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Watch > Episode > Rory Sutherland - Mad Men

Rory Sutherland - Mad Men


Without thinking, most people can hum the McDonald’s jingle. Instantly you recognise the Apple logo. I say Starbucks, you see that little New York mermaid. I say London Real and you say, “Transform Yourself” right?

Branding is everywhere. It’s identity, it’s product and it’s experience. For perfectly crafted, think of last Christmas and the Sainsbury’s advert: human experience, emotion and connection. The fact that it went viral is proof that it hit bullseye.

You’ll be unsurprised to learn that it’s not accidental. Filled with the sharpest minds and creatives, agencies devise the writing, images and video that drive the consumer machine forward. They tap into our psychology and passion, raise our adrenaline, navigate what makes us human and sell us the product.

Our guest on this episode, Rory Sutherland, is one of the minds behind some of the most easily recognisable advertising of our generation. With a career spanning almost 30 years at one the world’s top agencies, Rory has watched advertising evolve from print to online. In fact, he was one of the first in the industry to endorse the internet and all its possibilities and promise.

Understanding the internet didn’t just change his career but the entire way we experience it today. Rory is a TED fellow, an author, writes a column for The Spectator and brings his vision, wisdom and charisma to the London Real hot seat. You’ll never look at an advert the same way again!

Rory’s approach to marketing is characterised by a maverick mindset: a willingness to question established norms, challenge conventional wisdom, and explore the untapped realms of creativity. His background in classics, a discipline not commonly associated with the advertising world, has played a crucial role in shaping his unconventional perspective. Sutherland’s ability to fuse classical knowledge with modern marketing has set him apart as a thought leader with a distinctive voice.

At the core of Sutherland’s philosophy is the acknowledgment of the irrational aspects of human behaviour. In contrast to traditional economic models that assume rational decision-making, Sutherland argues that understanding and leveraging irrationality is the key to successful marketing. He encourages marketers to embrace the unpredictability of human choices, recognising that emotional and psychological factors often play a more significant role than pure rationality.

Rory Sutherland’s influence extends far beyond the boardrooms of advertising agencies. His engaging TED Talks, such as “Sweat the Small Stuff” and “Perspective is Everything,” have garnered millions of views. In these talks, Sutherland captivates audiences with his wit, humour, and profound insights into the nuances of consumer behaviour. By challenging conventional perspectives and advocating for the value of seemingly small details, he has become a beacon for marketers seeking to redefine their approach.

Sutherland’s book, “Alchemy: The Dark Art and Curious Science of Creating Magic in Brands, Business, and Life,” explores the transformative power of perception in marketing. Drawing inspiration from alchemy, the ancient practice of turning base metals into gold, Sutherland contends that changing perceptions and creating a sense of magic can be as influential as tangible product improvements. The book serves as a manifesto for marketers to understand the intangible elements that contribute to consumer value.

One of Sutherland’s key messages revolves around the concept of “psychological value.” He argues that marketers should place greater emphasis on the emotional and psychological aspects of products and experiences. By apprehending and enhancing the perceived value through creative storytelling and unique experiences, brands can forge stronger connections with consumers. Sutherland believes that true creativity lies in finding unconventional solutions to problems and reframing perspectives.

As Vice Chairman of Ogilvy UK, Rory Sutherland has played a pivotal role in infusing his maverick mindset into the agency’s culture. His emphasis on creative thinking and the integration of behavioural economics has led to numerous successful campaigns that resonate with audiences. Sutherland advocates for a holistic approach that goes beyond traditional metrics, focusing on creating memorable and impactful brand experiences.

Rory Sutherland’s legacy is woven into the fabric of modern marketing. As the industry continues to evolve, his maverick mindset serves as a source of inspiration for those seeking to break free from conventional constraints. Sutherland’s influence is not only evident in successful marketing campaigns but also in the broader discourse surrounding the intersection of psychology, economics, and creativity.

Rory Sutherland’s maverick mindset has propelled him to the forefront of marketing innovation. Through his advocacy for embracing the irrational, recognising psychological value, and infusing creativity into campaigns, Sutherland has reshaped the way marketers approach their craft. As a creative mind in marketing, he continues to inspire a new generation of talent and thought leaders to challenge norms, think differently, and transform the ordinary into the extraordinary.


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