An Advertising Legend Looks Ahead

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Customer Strategy
He's been called the creator of direct marketing and a pioneer in many modern marketing innovations. His storied career includes the creation of the toll-free 800-number, the magazine subscription card, and the loyalty rewards program. Advertising legend Lester Wunderman will receive a lifetime achievement award this week from the Marketing EDGE for his many accomplishments.

He's been called the creator of direct marketing and a pioneer in many modern marketing innovations. His storied career includes the creation of the toll-free 800-number, the magazine subscription card, and the loyalty rewards program. Advertising legend Lester Wunderman will receive a lifetime achievement award this week from the Marketing EDGE for his many accomplishments.

The non-profit marketing education organization will honor the 95-year-old at its inaugural awards celebration on Wednesday in New York City. The award will be the second recent honor from the organization, which announced earlier this month the formation of the Lester Wunderman Scholarship Fun dedicated to supporting diverse students pursuing the study of data-driven marketing.

On Saturday, I had the pleasure of speaking to Wunderman by phone about his upcoming award and how he feels about his many accomplishments. Here's a portion of the interview.

You're considered the creator of marketing and you're credited with transforming marketing. What's your reaction to the changes to marketing and advertising approaches in recent years?

I predicted what's been happening. We're beginning to see mass production get more personalized. Also digital, where you have interactions between sellers and buyers, has really helped to change marketing. It used to be that advertising was about a brand. Now it's about individuals and what they want and need and most likely want to buy so we're being much more efficient than we used to be. We used to invest in broadcast media. Now we've become much more personalized.

What are your thoughts on the advent of digital marketing and where do you think it's headed?

Easy access to information and personalization is happening because the whole world is digital and the ability to locate prospects and customers and readdress them over time makes advertising more specific. From a database we can know what each customer is likely to buy. It's what I call direct marketing and it's really the manufacturer and the consumer now having a relationship on the Internet.

What is your hope for the Lester Wunderman Scholarship Fund?

My hope is that we can bring more people together on a global basis to consume the knowledge and train people so they can be prepared to act in the industry with the foundational principles of direct marketing.

On Wednesday, the Marketing EDGE will award you with a Lifetime Achievement Award. Looking back at your vast career and accomplishments, what are you most proud of?

I'm most proud of the company I created called Wunderman. We now have offices in 61 countries and have become a global organization.

What do you predict will be some key trends in marketing in the coming years?

I think the whole trend about shifting to a data-driven form of marketing where consumers and seller are joined together to form much more personalized service will be the key trend.

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