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Chris Barr Photography

This issue marks not only my first anniversary as editor-in-chief of Direct Marketing News, but also the first time in my tenure here that we've had a celebrity on the cover: Tardar Sauce, aka Grumpy Cat.

The production time from concept to execution was less than two weeks, and Art Director Melissa Mazza lost plenty of sleep—and perhaps a bit of sanity—in the process. Melissa deftly orchestrated the coming together of celebrity cat with celebrity photographer Christopher Barr, despite such obstacles as a claw-fearing limo driver, rights disputes, and a justifiably nervous cat owner (Grumpy recently received death threats). But through Melissa's perseverance, here we are with the meme of the moment gracing our cover.

Grumpy epitomizes today's obsessions; the individuals, issues, and brands that are captivating consumers and marketers alike, until they don't—Angry Birds is so yesterday.

Today marketers are watching consumers' adoption of Candy Crush as closely as they're listening to the data privacy and postal regulations debates among legislators. In “Under (and so over) the Influence,” Elyse Dupré and Al Urbanski reveal the 15 top marketing influencers of the past year, from inside and outside the marketing industry. Check out the list and tell us what you think. Who influenced your marketing strategy or gave you pause during that time?

Get engaged

Since we're on the subject of hot topics, let's talk customer engagement. Specifically, our recent launch of the Direct Marketing News Marketing Mavens community as a way to engage you, our customers. Our goals are for you to have a bit of fun while interacting with our online content, to experience gamification firsthand in a B2B environment, and to (maybe) win some cool stuff while keeping up to date on the latest marketing trends, strategies, and success stories.

Although Marketing Mavens may seem like all fun and games, we're not clowning around here. We're serious about content—and you should be, too. Content marketing, that is. In “Three Things Every Content Marketer Better Know,” Ryan Joe delves into content marketing best practices of such companies as Anheuser-Busch InBev, Coca-Cola, and Qualcomm to give you insight into how to bolster your own content marketing efforts. Like Grumpy Cat, content marketing may seem like the flavor of the month. But it's not. Engaging content in all its forms—articles, events, videos, and the like—can be more potent than Grumpy's piercing stare. And that's no cat tale.

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