This Sunday marks more than four-and-a-half decades of Father’s Day as an official U.S. holiday (which traces its roots back more than a century ago). Throughout that span of time, pioneering marketers have helped shape the marketing landscape into what it is today.
To celebrate dad’s special holiday, let’s get to know some of the marketing forefathers that caused tectonic shifts in the evolution of B2B marketing. Just like our dads, we probably wouldn’t be here today without these individuals.
Lester Wunderman (The Father of Direct Marketing)
Widely considered as the “Father of Direct Marketing,” Lester Wunderman coined the term “direct marketing” in a 1967 speech at MIT, in which he predicted that sales interactions would someday happen in an electronic marketplace. He invented the magazine subscription card, the toll-free 1-800 number, loyalty marketing programs, and other customer reward schemes.
His most important legacy includes the vast body of direct marketing wisdom from 50 years of experience, which he describes in his book Being Direct: Making Advertising Pay. His marketing philosophy is best summed up as follows:
Acquire with the intention to retain, and retain with the intention to grow.
Advertising becomes a dialogue that becomes an invitation to a relationship.
Always try to turn a marketing disaster into a marketing opportunity.
Philip Kotler (The Father of Modern Marketing)
Philip Kotler is acknowledged as the “Father of Modern Marketing” and one of the world’s leading authorities on strategic marketing. He currently holds the SC Johnson and Son Distinguished Professor of International Marketing post at the Kellogg School of Management.
Throughout his celebrated career, Prof. Kotler has written more than 50 books on different areas of marketing and has published over 150 journal articles. He has helped companies like IBM, General Electric, Michelin, AT&T, Honeywell, Bank of America, Merck, and many others refine their marketing strategies. His approach to marketing goes somewhere along the lines of:
Marketing is a race without a finishing line.
Marketing is not the art of finding clever ways to dispose of what you make. It is the art of creating genuine customer value.
No company in its right mind tries to sell to everyone.
David Ogilvy (The Father of Advertising)
For over 50 years, David Ogilvy towered high above the advertising world. His career spanned the pre-television era up to the dawn of the digital age. His innovative approach at native advertising and other selling techniques earned him the title “Father of Advertising” and In 1962, Time called him “the most sought-after wizard in today’s advertising industry.”
Although he was primarily an adman, many of Mr. Ogilvy’s selling principles resembled how content marketing is being done today. He was the first to use extensive market research to help guide his campaigns, and he strongly believed in selling benefits instead of simply flashing cute headlines. Among his timeless pieces of marketing wisdom are:
The more prospects you talk to, the more sales you expose yourself to, the more orders you will get. But never mistake quantity of calls for quality of salesmanship.
If you’re trying to persuade people to do something, or buy something, it seems to me you should use their language, the language they use every day, the language in which they think. We try to write in the vernacular.
On the average, five times as many people read the headline as read the body copy. When you have written your headline, you have spent eighty cents out of your dollar.
Gary Thuerk (The Father of Email Marketing)
On May 1, 1978, a marketing manager at Digital Equipment Corp. (DEC) named Gary Thuerk launched the world’s first email marketing campaign. He sent out unsolicited emails to around 400 ARPANET users in order to promote DEC’s new product line. The campaign proved to be highly successful (generating almost $14 million in sales), but it also drew a lot of complaints and criticism from the tech community at that time.
The outcome led Mr. Thuerk to simultaneously become the “Father of Email marketing” and the “Father of Spam.” Although it wasn’t until the 1990s when marketers were able to take full advantage of email’s enormous potential, Mr. Thuerk had undoubtedly planted the seeds of email marketing and changed the practice of marketing forever.
Looking back on how decades of technological advances have shaped marketing, Mr. Thuerk recently commented:
I have observed the technology changes and noticed that people make the same mistakes over and over again. It is as if every new generation must go through the same learning curve by repeating the same mistakes.
The Takeaway: Just like our dads, these four prominent fathers of marketing can teach us a lot about what we do. We’re very fortunate to have them blaze the trail for us. Again, the marketing world would have been a very different place if these marketing forefathers hadn’t come along. And so, with that, we say: