance.  In terms of content marketing, Bill Bernbach had it right. If you’re information is a yawn, sorry but no one’s going to waste their time reading it. Conversely, if your content is inappropriate for the reader’s needs, they’re on the next piece of information since their time is too precious. You have to respect your audience and how valuable their time is. ACTIONS: Provide consumers with content that meet a variety of needs at each step of the buying cycle. This encompasses everything from research to consumer reviews to how to use the product.
  5. Imitation can be commercial suicide. Bill Bernbach understood the problems of copying another firm especially its intellectual property. In a social media marketing world, this is even more critical because participants have the ability to see you from different perspectives. They value engagement, relevance and transparency, but not theft. Copy someone else’s content and they’ll know that it doesn’t ring true for you or your brand. On social media, there’s a expectation of sharing your information broadly and helping others. If you violate this, your audience is likely to notice.  ACTIONS: Create unique content that could only be shaped by your experience, your products and your customers. On social media, you need to be true to your brand. Word spreads if you try to use someone else’s content or information.

At its core, social media marketing is guided by the same principles the enabled advertising giants to create their legendary brand icons. Bill Bernbach understood that the product was at the core of marketing and why consumers needed it.  To sell your product, you need to capture the buyer’s attention and provide useful, interesting information that persuades her to purchase.

What other insights from Bill Bernbach would you add to this list and how would it related to social media marketing?

Happy marketing,
Heidi Cohen

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