What Product Managers Can Learn From The World’s Best Advertiser

David Ogilvy Was A Seriously Good Ad Man
David Ogilvy Was A Seriously Good Ad Man Image Credit

So who was the most successful ad man in history? I’m not 100% sure, but if you had to line them all up, David Ogilvy would be close to the front of the line. In fact he was so good at what he did that he was often called “The Father Of Advertising”. Clearly this is somebody that product managers can learn a thing or two from…

What David Had To Say About Being #2

David Ogilvy said and did a lot during his life and you could write a book about all of it (he actually wrote two popular books) . However, I’d like to focus on just one really well stated comment that he made that went like this:

My partner Joel Raphaelson has articulated a feeling which has been growing in my mind for some time:

“In the past, just about every advertiser has assumed that in order to sell his goods he has to convince consumers that his product is superior to his competitor’s.

This may not be necessary. It may be sufficient to convince consumers that your product is positively good. If the consume feels certain that your product is good and feels uncertain about your competitor’s, they will buy yours.

If you and your competitors all make excellent products, don’t try to imply that your product s is better. Just say what’s good about your product – and do a cleaner, more honest, more informative job of saying it.

If this theory is right, sales will swing to the marketer who does the best job of creating confidence that his product is positively good.”

Why What Ogilvy Said Matters To Product Managers

As product managers I believe that we have somehow gotten it into our minds that our product needs to be #1 or else we’ve failed. I’m not sure just exactly where this thinking came from, but I’m willing to bet that it has something to do with sports where there is always a winner and a loser.

Ogilvy seems to have hit it on the head: your product does not have to be better than the competitions in every way in order for your product to be a success. What the father of advertising is pointing out is that all we product managers need to do is to convince our customers that our product is the one that they should select.

All the features in the world won’t necessarily convince a customer to buy your product. Rather, it’s almost a gut feel that will cause them to get their wallet or purse out and select your product over your competition’s products. What this means for you is that you need to focus on how you are communicating with your customers. If you do a better, cleaner, job of this than your competition does, then you’ll win!

What All Of This Means For You

David Ogilvy was a master at what he did: advertising. He transformed what was seen as a fairly cut and dried task – communicating with a customer, into an art form. He was able to do a better job in his day of connecting with the customer than anyone else.

As a product manager, we need to be able to do what David did – connect with our customers better than anyone else. David makes the good point that our product does not have to be better than everyone else’s. Rather, we simply have to be better at communicating with our customer about our product.

As David says, all we have to do is to just say what’s good about our product – and do a cleaner, more honest, more informative job of saying it. If it was easy, then anyone could do it. It’s not easy, but then that’s why the world needs product manager like us!

– Dr. Jim Anderson
Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World Product Management Skills™

Question For You: Do you think that different media (print, web, etc.) should use a different message about your product?

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

When you become a product manager, the reason that you’ve been able to achieve this position is because you know everything that you’ll ever have to know, right? You’ll never make a mistake again and every decision that you’ll make will be the right decision. Correct? I’m betting that you are probably shaking your head right about now and that’s a good thing. You’re always going to need some help. Looks like it’s time for you to go out and find a mentor.