My Evening with Cher: Belardi Wong’s Early History

Belardi Wong is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year. After a quarter century of working with clients in a changing landscape, we thought this would be a fitting moment for us to take a look back at some of the most inspiring moments behind Belardi Wong.

When we got started in the 80’s and 90’s, the discipline of direct marketing, direct mail, catalogs, and mailing lists was an industry unto itself –  and it was growing. There were no websites, no online marketing, and virtually no ecommerce. If you had something to offer or goods to sell, direct mail was the only option outside of physical retail, and it worked really well (PS – it still does). The burgeoning industry offered opportunity for anyone willing to work hard and apply themselves.

But the real inspiration for Belardi Wong, the point at which I knew that there was so much more to this discipline, came because of a meeting with Cher (yes, Cher). It was there, at the Four Seasons hotel, sitting cross-legged on the floor browsing catalogs with the diva and pop icon, that I finally realized the power of direct mail. 

It was the mid 90’s and Cher was about to launch Sanctuary, a gothic-inspired lifestyle home furnishings and décor brand. Like many entrepreneurs and brand creators, Cher had a passion and vision for something truly unique that she knew people would want. And in a time before the internet, catalogs offered the most comprehensive way to bring that creative vision to life.

I was the “list lady,” and my job was to help her find the customers that would love her brand as much as she did. So there we were, sorting through data cards and deciding which lists we should choose for her first catalog mailing.

I was surprised how much she related to this industry and got this business. She was a smart woman with great intuition.  She could see what it took for consumers to connect with brands and how customer buying behavior overlapped. She also recognized that the catalog wasn’t just about “selling stuff;” it was a vehicle to inspire and creatively showcase a lifestyle and vision beyond the products that draws you in. Cher was the ultimate marketer, after all, with her success in music, movies, infomercials, and Vegas.  She knew what it meant to engage and ignite passion no matter what you were selling. 

Her first few catalog mailings were a huge success – not just because it was Cher, but she had something unique and compelling to offer. Even as Cher turned her efforts toward other ventures, I have always remembered the excitement she had for Sanctuary and how thrilled I was to be a part of its successful launch.  It was her enthusiasm and energy that inspired and started me on the path to creating a new business – one that was built on what we did everyday but looked to the future, taking it steps further by working more holistically with our clients. That was the beginning of an idea that would eventually become Belardi Wong.

As we celebrate our 25th year in business, I look back on how far we have come. Initially focused on list services, the Belardi Wong of today is so much more: a premier full-service direct marketing firm, offering Integrated Marketing Strategy, CRM, Acquisition, Creative and Digital Services to more than 300 brands and organizations across the country. Even with the expanded focus, we continue to build and grow what has been our foundation all these years; helping brands like Cher’s get started and grow their businesses leveraging the power of direct mail.

I am so grateful to our staff, the more than 80 talented and dedicated individuals who today are Belardi Wong, and the 300+ brands and organizations we are so proud to call our clients. We are so appreciative of the partners we’ve had along the way, helping us become who we are.

As Belardi Wong celebrates its 25th year in business, direct mail has never been stronger. With data and technology continually evolving, there has never been a better time to integrate this medium into a brands marketing mix. I am excited for the next chapter at Belardi Wong and what comes next. 

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