For Millennials, Direct Marketing Books Aren’t Catching Up

Lucy and Ethel on the Chocolate Factory conveyor belt faced a daunting task. That’s what it must like to try to create a current direct response marketing book.

direct marketing books
Direct marketing books | Credit: Chuck McLeester

Lucy and Ethel on the Chocolate Factory conveyor belt faced a daunting task. That’s what it must like to try to create a current direct response marketing book.

I’ve been teaching as an adjunct for more than 10 years — mostly advertising research and marketing courses. But only recently have I had the opportunity to teach a class devoted entirely to direct response. When I began to put the course together for Rowan University, I was looking for a general direct marketing book that students could acquire inexpensively (used on Amazon or another used book site) that I would supplement with additional resources. I came up empty.

The available direct marketing books rely heavily on mail as a medium with a lot of content about lists and crafting direct mail letters. I could only imagine the eye-rolls I’d be looking at standing in front of a group of Millennials talking about direct mail lists.

The standards I’ve relied on for years, Ed Nash’s “Direct Marketing” and Bob Stone’s “Successful Direct Marketing Methods” (updated by Ron Jacobs) haven’t been revised since 2000 and 2007, respectively. Lisa Spiller and Martin Baier had published a textbook for Pearson, but the third and most recent edition from 2010 is out of print. Some books, like Dave Shepherd’s “The New Direct Marketing” (1999) and Arthur Hughes’s “The Complete Database Marketer” are focused on database and response modeling, the precursors to algorithmic targeting. Richard Tooker’s “The Business of Database Marketing” is very practitioner-focused, and other titles are specific to subsets of direct marketing, like “Managing Customer Relationships” by Don Peppers and Martha Rogers (2011).

The newer online marketing books focus on driving clicks, web analytics and retargeting, but they don’t address the fundamental principles of allowable acquisition cost and customer lifetime value.

There’s nothing that brings together online marketing with traditional direct response principles.

I combed through my library of DR books, reached out to publishers and even purchased a few things on Amazon.

For a moment, and just a moment, I considered writing one. Then I realized that with the amount of new information coming at marketers every day, I would be stuffing chocolates in my mouth and under my hat — like Lucy and Ethel.

Author: Chuck McLeester

Chuck McLeester's blog explores issues about marketing and marketing measurement. He is a marketing strategist and analyst with experience in healthcare, pharmaceuticals, financial services, pet products, travel/hospitality, publishing and other categories. He spent several years as a client-side direct marketer and 25 years on the agency side developing expertise in direct, digital, and relationship marketing. Now he consults with marketers and advertising agencies to create measurable marketing programs.

7 thoughts on “For Millennials, Direct Marketing Books Aren’t Catching Up”

  1. I feel your pain and have noticed much the same thing. On the point of eye-rolling by Millennials… If you are teaching in a university / college setting now, technically speaking, you are likely teaching Gen Z students by now (or perhaps a blend of the two). We know less about them, but we need to start looking at this new cohort. But the challenge around your point about text book selection remains the same.

    1. Thanks. I agree with your point about the emergence of GenZ. It will be interesting to see what characteristics they share with Millennials and how they differ. Let me know if you come across any relevant resources.

  2. I agree, there are no overview DR books like there were years ago. But maybe that’s because the DR industry is not nearly as focused as it was decades ago on direct mail and catalogs with an occasional tip of the hat to magazine ads and TV. The industry now embraces such a broad range of subject matter in media, technology, marketing channels, analysis, testing, creative and even branding that it would be impossible to write a book that pulls it all together like the more focused DR books of Bob Stone, Jim Kobs or Ed Nash.

  3. Thank you! I absolutely agree! I believe this is due, in part, to the prevalence of brand-awareness marketing tactics over direct response tactics. Much of what is taught these days is flashy and gratifies business owners, but doesn’t move the product. I second @Michele Salmon’s suggestion that Scientific Advertising is an invaluable read, however I’d also lean more toward Tested Advertising Methods with one caveat: Many of the classic rules for headlines are reversed when it comes to creating high click through rates on email.

  4. awesome article chuck…truth that is enlightening and fun to read! and yep, unless you’re a “dummie” your book is “out” as quickly as it was “in.” i still think you should write on as your columns are fun reads, inspiring and always actionable.

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