Book Review: Being Direct by Lester Wunderman

Lester Wunderman is the marketing genius who invented the idea of direct marketing which is the idea that marketing should always have a call to action that is measurable and therefore can be held accountable. While Being Direct is Wundermans’s biography, it is packed full of marketing strategies and tactics that are still useful in 2014. This book sat on my amazon wish list far to long after reading a recommendation from Seth Godin in his blog post: The arrogance of willful ignorance. Essentially, Godin points out that every industry has a history that needs to be understood to do your best work and after reading this book I understand why. 2940012330123_p0_v1_s260x420

My Key Learnings

There are simply to many lessons to learn from this book to write them all down, but a few of best nuggets I will walk away with are:

  • Advertising must be hold accountable.
  • Many of the new marketing crazes of today are really just echoes of the past. You could say Wunderman was one of the first people to use “content marketing”, though he referred to it as curriculum marketing.
  • Utilizing direct response marketing does not have to come at the sacrifice of the brand. If done right, it can enhance it.
  • Advertising doesn’t have to be expensive to be outrageously successful.
  • Some times it isn’t the marketing that doesn’t need innovation, but the product or business model itself.
  • Serendipity is a powerful tool for problem solving.

Here are a few quotes from the book:

  • “The main objective of mail-order advertising was not just to make a sale but to build long-term relationships with customers, who would buy again and again as new products were offered to them.” (p. 98)
  • “It was an unproven belief that people who saw the television commercials would be more likely to subscribe when they saw the club’s ads or mailings. The club didn’t know whether the commercials were successful, because it was difficult to measure the results accurately.” (p. 128)
  • “To be effective, [the television ads] had to simulate measurable action, not just awareness, as general advertising did.” (p. 129)
  • “In my mind, direct marketing was a system of interactive transactions that would restore a measure of dialogue and human scale to the way we made, sold, and bought things.” (p. 170)
  • “I believe that the curriculum theory of data-based target marketing has a far greater potential than any other form of advertising. Advertising is a form of teaching that leads to selling, and the best way to teach is with programmed strategy. Curriculum marketing converts “suspects” to “prospects,” prospects to customers, and customers to repeat buyers.” (p. 244)
  • “What consumers think of a product or service hardly matters unless it affects what they actually do – and do again.” (p. 293)

Throughout the book, the thing that stood out to me the most about Lester Wunderman is the way he was able to balance the art and science of marketing through his creativity as well as his marketing experiements to creating marketing systems that performed over and over again. Mr. Wunderman, you are one of my marketing heros.

Dan Sanchez, MBA

Dan Sanchez is a marketing director, co-host of the B2B Growth show, and blogger. He holds a Masters in Business Administration (MBA) and BS in Marketing Management from Western Governors University. Learn more about Dan »

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