Thoughts on Digital Marketing

The Customer is King

Some Thoughts From the Man Who Revolutionized Retail


John Wanamaker (1838-1922) opened his Philadelphia men’s store in 1861. It grew because he introduced a revolutionary principle: “One price and goods returnable.” Prior, prices were set by haggling. With that promise came the innovation of the price tag.

Wanamaker introduced the concept that all direct marketers should follow: the money-back guarantee. He was the first retailer to place a half-page, then later full-page ads.

His ads would often bear aphorisms, many are worth noting and following for today’s digital marketers.

 “Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don’t know which half.”

“You can never ride on the wave that came in and went out yesterday.”

 “When a customer enters my store, forget me. He is king.”

  “A man’s not doing much until the cause he works for possesses all there is of him. Desire, when harnessed, is power.”

 “Confidence! Confidence! Confidence! That is your capital.”

“Many persons have an idea that one cannot be in business and lead an upright life, whereas the truth is that no one succeeds in business to any great extent, who misleads or misrepresents.”

 “Nothing comes merely by thinking about it.”

 “Keep up the old standards, and day by day raise them higher.”

 “Any seeming deception in a statement is costly, not only in the expense of the advertising but in the detrimental effect produced upon the customer, who believes she has been misled.”

“No mistake or failure is as bad as to stop and not try again.”

 “One may walk over the highest mountain one step at a time.”

 “Almost everyone loves to hear his own voice. It is so easy, too! Yet if we could say less and do more for each other’s good, not alone would every home be happier, but communities would be enriched thereby.”

“In writing advertising, it must always be kept in mind that the customer often knows more about the goods than the advertising writers because they have had experience in buying them.”

 “Courtesies cannot be borrowed like snow shovels; you must have some of your own.”

 “If we could only make our hands move as actively as our tongues, what wonders we could accomplish!”

 “Courtesy is the one coin you can never have too much of or be stingy with.”

“Instead of criticism by speech, to show someone a better way to do a thing would be of much greater value.”

”I learned 30 years ago that it is foolish to scold. I have enough trouble overcoming my own limitations without fretting over the fact that God has not seen fit to distribute evenly the gift of intelligence.”

 “It’s easy to work for somebody else; all you have to do is show up.”

“People who cannot find time for recreation are obliged sooner or later to find time for illness.”

”Gratitude takes three forms: a feeling in the heart, an expression in words, and a giving in return.”

“Let those who follow me continue to build with the plumb of honor, the level of truth, and the square of integrity, education, courtesy and mutuality.”

Retailer philanthropist and Postmaster General, Wanamaker was as influential and disruptive as Jeff Bezos.

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