“What I Taught Jeff Bezos That Forever Changed The Marketing World”

Before we go further let’s establish two things. First, Jeff HAS changed the marketing world—not single-handedly but through that monster marketing portal called Amazon.com and by following several immutable principles of commerce. Second, though I’ve worked with some of his top people I don’t know him; I’ve never met him in fact. That’s not my headline quote.

But if I WERE Jeff’s marketing partner or consultant during the beta testing of Amazon.com I would have the legitimate bragging rights to such a claim in this headline.

Because Jeff learned and routinely practices the de facto formula for direct marketing success. What’s that? It’s the infamous 40-40-20 formula. Let me explain…

Before there was AI, big data analytics, geo-targeting, digital cookies and social media there was that thing called direct mail, the holy grail of direct marketing merely two decades ago.  As any marketer will tell you, however, direct mail is hardly the media darling it once was, but rather has become the underperforming ugly step-sister of today’s split-second digital marketing industry.

In its heyday there was a direct marketing advertising agency on the West coast that was pioneering the best practices of catalog marketing, frequency programs, membership programs to generate enormous LTVs (customer lifetime value) for their clients and space ads with bold 800 numbers pasted below bodacious LTOs (limited time offers). It was the nation’s largest independent DM agency (before it was sold for a fortune to Foote Cone and Belding), and the 10th largest agency of any kind West of the Mississippi. The name of the agency was a household word in the West—Smith-Hemmings-Gosden, or SHG for short.

As miraculous fortune would have it, at the age of 26 I found myself as the head of new business development for this venerable agency and, through baptism by fire, learned many of these classic tried-and-true marketing tools and quickly applied them with abandon for my clients—Bausch and Lomb, Sheraton Hotels, Western Bass Fishing Association, Princess Cruises, Safeco Insurance, JD Power and Associates and many other notable clients. More astonishing, I was one of the luckiest men in marketing serving as right-hand assistant to the legendary Freeman Gosden, Jr, one of the true forefathers of direct marketing who pioneered the principles that Jeff Bezos and his team now apply a million times a day.

So what is the 40-40-20 formula for success and why did Jeff stake his reputation and personal fortune on such a risky algorithm? More important, who was Freeman Gosden, Jr (we called him FG) and why was he such a brilliant marketer?

Continued on my latest post: On Direct Marketing, Jeff Bezos, Seth Godin and Electric Bikes



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