Famous Last Words: Of Underwear, Aspirin and MBAs
Promotional copy I did not write:
“As the kick-off to NEDMA ’06, at the much heralded Direct Marketer of the Year Awards Banquet on June 14, we will be graced by the presence of none other than legendary direct mail guru, Denny Hatch.”
“Legendary direct mail guru?” Gimme a break! Peter Drucker once said people use the word “guru” because nobody can spell “charlatan.”
However, the theme of the NEDMA (New England Direct Marketing Association) bash is, “It’s a Brave New World.” The title of my talk? “In a brave new world, old is better.”
In college I was a D+ student and skinned out of Columbia with a B.A. in English. During my career, I turned around two businesses (Better Homes & Gardens Family Book Service and Target Marketing magazine) and started one business (WHO’S MAILING WHAT!).
With no advanced degree, I was always made to feel inferior by M.B.A.s and Ph.D.s, whom I found uppity and not very knowledgeable. When I said so, I was excoriated by those who had the degrees and those who hired them.
So it was with great pleasure that I read in a March 21, 2006 AdAge.com story that I was right all along. In a story titled “M.B.A.’s May Be a Marketing Liability,” Jack Neff wrote:
“CINCINNATI (AdAge.com) — A Master of Business Administration degree is not only worthless, it can work against a marketer, according to a survey of marketing executives from 32 consumer-products companies by consulting firm Ken Coogan & Partners. The study found that marketing executives from under-performing companies were twice as likely to have been recruited out of M.B.A. programs than marketing executives from out-performing companies.”
When I show up at NEDMA and proclaim that “In the brave new world, old is better,” maybe people will listen because I am NOT an M.B.A., but rather the product of the old-fashioned apprentice system. I learned at the feet of practitioners, not teachers, theoreticians and Internet wunderkind.
What triggered this column was underwear. For a dozen years I’ve bought Jockey underwear at Lord & Taylor in Philly. In need of some replacements, I went to the men’s shop and found only Ralph Lauren and Calvin Klein at huge prices. So I Googled Jockey and found the home-page, found the style of underwear I prefer and typed in “4” for the number of three-packs I wanted to order. And then clicked on “Checkout.”
Up pops the message: “If you are new to JOCKEY.com please register.” I clicked and up came the message: “To register at JOCKEY.com, begin by completing the form below. Fields marked with asterisks (*) are required.”
What followed was a request for name, e-mail address, password (twice), password hint, birthplace (city), password question, password answer, day and evening phone, and assurance that I was over 14.
I abandoned the shopping cart. Clearly some hotshot M.B.A. had attended a NEDMA-like gathering and heard about the need to build relationships and collect data about prospects and customers. But he or she hadn’t thought through how data collection pertained to their company and customers.
I didn’t want to register with Jockey. As an old-time direct marketer and non-M.B.A., I’d never ask a prospect to go through all that work before agreeing to accept his order and take his money for a commodity available anywhere except Lord & Taylor.
What does registering with Jockey mean? Will I start getting e-mails from it trying to upgrade me to long johns or downgrade me to thongs? How dare the company force me to join the Jockey family without seeing if the service and the product are any good.
To all you M.B.A.s and Ph.D.s out there, remember the immortal words of one of the smartest people in direct marketing, Emily Soell: “I don’t want a relationship with the guy who sells me aspirin. I just want my headache cured.”
Denny Hatch is a freelance direct marketing consultant and copywriter. Visit him at www.dennyhatch.com, or contact him via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.