Marketing Is a Passion—or Perhaps an Obsession

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When does marketing pay off most? When it's all about the customer.

The good news is that the Direct Marketing Club of New York has announced the honorees of its 2015 Silver Apple awards, as well as a special Golden Apple. The great news—for me—is that I'm among this year's honorees. I'm not telling you this to brag. I'm sharing this news with you because I'm absolutely bubbling over with excitement. Here's why:

I have been obsessed with marketing for the length of my publishing career (nearly 30 years). I'm also obsessed with customer experience, which means that the most important thing to me as editor-in-chief of Direct Marketing News—and in my prior roles—is and has been to deliver on our promises to readers. And this award shows that I've done that, and more.

Why the obsession with marketing?

There are three main reasons I love marketing: people, technology, and creativity.

Marketing, first and foremost, is all about understanding customers enough to drive actions (e.g., purchases, recommendations, shares), build affinity, and cement loyalty. Great marketing is customer-focused. The actions its drives create a win-win for a company and its customers: the company gets engagement, loyalty, and profitable revenue; and customers get their needs met, problems solved, wishes fulfilled.

Understanding customers enough to drive the right actions from the right customers starts with data, and is often supported by some very cool technology. At its most productive, that technology does far more than create efficiencies; it provides the platforms that allow marketers to unearth unique insight, reach the right customers at their moments of truth, interact in ways that build engagement, and much more.

Creativity has always been essential to standout marketing. But today marketers' access to nearly every type of customer data imaginable can enhance their creative even further. Companies such as Western Union use data to discover distinctive opportunities to serve their customers, and then translate that to powerful and effective campaigns.

Lucky me

I've been fortunate to build a career serving marketers—and even luckier to have met, interviewed, and collaborated with some of the most customer-centric marketers out there. The list of people who inspire me in this industry grows by the day.

Two people I want to mention here are Don Peppers and Martha Rogers (Silver Apple honorees in 2013). Not only did they coin the term one-to-one marketing, but their best-selling book The One-to-One Future changed the course of countless marketers' careers—and their message of customer-centric marketing is more relevant today than ever before because the technology is here to make one-to-one marketing at scale a reality. But most of all, they've served as a personal inspiration to me; for the length of my career they've evangelized what's possible when marketers put customers at the center of their business decisions. (That would be highly profitable customer relationships, by the way.)

I'm not alone

DMCNY extended this amazing honor to several outstanding industry influencers. I'd like to congratulate those other 2015 honorees:

> Robert M. Cohn, senior consumer marketing director, Bonnier Corporation

> Chet Dalzell, public relations consultant and senior director, communications and industry relations, Digital Advertising Alliance

Peg Kuman, vice chairman, Relevate d/b/a DataMentors, and vice chairman, FarmMarketID

Tim Prunk, EVP, global marketing, Epsilon

Charlie Swift, VP, strategy and marketing operations, Hearst Magazines, a unit of Hearst Corporation

And corporate honoree:  Ethnic Technologies, a multicultural marketing and research firm

I'd like to especially congratulate Golden Apple honoree Lester Wunderman, founder and chairman emeritus of agency Wunderman. Among his many accomplishments over the past 50-plus years (including winning one of the first Silver Apples back in 1985), Wunderman—known as “the father of direct marketing”—is credited with coining the term direct marketing, helping to forge modern advertising, and setting the groundwork for many of the direct marketing methods still successful today.

As DMCNY Club President Pam Haas of Experian said in the news release announcing the honorees: “We celebrate not only these leaders and their contributions—each of whom is extraordinary in their professional achievement and giving back to our field—but also the spirit in which they share their knowledge, and the outstanding and continuing outcomes as a result.”

If you're in New York on November 12, come join the festivities celebrating this year's honorees—myself included. I'll be the one with the huge grin plastered across my face knowing that customer-centric marketing is, indeed, a winning approach. 

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