Remembering the legacy of the inventor of direct mail marketing.

Considering the level of targeted advertising we’re all used to today, it may seem hard to imagine a time when direct marketing was considered a new concept.

But, of course, it was at one point considered groundbreaking, especially when it was first conceptualized and made popular by advertising guru, Lester Wunderman. Known as “the father of direct marketing”, Wunderman’s contributions to the marketing world have withstood the test of time and are still utilized today, especially in the world of direct mail advertising.

To honor Mr. Wunderman’s recent passing on January 9th, 2019, we at DDD would like to look back at some of his main contributions to the marketing industry and how they still shape our advertising decisions today:

He was a champion of thoughtful personalization

At the heart of direct marketing is thoughtful personalization, and Mr. Wunderman recognized that earlier than most. The concept of crafting a targeted campaign based on specific information known about a customer was a strategy Wunderman implemented when he first started out in advertising and is a huge part of why he saw success in his career so early on. He recognized the opportunity to connect with customers in a more meaningful way by focusing on the things he knew about them, whether it was their age, their location or even their marital status. During a time when the status quo was launching catch-all campaigns intended for general audiences, his ideas were considered revolutionary.

He understood the importance of clean data

As we all know, clean data is essential when it comes to crafting personalized campaigns. This is something Wunderman recognized from the very beginning, especially at the dawn of the internet age, when storing and organizing large amounts of customer data was made easier. Wunderman realized that in order to target customers with as much granularity as possible, he would need to lean into the data side of marketing. In fact, during the late 1980s, Wunderman Worldwide expanded its core business into data analytics in order to support that various targeting needs of its clients at the time. At DDD, we also lean into the power of variable data processing and have seen great success when it comes to our clients’ ability to target specific consumers.

He never underestimated the impact direct marketing could have for small businesses

Even though Mr. Wunderman’s agency had a bevy of well-known national clients such as Burger King, Ford, and Pfizer, he was always a champion of small businesses. He believed that direct marketing methodology could be applied across the board, no matter what industry or audience size. This is because at its core direct marketing is very simple: Target customers based on what you know about them. This concept can be applied to a Fortune 500 company as well as local florist shop who serves a handful of regulars.

In reference to claims that he invented direct marketing, Mr. Wunderman famously told Adweek, “Direct marketing was out there. I didn’t invent it. But it had no definition and no strategy.” Yet, the fact that he successfully branded and commercialized a concept that is so integral to modern marketing speaks to the true extent of his marketing expertise.

Information contributed from The New York Times article, Lester Wunderman, Father of Direct Marketing, Dies at 98.[