The Taylor Institute for Direct Marketing: Inspiring the Next Generation of Industry Leaders

By Steve Brubaker

If you were ask a roomful of direct marketing experts how many of them have a degree in direct marketing, what do you think the answer would be?  A good guess would be not many. That’s staggering considering these statistics from the Direct Marketing Association (DMA):

  • Direct marketing accounted for 10.2 percent of total U.S. GDP in 2007, and marketers spent $173.2 billion on direct marketing in the U.S. alone, which generated $2.025 trillion in incremental sales.
  • Direct marketing is also a substantial employer, with 1.6 million direct marketing employees today in the U.S. alone, directly supporting another 8.9 million jobs.

So what gives? Well, for starters, at last count only forty-two out of the 4,100 U.S. colleges and universities reported offering a direct marketing program with at least 50 percent or more of the course content focused on direct marketing. None of the schools reported requiring hands-on experience with direct or interactive marketing companies.

Since Lester Wunderman first coined the term “direct marketing” over forty years ago, learning the profession has pretty much been done through on-the-job training, trial and error, and seminars.

Knowing how academically underserved the profession was, Gary Taylor, founder and chairman of InfoCision Management Corporation (the second largest privately held teleservices company), thought it was time to elevate the profession. With a donation of $3.5 million from Gary and his wife Karen, the University of Akron College of Business Administration launched the Taylor Institute for Direct Marketing in the fall of 2004.

“The sad truth is that previously the only alternative for developing young direct marketing professionals was to hire them with no exposure to our great industry. As a proud alumnus, I wanted to help the school in its mission to prepare competent and responsible business leaders by providing the finest education in direct marketing,” commented Taylor.

Located on the campus of the University of Akron in Akron, Ohio, the Taylor Institute for Direct Marketing offers the only fully accredited four-year degree in direct marketing, and it is the most sophisticated direct marketing educational program anywhere in the world. Created to provide students entering the field with valuable skills, the Taylor Institute offers a variety of major and minor programs of study covering all facets of direct marketing. The classes balance theory with practicum, so students get the hands-on experience they require to be successful.

Featuring interactive environments for students, the Taylor Institute houses laboratories in telecommunications, TV infomercials, direct response, eMarketing, and marketing analytics (such as the data analytics laboratory, the focus group room, and the eUsability laboratory). The Taylor Institute is able to provide students with leading-edge skills and practical experiences.

“Direct marketing is the most focused of all mass media communications and is significantly more highly targeted today than ever before. And, like direct marketing, our teaching cannot be stagnant. We will continue to modify our approach to best meet the needs of our students and the changing direct marketing landscape,” said Dr. Dale Lewison, director of the Taylor Institute for Direct Marketing.

This unique learning experience allows students to gain practical, hands-on experience in all components of direct marketing, such as project ideation, analytics, creative, and campaign evaluation. Using state-of-the-art laboratories and tools, they manage and develop marketing-based print, Web, broadcast, and other media products and campaigns for actual clients in a real-world, professional environment. Upon graduation, students from the Taylor Institute can expect to be employed in direct marketing and marketing departments for large and small firms, advertising agencies, Web-development firms, and especially in their own entrepreneurial businesses.

Scheduled to launch January 2009, theTaylorInstitute will offer a unique MBA program with a concentration in direct marketing. The program follows a traditional MBA structure with foundational and functional areas of study from each of the business disciplines, plus a specialty concentration in Integrated Direct Marketing. The Integrated Direct Marketing concentration blends database, strategic, relationship, creative, and integrated marketing into a well-balanced arrangement that illustrates how effective direct marketing can be achieved. More specifically, the required courses consist of Database Marketing, Strategic Marketing Management, Customer Relationship Management, Integrative Marketing Communications, and E-Business Marketing Strategies and Tactics.

The Taylor Institute has also become a hub for professional meetings and seminars. For the third year in a row, the Taylor Institute has hosted the Great Lakes Direct Marketing Day’s conference, Interaction. This one-day conference features speakers with expertise in direct marketing, including multichannel marketing, creative marketing, marketing analytics, and ethics. During the conference, the Taylor Institute honors a direct marketing colleague with its Direct Marketer of the Year Award, which recognizes an individual who has made a significant and continuous contribution to the field of direct marketing.  Honorees include John Costello, Lester Wunderman, and most recently, Jeffrey Hayzlett, chief business development officer and vice president of Eastman Kodak Company.

Never has the old adage “providing the right customer with the right product, at the right time, for the right price” been as true as it is today. Marketing is going through turbulent times, as the old tried and true methods of reaching consumers fall short, forcing marketers to change fast or close up shop.

Technology and consumer power have forever changed how marketers connect with their customers. As consumers increasingly embrace the growing variety of communication channels, direct marketing is poised to become even more sophisticated – while spending on eMarketing, mobile marketing, social media, and word-of-mouth or viral marketing continues to grow.

Consumers now control the game, and what better resource for an evolving industry than the Taylor Institute for Direct Marketing – the only one of its kind dedicated to the profession.

Steve Brubaker is the senior vice president of corporate affairs for InfoCision Management Corporation.

[From Connection Magazine September 2008]

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