This month sees the launch of “From those wonderful folks who gave you Pearl Harbour : Front-Line Dispatches From The Advertising War” by Jerry Della Femina (the original Mad Man). His book has just been republished in order to piggyback on the success of the TV phenomenon Mad Men, which it inspired. The book lovingly describes the inner machinations of Madison Avenue in the Sixties, and is a delicious gossip-heavy read about the golden age of advertising (the title refers to the tongue-in-cheek slogan proposed by Della Femina for Panasonic during a particularly unproductive brainstorming session).
According to Della Femina, the reality of working in an ad agency in the Sixties was actually much worse than what we are seeing on Mad Men. Apparently, in the business climate of the late Fifties and early Sixties, sex was a forbidden subject – everyone did it and yet no one talked about it. But by 1965, the sexual revolution had enveloped much of North America and the advertising industry responded in kind. It either grew its hair or let it down, started drinking in the morning and generally went wild.
Della Femina actually encouraged wayward behaviour in his agency because he figured out that nothing got creative people to come in early and leave late better than the prospect of sexual adventure.
What is interesting from a branding point of view is that though the climate of the Sixties was very highly charged sexually, Matthew Weiner chose not to portray the TV with any graphic sexuality. It would have been an easy road to go down because we all know that sex sells, but as it turns out, the buttoned-up nature of the series has made it even sexier. And it’s all because of HBO.
As the cable station turned it down, Mad Men eventually ended up on a smaller network (AMC) which meant that any overt sexuality and profanity had to be toned down. The show is very clipped and it is all the better for it. One of the most important lynchpins of the series is the stunning Christina Hendricks, on the cover of this months GQ magazine.
I am thrilled it’s not on HBO” said Christina, “because if it were they would have been trying to get my top off every other day”.
It’s all a very refreshing change to the flagrant use of sexuality that we see so often, because Matthew Weiners forward thinking approach to what sells has been the reason for Mad Mens multi-award winning success.
Christina has also reignited the debate around plus size models, putting forward one hell of a case for curvy women. It is of particular interest to me as my most read blog post is about plus size supermodel Crystal Renn. It continues to be the one that people email me about the most but frankly, many models are too thin.
She was recently voted the best-looking woman in America as well as the sexiest woman on television. With her hourglass figure and Jessica Rabbit curves, she exudes the old-school glamour of Marilyn Monroe, Rita Hayworth or Jayne Mansfield yet has created her own signature sashay. She is certainly the most visually arresting image of the Mad Men world. It also goes to show that you can create your very own personal brand based upon someone else’s look if you have the confidence and charisma to make it your own. No one looks at Christina and see’s a 21st century version of Marilyn the way they do about many other celebrities, they see an original Christina. When she moved to Hollywood she was told she was too big, too voluptuous, too vulgar, but now she’s become TV’s biggest redhead. Not bad work for a 35-year-old Tennessee girl who was almost invisible in Hollywood three years ago.
Entrepreneurs can learn a lot from the global success of Mad Men and the personal rise to fame of Christina;
- Subtly is still a very powerful too in branding and marketing
- Simply putting on a nice suit and just showing up isn’t going to do the job (despite what Woody Allen* said). You need your name to be remembered – so dress, talk and act in a way that people won’t forget.
Simon Woodruffe wears brightly coloured shoes. Steve jobs has black turtle necks. Richard Branson has an embarrassingly large collection of jumpers. Even Sir Cliff Richard made a signature of wearing suits with trainers long before Justin Timberlake made it cool. Chris Gardner wears two watches. Obviously you need to be authentic and genuine or people will see straight through your stylish plan, but creating a look and a personal brand of your own should be as much a part of your business strategy as your financial plans and SWOT analysis. This where many business people fall short because they don’t think their personal brand is important. It’s not if you’re an office manager. It is if you are leading a business or building a brand.
Just a thought, but look at yourself in the mirror before your next meeting and imagine all the other people who will come before and after you. Are you really making a case for your name to be remembered? If Christina Hendricks can do it in the cut-throat world of Hollywood, I’m quite sure you can find a unique way to be remembered in your own world.
* “90% of success is just showing up”. Woody Allen