This week, I’ve been reading The King of Madison Avenue—an interesting biography of ad man David Ogilvy (aff).
I’ve always been fascinated with Ogilvy and see a lot in what he’s done as relevant to bloggers. So here’s some of his more famous quotes, with a few thoughts on how they relate to our medium.
1. “The consumer isn’t a moron; she is your wife.”
How appropriate—both for internet marketers (who are often known for tactics that treat those they target as morons) and bloggers (who can at times talk down to readers).
The idea of treating your reader as someone who you value, as someone incredibly special to you, will take bloggers a long way.
Another Ogilvy quote that relates: “Never write an advertisement which you wouldn’t want your family to read. You wouldn’t tell lies to your own wife. Don’t tell them to mine.”
2. “The best ideas come as jokes. Make your thinking as funny as possible.”
I’ve been pondering this one a lot over the last 24 hours and it’s true—some of my best blog posts and projects have emerged out of light-hearted tweets or comments in conversations to friends.
31 Days to Build a Better Blog came about as I laughed with a friend about how bloggers needed a daily devotion (similar to what I grew up with as a good Christian boy reading Every day with Jesus) to keep their blogs on track.
7 Digital Camera Predators and How to Keep them at Bay started as a friend and I joked about things that conspired to kill our cameras.
It’s often the crazy little ideas that we have that first make us laugh that do best. If they get some kind of reaction in us (even one that makes us giggle at how silly they are), they’re likely to also get a reaction from others.
3. “Don’t bunt. Aim out of the ball park. Aim for the company of immortals.”
Think big! While there’s also something to be said for having realistic expectations about what you can achieve with a blog, there’s nothing wrong with having big dreams and aiming to make them a reality.
It can be a bit of a balancing act, but if you aim a little higher you might just find yourself achieving things with your blog that you might not have thought possible.
4. “I have a theory that the best ads come from personal experience. Some of the good ones I have done have really come out of the real experience of my life, and somehow this has come over as true and valid and persuasive.”
If there’s one quote in this selection that most rings true for me it is this one. The posts that I’ve written that have emerged out of real experience, pain, excitement, heartache, and life are the ones that time and time again hit the mark with readers.
Tell stories, share your successes and failures, be yourself, and let your own personal voice come out. You’ll find readers respond in a personal way, too.
5. “I don’t know the rules of grammar… If you’re trying to persuade people to do something, or buy something, it seems to me you should use their language, the language they use every day, the language in which they think. We try to write in the vernacular.”
This might get up the noses of those of you who are a little more particular about grammar (and I do thank you for your continued daily emails pointing out my mistakes), but I think there’s something powerful about this.
Write your blog posts in the way that you’d actually speak to them if they were in the chair opposite you. Use language that communicates most clearly with them—even when it might not be the Queen’s English.
Of course there comes a point where grammar and spelling errors can and do get in the way of communicating clearly with readers. Don’t be lazy—the point is to know your readers and communicate in a way that’s relevant to them.
6. “Good copy can’t be written with tongue in cheek, written just for a living. You’ve got to believe in the product.”
I’m not sure I agree 100% with this as I do know bloggers who make good livings from writing about things that they have no real interest in or passion for. However, most successful blogs (and by that I mean more than profit, and am looking at blogs that connect with readers and help build a blogger’s reputation) are written by people who have something genuine to say about a topic they believe in.
While it’s possible to create a profitable blog on something you have no interest or belief in (by gaming the search engines for example), those kinds of blogs are never going to create a connection with readers or do much to raise your profile in an industry.
Conversely, bloggers who create blogs that come from genuine interest and passion for topics create connections with readers that have flow-on effects that lead to all kinds of wonderful opportunities.
7. “If you ever have the good fortune to create a great advertising campaign, you will soon see another agency steal it. This is irritating, but don’t let it worry you; nobody has ever built a brand by imitating somebody else’s advertising.”
There’s nothing more heartbreaking for a new blogger when you see your content being scraped onto another blog or your intellectual property being used by others without credit.
I still get upset by this from time to time, however there’s one thing that I’ve noticed despite hundreds of sites each day republishing my work without permission and/or credit. Nobody actually seems to read those blogs.
The key to successful blogging is unique and useful information. People who simply regurgitate what you write, or even repost it word for word, either eventually give up (because nobody reads it) or get caught out (and stop in disgrace).
While there are times when I’ve chased down others who blatantly steal my stuff without credit (there is a line) I find it much more beneficial to spend my time creating more great content than policing how people use what I’ve already produced.
Focus the bulk of your time upon producing and being the best you can be. This will have more positive impact upon your business than the negative tasks of stopping spammers and thieves stealing your old ideas.
8. “First, make yourself a reputation for being a creative genius. Second, surround yourself with partners who are better than you are. Third, leave them to go get on with it.”
This one might be a little more appropriate for advanced bloggers who’ve established themselves and are looking to take things to the next level.
There does come a time in most businesses where a solo entrepreneur needs to think about how to expand and grow beyond their own capacity to give their business personal attention.
There are only so many hours in the day. Expanding your team and/or partnering with others is one option to consider. If you do it, look for people whose skills complement and exceed yours, then get out of their way.
9. “Never stop testing, and your advertising will never stop improving.”
David was big on testing, and his effectiveness as a communicator improved dramatically as a result.
It’s amazing what you learn when you test different elements on a blog: simple tweaks of headlines, changes in calls to action, different placements of ads, tracking how design changes improve conversion of your objectives … the list could go on.
Great bloggers don’t just write content—they watch to see how people interact with it (and their blog) and use what they learn to improve their future efforts.
10. “On the average, five times as many people read the headline as read the body copy. When you have written your headline, you have spent eighty cents out of your dollar. “
The headline or title of your blog post is the most effective way to get people to read the rest of your post. If you don’t understand—and more importantly, implement—this principle, you’re going to miss out on a lot of readers.
Headlines draw people in, whether they see them in search results, on Twitter, in RSS feeds, or on your blog itself.
Ogilvy is famous for his advice on this: the purpose of your headline is to get people to read your first line. The purpose of your opening line is to get people to read the next one. So invest time and energy into your titles (and opening lines).
Here’s a related quote: “The headline is the ‘ticket on the meat.’ Use it to flag down readers who are prospects for the kind of product you are advertising.”
What’s your favorite Ogilvy quote?
There are a lot more David Ogilvy quotes. Do you have a personal favorite?
Here’s one more that I personally don’t live by, but which I know for a fact a couple of other well-known and quite successful bloggers live by.
“Many people—and I think I am one of them—are more productive when they’ve had a little to drink. I find if I drink two or three brandies, I’m far better able to write.”