My Acceptance Speech

I was recently honored with a Silver Apple lifetime achievement award in marketing. Here’s what I had to say.


The Direct Marketing Club of New York hosted its annual Silver Apple Awardslast night. The lifetime achievement award honors those who have contributed greatly to the direct marketing industry over the course of their careers. I was fortunate to be among this year’s honorees.

I’m so ecstatic about receiving the award I want to share the moment with all of you. So, here, my acceptance speech:

Thank you so much to the DMCNY for this incredible honor. And thanks everyone for coming tonight to celebrate. Most of all, a special thanks to my mom for being my number one cheerleader, and to my amazing daughter, Claudia, and cousin Ginny, who continually inspire me by having the guts to forge their own path and accomplish whatever they set their mind to.

Of course, congratulations to my fellow honorees!

Claudia and I have a tradition when we eat ice cream at home: it’s always topped with chocolate sauce, whipped cream, and sprinkles. One day not that long ago Claudia asked me if I would make her a bowl of ice cream. I was in the middle of something but I said yes and made it anyway—in a rush. When I handed Claudia the ice cream, her enthusiastic thank-you and broad smile quickly dissolved into disappointment.

“What happened to the whipped cream and sprinkles?” she asked.

What happened was that I delivered a subpar customer experience because I ignored my top customer’s known preferences and instead focused on what was best for me at the time.

It’s exactly the same with marketing.

Companies that ignore what they know about their customers are bound to disappoint them. Instead, brands should develop what Don Peppers and Martha Rogers call learning relationships: building on and using the customer data they have and gather over time to deliver increasingly relevant customer experiences and interactions.

Remember, as Sam Walton said, “Customers can fire everyone from the CEO on down simply by spending their money somewhere else.” [Full, original quote is here.]

I’ve obsessed over and evangelized customer-centric marketing for the past 30 years because, done well, everyone wins.

Direct marketing—data-driven, one-to-one, integrated, marketing—works. It worked for 100 years before Lester Wunderman took home the first Silver Apple, and with the all the amazing technology and reams of data available today will continue to work, better than ever before, for 100 years after Don and Martha come back for their Golden Apple.

The fact is… Customers want, and expect, their whipped cream and sprinkles–and direct marketing delivers it.

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