So, after several years of procrastination & one too many true-crime documentaries – I decided to finally take the plunge and begin watching the American TV drama, Mad Men.

I’ll admit its recent-availability on Netflix was probably the final push I needed, however I can genuinely say that I’m officially HOOKED.

For those of you living in the dark, Mad Men follows the life of a Creative Director named Donald Draper who, during the “Golden Age of American Advertising”, worked at an ad agency on Madison Avenue.

This is of course is where the name comes from – these advertisement buffs, located on Madison Avenue were coined the “Mad Men” … coined by who you may ask?

Coined by themselves…

Which gives you a bit of an idea of what sort of characters this working environment attracted – makes for good TV anyway!

OKAY. So, enough of the spoilers. (I’m only on Season 1 myself)

The reason I’m blabbering on about this specific TV series is that;

1.    It’s all about ADVERTISING.

2.    Despite being mostly-fictional, it has some lessons we could learn from.

So, back to the initial image now; featuring Mr. Draper himself. Which is what inspired me to write this blog. (I wonder if Jon Hamm will ever see this…)

Advertising is based on one thing: Happiness

Albeit, rather cliché… I actually felt a bit of truth in Draper’s very bold statement.

However, to refrain from journalism-bias, I’ve opted for a quote from a man of similar importance; The current Dalai Lama.

Happiness is not something ready-made. It comes from your own actions.” – Dalai Lama XIV

The Dalai Draper? Or The Mad Lama?

So, if happiness is something only we can gift ourselves – then how on earth do the guys at Madison Avenue intend to generate this through advertising?!

Well that’s it… we can’t simply create a product or an idea that will create happiness amongst consumers, sadly.

Then what can we do? As advertisers, as marketers, as businesses…

We must build on what is already there.

We have the power to remind consumers of what makes them happy, where they can find happiness & why happiness is important.

Nobody is happy all the time – that would just be unnatural.

But as brands, we have a responsibility to contribute positively to a much happier world.

(Enough of the mushy stuff now, let’s look at some supporting figures to show I’ve not just gone soft)

In 2018, research showed that the percentage of companies evoking happiness in ads rose from 7% to 12% (Unruly, 2020). A trend that has continued to grow since.

If more & more brands are opting to play on this emotion then it’s likely there’s some worth in doing so. It’s not rocket-science that an ad that makes us happy will go down better than one that makes us sad.

So, what do we perceive to be the happiest time of year? January? June? October?

If you said Christmas, you’re right! Nearly every year Happiness is ranked as the highest featured emotion during the Christmas period here in the Western world (Unruly, 2020).

Why else do you think all the big-named brands are pouring millions into their marketing budgets to produce the next big Christmas ad? John Lewis, Sainsbury’s, McDonald’s… They’re all at it.

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Recipe for Happy Pie

And what sort of emotions are these advertisements hoping to spark? You got it; Happiness.

Warm, emotive & nostalgic. A perfect recipe for a deliciously fresh batch of good old happy pie.

These are some of the most-talked about ads full-stop. Never mind just at Christmas.

It’s all because as humans, we want to be happy. And these marketing campaigns help us feel this way. So, we love them for it!

Now, I understand not every business has the same marketing-capabilities as some of these companies have. But this does not mean you cannot learn something from this general concept.

You might be sat there now contemplating your current strategy, thinking how on earth can I market this product in a way which can evoke happiness amongst my customers.

Let’s break this down then.


What makes them happy? Why are they buying your product? Why are they considering buying your product? What about your product makes their lives happier; or simply makes it better?


Like we’ve already outlined, not all of us have the luxury of an unlimited marketing budget. Not all of us can produce an Oscar-worthy advertisement premiered on prime-time television. But we can all tell a story. Every business is different; therefore, every business has a different story to tell.

Stop thinking of your product as simply that -a product. Think of it as more of an overall experience for the consumer. By buying your product, the consumer is buying into you as an individual, you as a business. They’ve bought your story.


Don’t just tell a story for the sake of it.

For it to resonate with customers it needs to have a deeper-lying message. The latest John Lewis campaign: Edgar the Dragon, wasn’t just a story about a fire-breathing dragon.

No. It was a tale of somebody who felt like they didn’t fit in, someone who didn’t have a purpose. Who then, thanks to the magic of Christmas, and coming-togetherness; finally felt wanted. (Bloody hell, I’m welling up here)

Just make sure you’re generating a message, a good one!


There’s nothing more important than consistency; in every element of your marketing strategy. There is no point creating a campaign focused solely on sustainability & a push to tackle climate change, then dumping all your company waste in the local reservoir (bit extreme but you get the idea).

Make sure your message is consistent with your brand. This can be difficult to execute, but if you adopt a message and campaign that truly fits your brand then it will feel a lot more natural. Your message must flow throughout all levels of your business. It will only strengthen your brand in the long run.

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Will & Penelope: A couple of love stories

Now we know what steps we need to take to adopt a “story-telling” approach to our marketing methods, I’m going to give you some examples.

Example 1: Will the Window Cleaner.

He could simply advertise that he will make sure your windows are squeaky-clean – like every other window cleaner.


He could tell a story…

“With the help of my window-cleaning service your view into the outside world will be crystal-clear! Views will be magnified, beauty enhanced, everything will become clearer. Watch the world go by, from the comfort of your living room.”

Don’t sell a clean window. Sell WHY somebody would want a clean window. Use the reason why a window-cleaning service will make someone’s life HAPPIER.

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Example 2: Penelope’s Pen Lid Company

Penelope could keep things simple and market her pen lids as a necessity for pens & to avoid ink-leaks in your pockets…Zzzz boring.


She could tell a story…

“Picture this. You’ve just received a letter through the post, it’s the love of your life. You are overwhelmed with emotion. You reach for your trusty black biro from your trouser pocket. Oh no. It feels damp. God, no. The pen has leaked! Your brand-new trousers are ruined. Worse yet, the pen no longer works! DISASTER HITS TWICE.

You knew it was risky to put it in your pocket once you’d lost the lid, but you were naïve. You’re now paying the price.

With Penelope’s Pen Lid multi-packs, you’ll never have this problem. Replacement pen lids to keep your pen alive. Alive like your newfound romance. You reply to the letter swiftly & decide to get married. You live happily ever after. The End.”

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Help them be happy!

Okay, maybe I went a bit overboard with that one, but you get the picture.

The issue some businesses have is they have a very literal approach to their marketing. They see marketing as just a means of selling their produce. This is the issue. You must think holistically & aim to create a stronger brand image.

Develop a story. A message. A reason as to why a customer should choose you over your competitors. Tap into their emotions. Use their happiness.

Help them be happy.


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