Bruce Marcus, whose life and work recast professional services marketing in a client-centric mold, died shortly before Christmas in New Haven of an aneurysm, at age 89. I got the news on the phone that day from Mana, his wife of over 50 years, calling from their home in Branford, Connecticut.
Bruce’s life work was to elevate “marketing” in the world of law firms and other sophisticated professional services to the status of a respected and honorable function, carried out with the highest of standards. He did this through tireless work and dauntingly prolific publications, including sixteen books. Among them were Competing for Clients (1986), Competing for Capital: Investor Relations in a Dynamic World (2005), Client at the Core: Marketing and Managing Today’s Professional Services Firm (2004), and Professional Services Marketing 3.0 (2011). He also published the Marcus Letter, which grew to 25,000 subscribers, starting in 1986.
Suffusing his work was a call for commitment that marketing deliver substantive information clients and other audiences – the firm’s own professionals, potential recruits, former and potential clients – would find of compelling value. Bruce had no patience for slogans, taglines, cliched promises, or lazy, vacuous thinking.
Another indispensable thread of Bruce’s life and working, which it’s too easy for us from the perspective of the 21st Century to overlook, is his unsparing crusade against professional associations attempting to impose artificial, arbitrary restrictions on how professional services firms could market, in the name of supposed standards of professionalism which he knew to be antiquated attempts at guild protectionism. The Supreme Court’s 1977 Bates decision striking down the Florida Bar’s prohibition against advertising gave him unending joy.
As hard as he worked and as widely as he expanded his network, it would be a mistake of the first order to think Bruce took himself too seriously. The “Happy Warrior” label could well have been coined with Bruce in mind.
Larry Smith (a friend), of Levick Communications, published a comprehensive look-back at Bruce’s life, from which I now borrow:
Bruce Marcus was born in Brooklyn, NY. He received his BA from The New School Of Social Research in 1951. Besides his wife Mana, he is survived by his children David, Jonathan, Joseph, and Lucy; his grandchildren Rebecca, Leah, Maree, Arital, Benjamin, and Max; and his great-grandchild Tait. His son Michael pre-deceased him. Marcus was also the cousin of Israeli war hero General David (“Mickey”) Marcus.
Among his many many clients and employers were Sens. Robert Kennedy and Jacob Javits, as well as Booz Allen, Towers Perrin, Coopers & Lybrand, Ruder & Finn, Goldman Sachs, Blyth Eastman Dillon, Donaldson, Lufkin & Jenrette, CitiCorp, and Chemical Bank.
I got to know Bruce several years ago when he phoned out of the blue to invite me for coffee at a Starbucks on upper Broadway opposite Columbia University. The Upper West Side had long been his home and he had done long service on the co-op board of his building on West End Avenue in the 70s – a thankless but energizing experience we shared, as I was President of our co-op board for 20+ years.
By the time we met, he and Mana had moved out of New York City, but from that moment on he often referred to me in salutation as “Bruce of Bloomingdale,” from “Bruce of Brandon.” [Bloomingdale is the now-archaic name for the Upper West Side in the 90s, and the long since grid-erased Bloomingdale Road was a rough precursor to today’s Broadway.] He was an indefatigable polymath to the end.