Mad Men’s Heinz Campaign and Value Selling

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Heinz announced that it will be running an ad campaign from the T.V. show Mad Men.

Don Draper, the legendary adverting executive in Mad Men, created an ad campaign for Heinz in a season six episode. The campaign includes a series of photos of foods typically accompanied by ketchup–but there is no ketchup bottle in sight. A simple tagline stands at the top of each photo: “Pass the Heinz.”

In the show, Draper’s campaign is not approved by Heinz executives. It is almost too revolutionary: an ad campaign for Heinz ketchup that doesn’t include the ketchup bottle itself. But this week, Heinz creative team has announced that they’ll be running the campaign–a campaign that originated in a fictional story line.

Sales and marketing leaders can learn from the Heinz campaign. Not only is the campaign a display of creativity and pop-culture relevance, but it also aligns to a few guiding principles of value selling.

1. Know your customer

Part of the beauty of the Heinz campaign is its relevance to pop culture. Mad Men won 16 Emmys and five Golden Globes and drew approximately 3.3 million viewers at the end of season seven. Clearly, the show is popular and the ad campaign will be recognized by fans. The highly relevant–even customized–nature of the campaign increases its effectiveness.

The importance of relevant and customized content in value selling is just as critical. In the Age of the Customer, empowered customers are looking to sellers for targeted, customized, and relevant information that the customers couldn’t find elsewhere in their research. Selling is more effective when sellers can align to this customer expectation by providing relevant information that is tailored to the customer’s business and challenges.

2. Simplify, simplify

Nicole Kulwicki, head of the Heinz brand, said that “What we loved about the campaign is that it doesn’t require paragraphs of copy to explain it. It features mouthwatering food images, and all that’s missing is the Heinz” (Adweek). In other words, the campaign is simple. So simple that it doesn’t require more than three words on each photograph: “Pass the Heinz.”

Similarly, after a business case has been customized for a customer by the seller, it should be simplified to only the most relevant areas of value. For example, if there are 10 potential areas of value, it may be best to simplify the business case to only the most important areas of value. By simplifying, the business case’s impact increases.

3. Invite the customer into the narrative

In the show, the campaign’s lack of an image of the Heinz ketchup bottle is a contentious creative decision. Anselmo Ramos, chief creative officer of David (the creative agency), summarizes the episode when Draper reveals the campaign:  “Don says, well, you don’t need to show the product [Heinz ketchup], because the consumer will complete the thought. The product will be in their imagination, which is even more powerful.” The campaign invites the audience to participate in the ad by completing the thought–that the ketchup is missing from the picture.

The invitation for the customer to join the story is no different in value selling. A seller can sit down with a customer and outline features and functionality of a product or service, or the seller can invite the customer into the conversation by first identifying their priorities and challenges. With software that enables real-time collaboration between the customer and seller, the customer is immediately brought into shaping the narrative, rather than asked to sit on the sidelines as a passive observer.

Heinz’s release of the Mad Men campaign is a creative PR move. But the strategy also points to three essential aspects of value selling that sellers and marketers can adopt: know your customer, simplify the business case, and invite the customer into the narrative.