Marketing, Business and Personal Lessons From “Mad Men” Season 3

Don Draper (Jon Hamm) - Mad Men _ Season 6, Episode 9 _ 'The Better Half' - Photo Credit: Michael Yarish/AMC

As we move into Mad Men’s third season, the stakes become higher for our intrepid advertising aficionados. And, as with previous seasons, everyone has learned much about themselves and the world. Without any further ado, here are a few lessons we gleaned from re-watching this venerable show’s third season. May they serve you well!

Treat Each Person You Meet Like a Business Connection

Business is a tough, but it pays off to think a bit like a mercenary if you want to succeed. Treat each person you meet — while you’re on the clock or otherwise — as a potential business partner. You shouldn’t connive ways to “use” everyone you meet — it’s more about your attitude. Cultivate an air of mutual respect and professionalism, and you’ll be surprised by how many doors open for you.

Consider Don’s chance meeting with Conrad Hilton in season three. They hadn’t planned on arriving at the same bar — they’d never even met. It was a happy accident, and Don did what he does best: worked the situation to his advantage.

Later on, Don shifted his thinking back to himself and his company, but in that moment, he came across as charming, collaborative and respectful.

Don’t Keep Secrets

You probably don’t have quite as many falsehoods following you around as Don Draper — or should we say Dick Whitman? Nevertheless, in the business world, seemingly harmless white lies have a nasty habit of catching up to you.

Secrets — no matter how small or harmless you think they may be — have no place in the business world. Don’t tell your boss everything’s fine if you’re having trouble with a co-worker or the job isn’t quite what you expected. You also shouldn’t assume a dead man’s identity and begin living a double life.

This advice is useful for any aspect of our lives. If you’re honest, you’ll experience fewer conflicts. For reference, watch that other comedy of errors: “Seinfeld.”

Leave Your Dangerous Toys at Home

Everybody loves show-and-tell. In kindergarten, it gave some of us reason to get out of bed and shuffle onto the bus in the morning. Adults love show-and-tell, too, but sometimes they take it too far.

marketing lessons from Mad men

Take for example, the aptly named episode “Guy Walks Into an Advertising Agency,” where Ken brings in a John Deere tractor to celebrate a new account. He makes the dubious decision to hand over the machine to one of the secretaries, Lois, so she can have a turn with it. Things go about as well as you’d expect, and the tractor ends up mauling the foot of one of the visiting PPL executives. Whoops!

The workplace is a place where work occurs. It’s fine to engage in some hijinks, but for goodness sack — and feet — please leave your lawn implements at home, in the shed, where they belong.

Learn to Spot Opportunity When You See It

Opportunity supposedly only knocks once. That’s all fine and good, but you’re making the assumption that opportunity knocks at all. Sometimes, life plays out in a funny or unexpected way — and your job is to make opportunity in the chaos.

Take the last few episodes of season three, when McCann makes the decision to buy out PPL, including Sterling Cooper. Mind you, this was hot on the heels of PPL buying Sterling Cooper themselves. And so it goes.

Don Draper peered into the cutthroat corporate chaos and found opportunity staring back. He acted quickly and started scheming with the other partners to form a brand-new agency, free from the aggressive corporate oversight they’d become grudgingly accustomed to.

That, more than anything, seems to represent a recurring theme throughout Mad Men’s season three: The characters spring into action when they see something they want. Their motives are frequently far from pure, but they have the right spirit: Life is yours to shape as you will.

Feautre Image courtesy of AMC’s Mad Men

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