These Men Wrote the History of Canadian Football – John de Gruchy

The Toronto Globe and Mail in 1963 —

I was sifting through some family papers and stumbled across a newspaper article my father had saved from the 60’s about the foundational leaders of Canadian football, one of whom was my great grandfather – John de Gruchy.  What does this have to do with my work and customer engagement?

Directly nothing but indirectly a lot.  John was a man of integrity and commitment. These are characteristics that run in my family.  My father often said “keep busy, have a list”.  Well we are all built that way.  And, we all believe in a world of mutual trust and respect.   The early days of Canadian Football were in a state of flux.  Football could have headed in many directions but because of men and women like John with his strong beliefs in the value of people of all races, cultures and origins Canadian Football went in a good way.

My point here is that leadership sets the tone and direction. Nothing has changed that makes this any less true.  The challenge today is finding leaders of real integrity and real commitment rather than just lip service.  And, the examples we need to follow, are in many respects sitting in our recent past.

So lets’s not forget!John de Gruchy wrote the standard for the Canadian Grid

The Sounds Bosses Make.



Trust and the human condition

To some degree we can be successful in a challenging environment but it’s often hit or miss, and a lot of hard work, and frankly, I’d rather not expend that kind of energy if I don’t have to.

The following vignettes are drawn from life experience and describe six working scenarios.  The vignettes describe the challenges that work against trust and how I managed them, for good or ill.

You make up your mind.

Vignette 1

My first introduction to the cosmetic business was a bit of a surprise.

It was a retail business in rapid growth with a managing director I couldn’t decide I liked or feared, or whether I was just fascinated.  In the end fascination rose to the top and I began to respect her for making decisions where none would, and for having ideas and “wanting them now”.

She was, in turn, always respectful.  Where others struggled I warmed to her management style and looked forward to the Monday huddle.

She always came prepared.  She always had a list.  She always was on top of her game. Her directions were simple, and short, and she left you to figure out the rest.  And, she gave feedback.  Who could ask for more?

The only other time we heard from her was if we hadn’t met her deadline.  Generally it wasn’t pretty at that point so we firmly limited that eventuality.

I remember her for saying “are you ready, you should be by now”, and “what other options did you look at” and “does everyone agree?.”

Yes, there was a pretty large sword of Damocles hanging over our heads but she was concerned about how we worked together and the working process.  And, in the end she respected what we said and what we recommended.

When we did the right thing we knew it!

Good job team.

“The minute you settle for less than you deserve,

you get even less than you settled for.”

Maureen Dowd


Vignette 2

I sat down in his office and put my 90 day plan on the table and he said “before we get in that let’s talk about how you see yourself fitting…I want to make sure you get the right start in the department.”

How often have you had a boss say that to you?

How often has your boss expressed some form of concern for your success and well-being?  Fit doesn’t happen by itself.  Success is work.

The good news is that for the most part I’ve worked for individuals who believed in their team, believed in how the team functioned together, and understood the value of alignment.  Team Alignment enables teams of all types, at every level of the organization, to rapidly accelerate performance, deliver consistently higher business results, and work together as unified, self-directed entities.

The leadership of most companies talk about it but, in practice, it seems to be largely missing.

In this particular situation it was recognized that I was highly independent and could work with little direction.  And I did.  He was happy.  So was his boss.  We trusted each other and all was right with the world.

But with all good things comes change.  That change was fairly radical and took the form of a new SVP.

You’ve all been there – that first team meeting and the troubling sense that life would never be the same. Anxiety descends upon the floor.  Ambiguity replaces clarity.  Trust flees.

Needless to say it was time to make a change.  First my boss did, and then I and others followed.

In the end she pushed herself out.

“I’m working with two speeds today;

slow and fuck you. Which one do you want?”

Nicole Hill

Vignette 3

I went to work for this company because I perceived a tremendous potential for the company based on reported marketing investment.  I engaged friends to introduce me into the company and the VP of marketing.

Over a six month period I interviewed with more than 15 people, and for more than four roles and opportunities.  Feedback was always the same – “we were really impressed by your background but we are just finalizing the department structure and can’t move forward right now”.

I was still wanted to be there!

Finally my hire was confirmed for a long term analytics contract. The confirmation came indirectly and in what I was soon to learn was the style of my manager, the VP of marketing.

Trust would never develop on this ground.

My relationship with her was built on benign neglect.  I was irrelevant unless needed.  Initially I took this personally.  Don’t we all want to believe we are at the center of the universe sometimes?

There were insiders and outsiders in the marketing department.  The insiders heard the news first, got to discuss the direction of the department and gossiped about those they perceived as having a weakness.  And, you just live with it.  I was just a contractor and didn’t have a chance.

In some respects this made my work easier because her focus was always on the task and the immediate deadline.  Help couldn’t be expected but the good news was that I rarely needed it.  If you delivered to deadline there were never any challenges.

As time passed and as I was entering my 3rd year with the company I saw very little of her.  Status reports were sent; feedback was given; new projects came; results were delivered and presentations made.  The numbers were very solid and well received by the executive leadership.

But neglect, however benign, does take its toll even if you are doing a good job.  Indifference follows and then it’s definitely time to move on because self-destruction sets in.

“You know, I used to think it was benign neglect, but now

I see that you are intentionally screwing me.”

Parker Selfridge

Vignette 4

The first sign –

I was walking from the Penn State Smeal School of Business with the President of the company to the parking lot when he paused and turned to me saying:

“you shouldn’t trust me…you really shouldn’t…I’m not a very nice person”.

I paused, tried to be polite, smiled weakly and said something about not believing him.

We continued our walk, got into our mutual cars and went on our way.

Those 13 words resounded in my ears and screamed – ‘Get out!’

The second sign –

Just after I started with the company I presented to my boss a schedule for touchbase meetings and marketing finance reviews.  He said it was too much.  He then said:

“you and I don’t need to meet very often when something is wrong I’ll find you…”.

Getting out was doubly reinforced.

Trust in a job is a fundamental.  And we all learn from various small signs to not trust.  This was definitely one of them and only into my first 60 days.

My work carried on.  I met deadlines, worked within impossible budgets and worked diligently behind the scenes to find another job.

On the positive side there were two senior managers I reported into and who I have kept touch with to this day.  The heads of product development  and EMEA marketing.

Both looked for value and added value to the working lives of the people around them. Both are now working for ‘A’ list companies and are  in ‘A’ list roles today.

They deserve it!   I’m honored to know them.

I’m sick of giving creeps money off my soul.”

Bob Dylan

Vignette 5

I’ve always moved from job to job because I’ve known someone.

Through a referral I was introduced to the head of omnichannel.  I’d heard good things and thought this would be a tremendous opportunity.

A mentor once told me : “In an interview process we learn 30% about and opportunity.  The balance is either a terrible or wonderful surprise.”

It was.

On the one hand I was able to practice some of the more sophisticated CRM strategies I had in my kit and on the other I was able to watch up close a boss who was so totally unlike me as to be incomprehensible.

His starting point was always “I have an idea…, or meet you in the meeting room…”  The challenge was that it was typically the day before whatever we were working on was due.

I come from a world of pre planning.  I’ve been very well trained.  I had terrific mentors.  I’ve worked for big companies that believe in minimizing risk. Direct marketers do this extremely well.  The time line drives everything and those timelines are sometimes very long.

I was entering new territory here — a world of hyper last minute.

My biggest challenge was trying to determine if we were working together.  Alignment is very powerful and critically important for a successful executive leadership team.  Some days, as I would stand in my boss’s office drawing org. charts, or discussing goals and objectives, I would think I’m supported, valued and trusted.  The feeling looked mutual in those instances.

At other times I would see his self-interest in his own agenda emerge.  At those times I would be thrown under the bus.  The good news is that I did, for the most part, see it coming and could struggle with evasive actions.  But there wasn’t a lot of trust.

This went on for 4 or more years.  The ideas and the frantic pace continued.

In the end his self-interest won and trust went out the window as he sought to protect his acolytes.  I had been recruited out by that point and was able to watch with some neutrality as the department imploded.

Does trust exist where trust is fleeting?

“I’m not upset that you lied to me,

I’m upset that from now on I can’t believe you.”

Friederich Nietzsche

Vingette 6

I was fascinated by the intersection of entertainment, marketing and  personality.  The work was easy, the organization less so.

The witty repartee that I was introduced to ran in parallel with strategic conversations and planning meetings.  It was a heady mix.  But what was most fascinating was the shining political acuity.

“Let’s see what we can do…” was a frequent starting point.  He was never really about producing work himself but he was good at keeping the priorities straight and managing up.  The operations teams viewed him as a hothouse specimen but he was tolerated and sometimes respected.

But it was still the trust problem.

I’d learned from my history.  I worked at building commonality, shared intent, and a  high level of comfort in order to support a high level of mutual trust.  But the mutual part never happened.

I was expendable. So was my team.  They knew it.

So I thought that if I delivered outstanding work, quickly, that this would mitigate the expendability problem.  It looked like it did for a while but it was just an illusion.  While he said “great work” what he really meant was don’t lose me any points.

It was just as well that the project ended.

“Truth is beautiful, without doubt; and so are lies.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson


Work is all about trust in my view.

Building it. Maintaining it. Adapting it to changing circumstances.

Trust is what keeps you at the job, generates the most rewarding collaborations, and delivers the highest level of innovation.

And trust will not exist when there is no trust at the top – the president, your boss, the COO.    If your boss is a no trust kind of guy you are, to some degree, sunk before you get into the boat.  Yes, sometimes you’ll manage through, but frankly, that’s just because you’ve been lucky.

Or, maybe you are both not trustworthy and you both manage to get along just fine.












































































































































































































































































Good to Great, or how to not fall into the rabbit hole

When we begin asking ourselves what is this life really all about clearly the implication is that something puzzling has confronted our sense of order and sent it careening into the wall. My last 6 months have been something of that sort.  And, yes, my sense of order and the universe has been challenged, severely.

I have worked in retail marketing most of my career and there are very clear pros and cons to that business.  If you are like me taking pleasure in my busy list and liking to keep busy generally the retail life is for you.  But…at times we question what has seemed to work and think that far fields are greener. Yes, I fell victim to the siren call and the earnest desire to avoid Black Fridays; to shun “holiday”; and to keep well away from the life and death of the 4th quarter.  I longed for a flat horizon where the peaks were in any other quarter except the 4th and where, I truly believed, a higher plane of rational thought drove logical and more strategic customer marketing decisions.  I fell hard and fast and was seduced by my own inventions of what that outside world looked liked.  What followed was a startling revelation!

I was recruited by Wiser Partners into a global CRM & Loyalty project with ABG Group by a very thoughtful practitioner of the art of retained search, Ruth Frantz.  She was extremely thorough.

We worked together to rationalize my work history of headcount and non headcount roles and emerged with a resume focusing on the highlights of a very successful career in global CRM.  Many successes and many innovations littered my career where, to a large extent, my sweet spot was to bring order and align process to deliver efficiencies across the marketing operation.  I’m one of those people who are like a search light where dysfunction exists.  I love to take ambiguity and massage out the wrinkles then align ALL the stakeholders behind a unified effort.  What fun. It is fun! And, it’s necessary but not always appreciated.

I’m often confronted by that deer in the headlights look and the realization that no matter how much I might work to outline the benefits, demonstrate the cost savings, or show the long term benefits it just doesn’t resonate.   More often than not, however, in my retail experience the story had resonated.  Retailers are always looking for ways to squeeze out another sale and CRM holds the keys to the kingdom.

When I review the leaders I’ve worked for – Delphine Hibon, Tyler Heiden Jones, Sue Lewis, Fabrice Gautron, Jay Hirschon, Andrew Dubin, and Paige Havens – what has differentiated them from so many others is the willingness to listen and explore a new idea and to give back at the right time.

In my retail world the tactical CRM conversations had evolved to the point where profiling best customers and building look-a-likes in the offline world was almost regular business.  Digital and offline integration was a no brainer.  The idea of washing a data set through Experian or MasterCard to enhance a propensity view, or to add additional channels of contact was no longer considered unusual while the application of the CRM disciplines to the field now embraced store segmentation and all the geo fencing applications you can think of within a lifecycle view of the customer. Whew!!

So now we’ve set my benchmark and expectation considerations.  Combining this with far fields are greener produced a toxic combination.  The Emerald City is real, isn’t it?

Now back to Ruth – she and I worked through a rigorous process of vetting and validation before I was presented to ABG Group.    I provided a list of 20 references including all my bosses back into my dim dark past.  We analyzed my various roles from an accomplishments perspective then dissected my management style, handling of ambiguity, leadership and on and on.  I emerged at the other side of this process with a very clear and positive view of where I came from and what I am capable of delivering.  I was presented and my capabilities were both admired and desirable from the perspective of ABG’s leadership.  Yes, I interviewed with more people than really made sense.  I was pleased. They were pleased.  The deal was done.

The first few months were bathed in the glow of our differences — between the car rental business and retail between high value and commodity and between high customer investment vs. low.   It was all so very different yet in so many ways much the same but I wasn’t seeing the sameness or the important strategic gaps between where I came from and where I was.  The gaps emerged over time with questions like – Who owns the marketing calendar?  No one, we don’t have one.  How is marketing aligned through the channels?  It’s not, there is no process.  The questions I raised were pretty fundamental and had to be answered in order to proceed with the project I was hired to make happen.

Oops, I forgot about that part.

Let’s step back – the project I was hired to launch was the ABG loyalty program.  This was the holy grail  that would level set the Avis value proposition versus competition, e.g. Hertz, National, etc.  Avis had completed a cost/benefit analysis prior to my starting which framed in infinite detail how the program was to be launched and marketed going forward.  What the cost/benefit didn’t do was answer those basic and fundamental questions that the loyalty marketer would look at including impact on field and fleet; point’s budget relative to customer lifecycle objectives; integration into the customer lifecycle plan; customer migration patterns; integration across media touchpoints, and marketing systems.

The weekly and monthly status meetings were in place.  The right stakeholders were invited but responsibility was too distributed to work.  What ensued was a debacle with the reality of the situation bumping into the cost/benefit and the executive leadership’s weekly, daily, hourly…moment by moment changes of direction.

The most discussed question other than the fleet implications was the value prop and how to deliver it to market within the budget authorized by the already approved cost/benefit plan. The loyalty vendor layered additional constraints that severely limited the ability to apply real marketing thinking to the program aka the “platform can’t do it”. Around and around we went on a daily basis with senior leadership second guessing itself and everyone out there pitching their own version of reality.  And, we had a hard date for the launch of November.  Well, we all know about hard dates.  They change and they did almost daily.

Oh and I forgot to mention the very challenged existing technology backend that required untold soft dollars in people and system work arounds  to support its integration into the loyalty program.  The structure of this system was neither documented nor did any one person have a solid understanding of all the component parts and how they worked together.  Yes, there were a few translators of this byzantine “platform” but they operated with their own agendas which largely involved keeping their jobs while sustaining the chaos indefinitely.  So how was it possible to deliver a strategic proposition in this environment?

And the final straw?  One of the senior leadership had made a commitment to the street to deliver a billion $ EBITDA in 2015.  At the time they neglected to figure out how.

All of these independent streams of dysfunction eventually bumped into each other and doomed the loyalty launch to second fiddle and my project to something less than necessary.  Around me people were being laid off, my boss stood aloof and kept his hands very clean.  Our CMO’s feet staid off the ground while executive leadership made every effort to cut expenses to the bone to ensure delivery of that billion $ EBITDA. Exciting times!

So we have a challenging financial context, a non-strategic marketing department, a budget plan built out of context to reality, and a strategic outcome predetermined by a plan that just didn’t work.  An important secondary factor was the ruthless outlook and limited valuation of the human asset. In other words the human capital had no material consideration in the decision making process.

My friends were agog. They had a small window into another industry and couldn’t believe what they saw.  They were all like me.  They had assumed those far fields really were greener and anything must be better than a retail marketing life.

So – what’s the lesson?

I think it would have been better to have learned more about Avis before I jumped. The positive side is that all projects have an end date.

A good friend of mine many years ago said to me that you learn only 30% about a company and your boss to be in the interview process, and the other 70% is either a pleasant or horrible surprise.  When you also overlay on top of this the 80/20 rule – Yikes.  This means that 2 out of 10 companies you interview with are good to great and the balance is varying degrees of pretty god awful.  Sounds bleak.

But I’m an optimist and have faith in people – the right people. This still doesn’t answer the question of how to vet the audience better but we know great companies are out there.

Check and Done!

An Interview with Dave Taylor, Strategy Magazine February 19, 1992

Dave Taylor’s name has become synonymous with the evolution of the Canadian Direct Marketing industry and its importance as a channel of sale in Canada.  This week Dave Taylor and I had a chat about his experience, challenges and what makes him laugh:

Charles: Good Morning Dave.  How was your trip into town today?

Dave: The good news is I got here. The traffic was worse than ever.

Charles: I think you have a couple of anniversaries coming up. Can you tell me about them?

Dave: Are you the pre marketing launch?  I’ve been working in the direct marketing industry for about 35 years and a lot has changed in that short period of time. Toronto has grown up.  Direct marketing has moved into the #2 spot behind brand marketing and, I think, we are building up a strong talent pool in the Toronto marketing.  Oh right…the anniversaries.  I have another birthday. I’ve heard the word ‘milestone’ applied to the event.  I just seem to be older than everyone else now.

Charles: So how’s business?

Dave: Better than ever!

Charles: Are you still a copy writer at heart?  Where’s your focus today?

Dave: I think I’ve always had a flair for a great idea and copy writing is just one of the expressions.   I’ve evolved along with the business and where I’ve developed strength is in building out ideas into direct marketing plans across the customer lifecycle.  I can put a creative concept into context, I believe, more effectively than most of my peers.

Charles: You mentioned peers. Who are they?

Dave: That’s a loaded question…Tony Keenan is one of those people at the top of my list.  I have great respect for what he had accomplished on the business side and with, essentially, the relaunch of the Regal Greetings and Gifts Business. He’s assembled a remarkable team with Barbara Canning Brown leading the marketing efforts. They are all doing a great job.

Mona Goldstein is another leader in our business. She has, in many respects, pioneered the direct marketing disciplines in the agency world here in Toronto.  It’s been a tough battle in  some ways and direct marketing continues to fight for respect.

There are host of people who are not direct marketers of the year like my friends Steven Shaw, Bob Stacey, and Rich Bassett each of whom in their way has made an imprint on our business.  Frankly, it’s the low profile individuals like Steve who, by working consistently for a better industry who are really making a difference.  The groundwork he laid in the 70s continues to impact our business 20 years later.

Charles:  You forgot the plug for Salter, de Gruchy?

Dave: No I didn’t. I just talked about Steven.

Charles: Right!

Dave: Right!

Charles: So you think ‘direct marketing’ now has acceptance?

Dave: We are getting there. We have all worked hard since the 70s to get the direct marketing medium embraced by mainstream marketers.  Our conversations back then were all bout finding ways to gain recognition and to grow acceptance.  I think we’ve built a strong foundation but the current generation of direct marketers will really show its value.

Charles: I think we all recognize you as the great mentor of the DM business. What are your thoughts on what we think we see?

Dave:  That’s good to hear. And, I won’t get a swelled head.  I’ve always believed in the value and importance of a conversation.  In my view there is always a story to illustrate a point and that not much as really changed over the years.  Something that happened 10 years ago is, most often, still relevant today and can be applied to a business challenge.

We’ve all seen the failures and successes.  I strongly believe their value is in understanding why they are what they are.  So much of what I pass on to clients are the little nuggets that I’ve picked up from my direct experience building and launching programs.

Charles: What kind of direct marketer are you then?

I think I belong to a small group of hybrids. You know, those creative direct marketers whose strategic marketing is melded with copywriting and creative capabilities. The challenges of running a successful DM campaign today demand that mix of skills. Strong creative is important but so is an ability to tie the campaign in to corporate objectives and deliver a clear demonstration of the impact.

Success is a lot more than creating excitement.  We have to deliver solid value and that usually means sales.

Charles: Somebody once told me that you have an amazing sense for what will work and that you can “write exceptional copy on the back of a cocktail napkin.”  From what I understand you have a sense of clarity that has always allowed you to see what is missing or what is confusing or what needs to be changed and how.”

Dave: I think of myself as an all-rounder. I’m strategic first, then creative and finally work through the implementation details to make sure the go to market story will meet objectives.  And, of course, embedded in all of this is test, test, test.  I am a strong advocate of the importance of measurement.  I love being able to create a program and then sit back and count the money coming in.  Testing was and is one of the most exciting parts of this business!

Charles: So was your direct marketing career a plan or an accident?

Dave: To be honest I fell into direct marketing.  After I took a job as circulation manager I found out I would be writing copy.  There were few, if any, agencies to speak of in the direct marketing business. I had to figure it out for myself.  I learned how to be a copywriter at Maclean Hunter’, and made every mistake a direct marketing copywriter could make. I authored ads with no return address.  How much better than that can you get?

Charles: So let’s have a final word on the business

Dave: I think the single biggest factor that determines success or failure in a campaign is the offer.  You can have the most brilliant creative, the greatest words, the nicest design, but without a decent offer it just won’t work.

Pairing a great offer with a campaign that’s informed and in touch with its customers is an ideal match. But other factors are also important, he continues.

I also think a willingness to test, having an open mind and not being committed to always doing things in the future the way you’ve done them in the past – those are also essential elements of a successful campaign.”

Charles: Dave, thank-you very much for taking the time to talk.  All my best and I’ll see you next week. Oh, Dave I forgot my last question — what makes you laugh?

Dave: Life

.Charles: Thank you Dave



An Interview with Tony Keenan, President Regal Greetings and Gifts, Toronto Canada. Direct News May 14, 1991

President, Regal Greetings & Gifts, Toronto

Tony Keenan is president of Regal Greetings & Gifts, a mail order distributor of general merchandise. He is also one of the pillars of the direct marketing community in Toronto.  His support and guidance has helped the community of direct marketing professionals to define both their purpose and their values.

Charles: It’s a bright and sunny day full of hope.  Do you agree?

Tony: Hope is a good thing.

Charles: Do you have hope?

Tony: We have come a long long way.  Consumer acceptance had increased by leaps and bounds and, frankly, the economy is the only issue that’s inhibiting the growth of the direct marketing industry in Canada.  The economy aside the defining issue for our industry is the same now as it was when he entered the business 27 years ago: consumer acceptance.

Charles: What’s getting in the way?

Tony: A dearth of quality offers. There are just not enough quality offers in the marketplace to drive acquisition, support the direct marketing concept and to keep buyers coming back.  As much as I hate to say it the direct industry lacks credibility in the marketplace, and that’s not only in the catalogue business, but that applies to all direct marketing propositions out there.

Regal logo

Charles: So what’s the solution?

Tony: More quality product, better service and good prices. Right now that’s entirely driven by the US cataloguers now coming into the Canadian market like J. Crew and Lands End.  I think they’ve just started to figure out that our market will deliver a higher average order value and higher overall response rates.

Charles: But isn’t doesn’t our higher cost and tax base offset?

Tony: Yes, you’re right.  Our taxes are much higher across the board.  Our cost of labour is about 20% higher than in the US. It’s tough to be competitive.

Charles. How are our US friends doing?

Tony:  They are doing a reasonably good job coming across the border. They could do better, because the concept of charging for product in Canada in US currency doesn’t make any sense.  They should come into the country and do it right, instead of trying to skim off the surface from the outside. But all of that aside, that’s where the opportunity lies.

Charles: So, is this just the tip of the iceberg?

Tony:  Yes and to be frank I look forward to more competition from US cataloguers.  I see nothing but good things coming from some of these quality organizations coming into the marketplace and generating interest and credibility and, therefore, more names for me to mail to.

Charles: You’re walking into the Canadian list industry.  What’s your view here?

Tony: That’s my problem.  There just aren’t enough Canadians and the Canadian list industry reflects that challenge.  The numbers are so small that it really hurts growth.

Charles: What are your thoughts on the current trend to increasing privacy protection for consumers?

Tony:  It’s a good news, bad news story.  The growth of the direct marketing industry in Canada is still working in direct relation to the privacy issue.  There’s more pressure to have the government regulate our industry.

Charles: What about the CDMA?

Tony:  The key issue for the CDMA is to make sure we can maintain our self-regulation. The whole reason behind direct marketing has been the ability to reach a specific target audience very cost-effectively.  If you start to take that away, the whole premise upon which direct marketing is built the overall industry is weaker.

Charles: What’s the conflict as you see it?

Tony: There is a fundamental conflict between consumers’ desire to protect their privacy and their desire to protect the environment.  The ability to target is based on knowing factual information about clients and prospects.  With privacy restrictions, we’re going to have to mail more and not be as targeted.

Charles:  So the issue is not one independent problem really, but interrelated?

Tony: We just need better marketing data management, better analytics and more people like you partner Brian Salter.

Charles: Brian will like that.  What do you mean?

Tony: Our industry has been built by people like Dave Taylor, Brian Salter, Rich Basset, Marilyn Stewart, Steven Shaw, Mona Goldstein and so many others.  Through their hard work and effort we have built a remarkably innovative and energetic group of people dedicated to making direct marketing work better in this country than anywhere else in the world.  I think we are doing just that!

Charles:  Can you comment on data management.  What are the issues?

Tony: To move away from the inefficiency, you have to build better databases. While that raises more concerns over privacy it is the only way to move forward.  Database technologies are going to allow us to capture information about existing clients or prospective clients and, obviously, from the client’s perspective, there’s a fair degree of nervousness in terms of what it is we know about them and what we do with that information.  We have to make sure there aren’t unscrupulous marketers who are abusing their access to the information that is out there.  But that brings us back to regulation or self-regulation.

Charles: What’s the real answer here?

Tony: Consumer education! We want to put it into consumers’ hands that they have choices about direct marketing, if they want to receive an offer or not receive an offer.  We have to show consumers we are taking into consideration their quality of life and that there is a recourse for consumers if they feel they are being abused, e.g. that their names are being passed around without their consent.

Charles: What about the ‘open dialogue’ concept that being discussed so much recently.

Tony: Yes, there has to be open dialogue between direct marketers and consumers. You can’t hide anything from the consumer, otherwise you’re asking for trouble down the road.

Charles: So what’s your biggest concern right now?

Tony: Lagging behind US!

Charles: Can you be more specific:

Tony: Canadians are lagging behind the US in technology, and that is a big hindrance to the growth of direct marketing in Canada.

Charles: Are there any specific audiences the direct marketing industry needs to focus on?

Tony:  We stand to lose out on a lucrative source of income if we fail to increase their understanding of the various groups within the seniors market.  It’s very easy to alienate seniors by labelling them seniors. The CDMA could help by creating a forum at its next conference to focus on seniors marketing.

Charles: Do you have other concerns?

Tony: Consumer cynicism.

Charles: Anything else?

Tony:   Our market is just so small.  We need to make free trade work and to support efforts by people like Barbara Canning Brown to push cross border trade.

Charles: I think you and Barbara are both involved in that effort

Tony: Yes, and she’s been doing a tremendous job.

Charles: Speaking of tremendous jobs. I want to thank you for taking the time today to speak with me.  I also wanted to thank you for making Regal the remarkable place it is today.

Tony:  You and Salter, de Gruchy have done so much for the business, for the CDMA and for new talent working its way through the system.  I hope you’ll continue the good work.

Charles: Whose interview is this?

Tony: Mine, of course.

Charles: Thank you, Tony.


Charles de Gruchy, June 12, 1982
Charles de Gruchy, President Salter, de Gruchy Inc.

Charles de Gruchy is President of Salter, de Gruchy a direct marketing agency in Toronto, Ontario with clients in retail, healthcare, and technology focused on building exceptional customer experience for their customers and value for their shareholders. Salter, de Gruchy’s offices are located in Toronto and New York. and he can be reached at 416 589 1600.

Barbara Canning Brown, President Misco Canada says good-bye to her team at Regal Greetings and Gifts, Toronto, Summer 1991




TO:  Regal Greetings and Gifts, Management Team                                                                                  

DATE: August 29, 1991

FROM: Barbara  Canning Brown


Following is a review of current status of various projects and activities and some thoughts on areas of problem/opportunity for the future:

A. Recruitment

  1. Incremental plan has been implemented for drop date 6/17 (37M English, 13M French direct mail).
  2. Status report of year-to-date activity has been published.
  3. Need current full-year forecast versus budget including and excluding incremental plan.
  4. Agreement has been reached with Operations to fulfill new account kits at Ordan with a commitment to 24-hour turn-around. This will be tested with the fall program for potential roll-out in ’92. Estimated additional cost is approx. $6M which has been absorbed in budgeted funds.
  5. Request for spending on incremental recruitment from Business Development budget ($26.8M) is not required as additional funds proved available from Ad/Promo budget.
  6. Conversion incentive testing should continue, particularly as progress is made in building predictive models of rep potential behaviour.
  7. Communications with new reps after the initial kit should be addressed.
  8. Reporting format still needs work to provide all indicators needed to measure results on ongoing basis and draw “no surprises” conclusions.
  9. Analysis of Rep penetration and understanding of appropriate levels plus missed potential needs to be examined.
  10. Strategic issues to be addressed:
  • -strengthening positioning to alternate and primary income versus part-time
  • -environmental issues revolving around use of direct mail (will be forced  by external events to address this, probably).

 B. Fundraising

  1. CNIB project at chromalin stage, on schedule for delivery of materials to CNIB 7/2 for them to mail.
  2. United Way mailing to last-year buyers and selected prospects currently being prepared for mailing in-house.
  3. Results for core catalogue fundraising program are up over last year. Detailed report and forecast should be requested.
  4. Progress on private label opportunities has been somewhat slow and untimely, so, perhaps should be viewed as a head start on ’92! Opportunities with Muscular Dystrophy, Multiple Sclorosis and Heart & Stroke are being explored.
  5. Member-get-member leads (130) exceed plan (103).
  6. Summer promotion has 75 qualifiers to date. Results may indicate that focused incentives will increase effort.
  7. Only the “surface has been scratched” on long-term potential of core business fundraising. Investment will be required in targeted recruitment through direct contact, localized efforts through stores, direct mail and advertising to achieve significant growth.
  8. The most productive private label business formula has yet to be determined, but potential is there. May not be a significant profit centre, but it’s a business that “makes sense for Regal” from an image and product point of view. If Regal doesn’t go for it, somebody else will or already has.

C. Advertising

Although radio was cut back for ’91, it shouldn’t be forgotten in the marketing mix. While wrestling with finding viable methods of driving customers to reps with an appropriate linkage system, all possible opportunities for building ongoing image, awareness and need among consumers should be perused.

D. Marketing Services

  1. Improved relationship/cooperation with Merchandising has produced improved catalogue presentation and theming. Positive results should contribute to natural continuation of the process–not at warp speed but making progress.
  2. Current capacity is being stretched and should be watched carefully, especially under revised organizational structure and implementation of desktop publishing. Potential for problems will be in terms of capacity versus capability.
  3. Sylvie Robidoux has resigned and will be leaving June 28th to return to Quebec. Although disruptive, the timing (in production terms) is not critical. As well, Sylvie has had some difficulty adjusting to the new relationship with Neuville, so it’s also an opportunity to improve that situation.
  4. Paper stock testing indicates positive gains from improved presentation despite increased costs. Enough information will exist by budget time to make decisions on whether to take advantage of the potential. Sandy has been researching improved stocks at better prices as well as recycled.
  5. Catalogue quantities have been brought under better control through segmentation, advance pack control and improved usage tracking. There’s still room to improve store tracking and reporting systems.
  6. Final desktop recommendation is ready for presentation and, given approval, purchase. I believe the intense level of “homework” and level of detail invested so far will pay off in smooth, manageable implementation. Power availability is a problem but is being addressed by Earl Redmond.
  7. Given that the holographic wrap sample test is effective this year, efforts will be made to continue opportunities to sample manufactured product

D. Non-Cat

  1. Although ’91 sales are under budget, the positive result is less excess inventory.
  2. Non-cat sales in self-serve stores is a concern which is being addressed. An improved signage program has been costed but budget is problem. Suggest using business development funds.
  3. Sell-through promotional opportunity as recommended by Brenda should be revisited within ’92 budget.
  4. It appears that larger non-cat promotions produce better results which should be considered in ’92 budget.
  5. Outstanding question–does non-cat promotion drive catalogue sales or vice versa?

E. File Analysis/Segmentation

  1. Results from spring activation/reactivation testing and current analysis activities have yet to be formally reported, but should be reviewed prior to ’92 budget.
  2. Streaming of recruitment process with grooming opportunities will require coordinated effort.

F. Preference/Prestige

  1. Launch and implementation of program has proven the opportunity for Regal/PDL to deliver on the “income” concept. The hard part will be what comes next for current high achievers, maintaining/continuing to improve their performance.
  2. Strategic Issues:
  3. –is “what we have all we want” in terms of performance and it’s just a matter of increasing the numbers of reps at the upper levels
  4. -do we move further toward “direct selling” complete with territories, quotas, layers and rah-rah, if so, is it “testable” with a significant-sized group who have come to Regal under the “old” do-your-own-thing scenario and/or is it a matter of testing a “new” strategy with a “new” audience unaffected by historical treatment. This may be necessary given that current offers on recruiting reps and/or fundraisers have not been positively received.
  5. A mailing to activate inactive credit card holders has been implemented for drop 7/9. Continued monitoring and proactivity on the credit accounts will be required to meet BOM targets.
  6. 800# ordering service is being offered to a test panel of 790 Prestige reps. Given successful testing, an additional special service element could be added to the Preference/Prestige segment.

G. Environment

  1. Given management support, the environmental committee will carry on its activities under the leadership of Anna-Lisa. She has done a noteworthy job of taking control and will be continuing to issue progress reports and will bring issues requiring decisions to management.
  2. I recommended establishing a separate cost centre to record and measure the costs and savings achieved through the environmental activities in order to broaden focus on the issue beyond individual departments. Ron reviewing with Kevan.
  3. Strategic Issue:
  4. -long-term impact of waste, mail and privacy issues on Regal’s business–are we ready for it?
  5. The next major project of the green team will be fact-finding from legislation impending, activist group activities, industry (print, paper, etc.) and competitive activity in order to identify the real risks to Regal and offer possible solutions.
  6. Continuing waste reduction efforts will be focused on minimizing cafeteria waste.

H. Random Other

  1. Strategic Issue: Seasonality and frequency of catalogues to different file segments needs to be addressed, e.g. two 6-month catalogues with several seasonal spin-offs. As the concept has considerable impact on Merchandising, coordinated effort will be required to move forward in this direction.
  2. A proposal has been received to offer an additional product line to selling Reps (custom-made tablecloths), see attached. As the selling situation requires face-to-face contact with the customer, the proposal has been offered to Regal as a possible fit with our rep concept.
  3. A proposal has been received from George Farr to promote videos to the Regal file in a co-venture with Video One. (See attached). George Farr is meeting with them Friday to put together a list of recommended titles including cooking, gardening, decorating, child entertainment, nostalgia, etc. and will follow up with us next week.
  4. Discount Issues
  • -dollar volume levels should be upgraded for spring ’92
  • -strategy for annualized or alternate discount formats or point systems should be further researched and tested
  1. Due mainly to budget restraints, we have moved away from testing opportunities and have not capitalized fully on results of testing conducted in the past. Perhaps some of the “history” should be revisited, particularly in the areas of catalogue package and format design and sweepstakes/promotions.
  2. Signing authority procedures and dollar amounts need to be reviewed and updated.
  3. Further progress needs to be made on implementing M.E.S.S. One positive result of initial efforts has been a formal, published schedule from Merchandising.
  4. Bilingual reps continue to be problematic and current treatment should be “sorted out” or altered in some way. This issue crosses several areas of responsibility–catalogue, file, stores, PDL, so probably requires coordinated effort to address.
  5. A fully-integrated in-store customer information program needs to be thought-out and budgeted for 1992 and can be designed into self-serve conversions and new store openings coming up in the next couple of years.
  6. DMR Group’s national change of address system has been offered to Regal for testing. I haven’t heard from them since our meeting May 8, but might be worth pursuing.
  7. Testing of a new seed mailing concept has been offered to Regal. Although our own seed system works reasonably well, a more formalized process is probably worth trying out, especially as test will be a freebie.
  8. 1992 is Canada’s 125th birthday. A federal committee has been set up to explore event and promotional marketing opportunities with Canadian businesses. May be worth exploring.
  9. 1993 is Regal’s 65th anniversary–use it for all its worth!

I. My hope

I hope that Regal’s support and commitment to Catalogue Council we worked so hard to make a success continues.

J. Thank you So Much!

I can’t thank all of you enough for the thought and energy you’ve all committed to the Regal business and how much your efforts have made this company one of the great direct marketing successes in this country.  I have sincerely loved working with you and Tony, and hope I can have the same sense of commitment and positive work community as I move along life’s path.

That’s all folks!

Barbara Canning Brown

President MISCO Canada

Barbara Canning Brown's good bye party, The Regal Team.  The best ever!! 1989
Barbara Canning Brown’s good bye party, The Regal Team. The best ever!! 1989

Interview with Steven Shaw, Analytics Consultant The Hudson’s Bay Company and Salter, de Gruchy, Inc., Toronto. Direct Marketing Magazine, April 04, 1997


Steven Shaw has been cited by Dave Taylor, Bob Stone, Mona Goldstein and others as the biggest back room boy in the direct marketing business in Canada. No this is not an article on politics.  What they mean is that he is never in the front but pushes from behind.  He is the guy that develops marketing analytics strategy for most of the major direct agencies in Toronto and they all thank him very much for the privilege.

Charles: Good morning. What do you have to say for yourself?

Steven: I was up late last night and I’m still waiting for your coffee.

Charles: Sorry about that. I’ll fix it right now.


Charles: Is that better?

Steven: Much

Charles: You and my partner Brian Salter have played in the technology business together several times. What’s the connection between technology and marketing analytics?

Steven: To be honest not much.  I think technology just gets in the way of clear thinking.  Success in marketing analytics rests on having a point of view, clean data, clear objectives and a testing plan.  Manipulation of the data into a segmentation, for example, is easy and can be done on a desktop, mainframe or an excel spreadsheet if needed.

Charles:  So why is analytics shrouded in mystery? It all seems so complicated.

Steven:  Well that’s how the big guys charge so much money for so little.  In my world a robust monthly report suite that includes data migration, strategy, design and automation is a $5K to $20K proposition each month even on large data sets.  It shouldn’t be more.

Charles: I now see why the agencies love you.

Steven: Mmmmm

Charles: what do you think of the state of marketing analytics today vs. when you started out in the 70s?

Steven: Access to information captured and made manageable by data management systems today is becoming the business equivalent of the scientific breakthrough.  In my day it was the Business Intelligence department that everyone went to.  People like me were largely ignored.  It wasn’t until about 10 years ago that a real interest started in what the customer was doing at a segment level.

Charles: So what do you do with all this data?

Steven:  That answer hasn’t changed in the past 20 years and won’t change in the future is my bet.  We calculate customer value. We build loyalty.  We build models to predict future business and to identify potential attrition. We target to increase response and reduce cost of sale.

Charles: And the challenges?

Steven: That hasn’t change much either…companies still think about products not customers, capturing customer data still seems difficult, systems don’t talk with each other, a standard of customer value is elusive, customer lifecycle strategy is largely unknown outside the direct marketing community, marketers are bad at analytics and analyst don’t get marketing.  Is that comprehensive enough?

Charles: Whew!  So what do you think are ‘good’ analytics?

Steven: Interesting question.  Good analytics are objectives based. In other words they are driven by the business leader not by IT.  Success is based on building a strategy that guides process change and investment and, most importantly, sticking to it.  Technology is just the enabler of the business vision. Even so it more often than not gets in the way of a successful outcome.

Charles:  So what drives the data strategy?

Steven: The data strategy must be driven by an understanding of how information can enable or improve a business process. For example, increasing cross-sales (the business value) requires data about your current customers and the products they own (the data). Establishing some early, visible benefits is important to launching the data strategy and giving it momentum and credibility.

Charles: what is “good” data? Is all data “good”?

Steven: There are many answers to that question. Here’s mine…Not all data is business critical. Data that is critical to the business typically has two characteristics: (1) Association with something of long-term value to the business, e.g. the customer. (2) Relevant across multiple systems, processes and stakeholders. Marketing uses an end-to-end view of the customer loyalty ladder the marketing touch points required to make the sales funnel effective. These touch points and the process around them reveal critical data assets and associated attributes that are segmented, ranked and prioritized by statistical manipulation to optimize sales and engagement. If this information is siloed and inconsistent, customers will get inconsistent messages and service, process owners will have difficulty measuring their effectiveness, analyses will not reconcile, and implementing new controls or improvements will require changes within each process step. Improvements to these critical data assets will yield important business benefits. By identifying and improving critical data assets tens of millions of dollars in benefit will result that will justify millions of dollars of investment in implementing a data strategy.  I’ve run a little off topic here.

Charles:  All good stuff. How can we avoid confusion? How can we focus?

Steven. It’s important to keep the set of critical data assets as small as possible.  That’s tough and needs a strict manager to oversee.

Charles: Can we go back to how data is managed?

Steven: Sure…Flows of data across systems and processes must be organized in a coherent way.  It’s business architecture, not technology architecture that must define core data capabilities.

Charles: Are you saying that the business must lead?

Steven: No question, yes.

Charles: Has this been true in your experience?

Steven: Yes, and No. I’m a bit selfish and simply won’t work on a project where the business isn’t setting requirements.

Charles: What is the business actually defining?  What is the business responsible for?

Steven: Here’s my list…To organize technology platforms and business processes based on their function in the ecosystem, to capture and create data cleansing and organization, to mine business insights from it, and to use those insights to drive intelligent actions in the business. By capturing data that measures the outcomes of our actions, we create a closed loop that allows companies to use their data to test, learn, and improve their processes.

Charles: As you know I’m on board and that’s what we’ve been focused on at Salter, de Gruchy.

Steven: You’re right but it’s not the main stream.  Most marketing leads just haven’t made it there.

Charles: I seem to be onto questions associated with ‘lists’ but I would like to ask what is the checklist you would follow that would tell you an organization has a high quality enterprise information strategy?

Steven: Standard data management capabilities such as data sourcing and integration, quality and metadata management, data modeling and data governance. Insight capabilities including tools, data, and processes for management reporting and advanced analytics. Action capabilities provision data and business intelligence to applications, business processes and business partners, and capture responses to interactions.

Charles: We are just about out of time. One more question…What is data governance best practice?

Steven: Because data is so ‘present’, the governance structure must be collaborative, with a central governing body addressing most of the important and common data, and most of the data managed locally in the lines of business.  Company policy, staffing structure and resources need to be aligned behind this to ensure success.

Charles: Steven, a big thanks for doing this.

Steven:  My pleasure

Charles: See you in email


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