Alvin Achenbaum, President of the Achenbaum Institute of Marketing, began his marketing and advertising career in 1956 at McCann-Erickson Worldwide. A native of the Bronx, Al attended Taft High School and served as a Corporal in the Army Air Corps during World War II. He earned a Bachelor’s degree in Marketing from the University of California at Los Angeles and a Master’s degree in Business Economics from Columbia University. Throughout the next six decades, Achenbaum built a reputation as a strategic marketer who revolutionized the way businesses market their products and manage their relationships with their agencies.
Over a remarkable 60-year career, Achenbaum advised leading global marketers, including Procter & Gamble, GE, Toyota, Kraft and Nestlé, on how to use marketing tools to improve the economic value of their businesses. He held senior executive positions at four major advertising agencies in New York City: McCann-Erickson, J. Walter Thompson, Grey Advertising — where he created the market research department — and Backer, Spielvogel, Bates Worldwide, where he served as vice chairman, overseeing all professional services. For 40 years, Achenbaum was chairman of a series of leading marketing consulting firms which provided companies with systematic tools for addressing complex business challenges. Always a champion of the critical role marketing plays in economic success, Achenbaum introduced many of the business leaders of the last half century to such fundamental concepts as: 1) building brand equity, 2) strategic marketing planning, 3) maximizing advertising agency-client relationships, and 4) using systematic quantitative research as a guide to effective decision-making.
Achenbaum established three pre-eminent marketing management consultancies. He co-founded Canter, Achenbaum and Associates in 1974 with Stanley Canter, a veteran of Ogilvy and Mather. In 1999, Jim Heekin, former President of Doyle Dane Bernbach, joined the team. Upon the retirement of these gentlemen in 1993, Achenbaum formed a new consulting firm, Achenbaum Bogda Associates, in partnership with Pete Bogda. In total, these firms advised more than 150 blue chip American and global companies. Notable clients included Kraft, Honda, Hallmark and Citicorp. He also worked with the Department of Defense, where the US Army General and Vice Chief of Staff, Maxwell Thurman, credited Achenbaum with “helping the Army become the most educated and effective in its history.”
In addition to his work as a practitioner, Achenbaum was an adjunct professor of marketing at the Bernard Baruch Graduate School of Public and Business Administration. He also guest lectured at numerous universities, including New York University, Columbia, Northwestern and McGill.
An acknowledged gadfly, Achenbaum wrote dozens of articles and speeches, often challenging industry assumptions. A futurist before it was trendy, he regularly spoke out about emerging trends and the future of advertising and marketing. He wrote weekly columns for Ad Age and Marketing Week in the 1980s and was a member of the editorial board of many key professional organizations, including the Market Research Council, the American Marketing Association and the Advertising Research Council, which he co-founded.
In 1987, Achenbaum, who received numerous honors from his peers over the years, was elected to the Market Research Hall of Fame. In 2000, he was named one of the most influential advertising executives of the 20th century by Advertising Age.
The Achenbaum Institute of Marketing was founded in 2005 to celebrate the legacy of Alvin Achenbaum. Its mission is to create a lasting record of Achenbaum’s accomplishments as one of the leading figures in the marketing, advertising and research communities of the late 20th century. In 2013, the Institute published Lessons Learned: A Practitioner’s Guide to Successful Marketing, a comprehensive and instructional guide for current and future business leaders.
In 2013, the John W. Hartman Library at Duke University published Achenbaum’s comprehensive collection of papers, research studies, speeches and articles. The collection, which comprises over 80,000 items and contains 117 linear feet of material, documents over sixty years of Achenbaum’s professional life. The Collection is available via the Center’s website.