I Wonder What Bob Stone Would Say?

Once upon a time, I worked for a direct agency doing direct mail programs for large telecommunications companies.  I spent my days with my nose buried in giant mail matrices, looking at pro forma reports, debating about the impact of a new Johnson Box, and trying to explain to our general agency partner why we couldn’t just use the creative from the ad campaign. It was heady stuff.

This was in the days before e-mail or the internet were used to market anything (even before Al Gore was skewered for saying he invented it). Mail was king for one-to-one marketing, and its champion was a man named Bob Stone, once a professor of Direct Marketing at Northwestern University, and co-founder of direct agency Stone & Adler, now part of Y&R.

Bob literally wrote the book on Direct Marketing.  His book, Successful Direct Marketing Methods, first published in 1975 and now in its eighth edition, is the bible of any direct marketer.  Though each edition keeps pace with the changing media, most notably the impact of the digital era, there are timeless principles that everyone should keep in mind.  Here are 30 that I have referred to many times over the years.

But that’s not my point.  My point is that I yearn for wisdom like Bob’s when it comes to the world of social media.  Unfortunately, Mr. Stone passed away three years ago, prior to the current “TwitFace” hysteria.  So we don’t get to hear the very practical, level-headed ways he would suggest approaching it.  I’m really sorry about that, because I think what’s missing in all the incessant chatter is a cool head.

My very humble guess is that he would tell us to put it in perspective. To remember that while it is the shiny new toy in the communications arsenal, you don’t need to race out there and start posting nonsense tomorrow.  He might say that like any other new channel, and that’s all it is, figure out what you want to accomplish with it, how to integrate it with everything else you’re doing, have a plan, and execute it well.  Bob being Bob, he’d also tell you to measure the hell out of it so you know what you’re getting from it.  But that’s just my guess.  What do you think Bob would say?

— Ellen Repasky, Account Director


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