Cover Story : Direct Marketer of the Year: David Norton
Playing the odds and being in the win column by knowing, valuing gamblersOctober 2010 By Heather Fletcher
Anyone wagering that David Norton would use the word "I" to describe any of his feelings about earning the title of Target Marketing magazine's 2010 Direct Marketer of the Year just lost a bet.
It's as if the senior vice president and chief marketing officer of Las Vegas-based Harrah's Entertainment repeatedly chanted mantras such as "It's we, not I" and "There's no 'I' in team" before taking the lead marketing position three years ago at the now 52-casino, $10 billion international gaming empire.
But no. Those who've known Norton throughout the dozen years he's been with Harrah's say he's genuinely humble—despite being a major reason Harrah's is known as a marketing superstar. Norton says this selfless, team-oriented attitude is one he looks for in others, as well. Otherwise, the marketing overhauls he advocates—including centralizing marketing analysis in April 2009, saving Harrah's $15 million to $20 million in its first year; and becoming an almost pure-play direct marketing entity during the recession—might not yield the company as much profit.
"It's a filter I have when I interview people," Norton says. "It's just that ego factor. We want smart, aggressive people who are proud and can challenge. But if there's too much of an egomaniac factor, it's just not going to work; both within my team and given they probably have to work with the properties. So we've got a couple of those at a time and it usually ends up in just a disaster, because they're very smart and they have some short-term success. [But] long-term, it just doesn't work."
A fan of analytics, Norton's advice to up-and-coming marketers does reveal his passion and why direct marketing's been so much a part of his life for 20 years: "I think the key is to be comfortable in analytics. So [people] may get caught up a little bit in creative, and that's important. But really understanding what's working and what's not at a program—at a customer segment level—and having a degree of comfort in analytics, I think is a key foundation ... for a successful direct marketer."