What These Top Advertising Agencies Did To Create Internationally-Recognized Brands

Eddie Lam
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Have you ever wondered how top advertising agencies create internationally-recognized brands? In today's competitive world, consumers have more buying options than ever. To be successful, we need to make our advertising stand out from the crowd.

But how do we get recognized? What can we do to turn an unknown brand into an internationally recognized brand? Most importantly, what exactly did the top advertising agencies do to create these brands?

Let’s take a look at these top advertising agencies and see how they created some of the most internationally recognized brands in history.

1. Top Advertising Agencies Make the Truth Fascinating

Legendary advertising man David Ogilvy founded Ogilvy & Mather which became one of the top advertising agencies in history.

Ogilvy created many influential campaigns that transformed many brands into internationally recognized ones such as Dove, Rolls-Royce, and Shell. One of them is the Zippo campaign, which sold a lighter.

In the ad, David Ogilvy told a story about a fisherman who found a Zippo lighter in an 18-pound pike in a New York lake. To his amazement, he was able to light the lighter the first time.

In the whole campaign, he didn't talk about how beautiful the Zippo was (Zippo had dozens of stunning designs), and he didn't list out all the features and benefits. 

The only thing he did was emphasize one thing and one thing only:  "Zippo - The Lighter That Works." Throughout the campaign, he cleverly told different stories about the Zippo lighter, which would always work no matter how old or what condition it was in.

The campaign ran for more than four years, and it dramatically increased the sales of Zippo lighters. And undoubtedly, Zippo is now one of the most iconic lighters in the world.

So what can you learn from this?

As David Ogilvy said, "Tell the truth, but make the truth fascinating. You know you can't bore people into buying your product, you can only interest them into buying it.”

Look at your current product and think deeply about all the features and benefits of it. Then, pick the one feature or benefit that nobody has as the unique selling proposition (USP). Finally, emphasize it in your marketing, and make it fascinating by telling a story.

2. Do the Exact Opposite by "Thinking Small"

In the late 1950s, most Americans were obsessed with automobiles like Ford and Chevy because of the larger cabin size and more powerful engine.

A somewhat less famous foreign brand from Germany called Volkswagen was having a fierce competition with the leading dogs. To make matters worse, the automobile that they were selling had a much smaller cabin size and less powerful engine.

They had to do something to turn things around. What did they do? From the top advertising agencies at the time, they hired Doyle Dane Bernbach (DDB).

During that time, typical car ads were full-page ads, with the car photo taking up most of the space. The owner of DDB agency wanted to take a similar approach. He tried to make Volkswagen's ad as American as possible.

An Unusual Ad Concept

Two men in the agency had a different idea. Julian Koenig (a copywriter) and Helmut Krone (an art director) thought to present the car as if the other agencies were stupid. The vehicle they were trying to promote looked totally "alien" compared to the American's and the car was also smaller.

Instead of following what other agencies were doing, they did the exact opposite. They made a full-page ad with the car taking up only a fraction of the page, leaving a massive chunk of white space. The ad is now famously known as the "Think Small" campaign. At first, other advertising agencies were laughing how ridiculous the "Think Small" ad was.

However, the result was astonishing. People were intrigued by the car. They started recognizing the benefits of having less gas, less maintenance, and less insurance. With that, Volkswagen became very popular in America. And finally, it is now one of the largest and internationally recognized brands today.

What can we learn from this?

When creating marketing campaigns, we're always tempted to follow the norm. But the "Think Small" campaign showed us to dare to take the opposite or different approach in our marketing.

Also, your current disadvantage might be a blessing in disguise. Just like Volkswagen having a smaller size and less powerful engine means less gas and maintenance. Think deeply about your product and see if you can turn a disadvantage into an advantage.

3. Underdog Strategy

In the early 1960s, Hertz was number one in the car rental industry. Avis was only number 2 over the years. Avis needed something new to promote their brand. Top advertising agency DDB took up the challenge. One female copywriter in DDB, Paula Green, went against the norm of "bragging" in the advertisement. Instead, she embraced Avis’s number 2 position in the market and wrote the "When you're only No.2, you try harder" campaign.

The campaign was an instant hit. After one year, Avis went from losing $3.2 million to making $1.2 million. In just four years, Avis's market share increased from 29% to 36%, while Hertz's market share shrunk from 61% to 49%. This decline terrified the Hertz executives.

Since then, Avis has been running the campaign for over 50 years. It has made Avis one of the most internationally recognized brands.

The success of the "You Try Harder" campaign wasn't luck. We love underdog stories, like the "David versus Goliath" story in the Bible. We all have struggles in our lives. We want to overcome them no matter what, even when they are impossible. When we read underdog stories like Avis and David, we quickly identify ourselves with them, and just like Avis and David, we know we will always try harder no matter what.

That's why people loved the "We Try Harder" campaign.

So, next time when you are designing a campaign, tell an underdog story and let your audience identify with your struggles. They will quickly recognize your brand.

4. Create a Brand Identity

In the early 1950s, the whole tobacco industry was shifting to sell filtered cigarettes because more and more scientific research showed that regular cigarettes could cause deadly diseases.

One of the top advertising agencies called Leo Burnett Company, Inc. was promoting Marlboro filtered cigarettes.

Since Marlboro was initially introduced as a woman's cigarette, they now had a hard time getting men to smoke Marlboro. So, they wanted to take the opportunity to sell filtered cigarettes to men.

During that time, most filtered cigarette advertising focused on features and benefits. They advertised selling points such as "Our filters taste better,” "Our filters eliminate all the harmful chemicals," and "Our cigarettes are the safest in the world."

Every advertising company was competing against each other with better product features.

However, advertising executive Leo Burnett wasn't interested in being more competitive. He knew he needed a different approach to convince people, especially men, to smoke Marlboro cigarettes.

Then, he proposed presenting a manly figure as an icon in the company’s advertising - now famously known as "The Marlboro Man."

During the campaign, the advertisement never mentioned any features or benefits; all you saw was a strong muscular cowboy riding on a horse, herding a pack of horses, and smoking Marlboro cigarettes.

The result was fantastic. When the campaign launched in 1955, sales were only at $5 billion. After two years, sales increased by 300%, hitting $20 billion. The campaign ran for over 45 years. Even now, Marlboro is still one of the most internationally recognized cigarette brands in the world.

What can we learn from this?

Creating a Lifestyle

Leo Burnett was a clever ad man. He understood one of the greatest secret desires of men was to be a real man. "The Marlboro Man" campaign was selling the lifestyle (known as lifestyle marketing) of being an independent, strong man like a cowboy. By smoking Marlboro, you are telling the world that you are independent and strong. Not only did it make the regular smokers switch from their favorite brand to Marlboro, but it also made non-smokers start smoking Marlboro because they wanted to look like real men.

Many famous brands have used this concept as one of their marketing strategies. Look at Apple's "Mac versus PC" campaign. It was selling the idea that, "the cool guys use Mac and the boring nerds use PC."

When you are working on your marketing, find the secret desire of your target audience. Who do they admire? What kind of lifestyle do they want?

Once you've identified their secret desire, you can align your brand with their desires and craft your marketing message by using brand storytelling to appeal to them.


Creating an internationally recognized brand can take a lot of time and effort, but it is worth investing your resources in creating one. Here are four simple lessons we can learn from the great copywriters and top ad agencies in history:

  1. Emphasize one unique selling proposition and make it fascinating.

  2. Watch what your competition is doing, then do the exact opposite.

  3. Use an underdog strategy.

  4. Use lifestyle marketing to create your brand identity.

Remember, nothing in marketing is set in stone. You won't know the result until you test it out. But, these four lessons can serve as guidelines and inspiration when you are creating your next marketing campaign.

A good copywriter should understand the power of these four lessons. If you are looking to become one of the top advertising agencies and create an internationally recognized brand, hire a dedicated copywriter today and see how they can help you.

Eddie Lam

Eddie Lam is a trained and certified copywriter. His great passion for advertising, marketing, and sales has led him to ventures like eCommerce, investing, and business. He also likes advanced technology, and he is a big fan of Apple. He now devotes his time to help businesses to grow by being a great copywriter.

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