01 Apr 2002

Professorship Brings Brierley's HBS Connection Full Circle

Re: Tom Jones (MBA 1968)


Harold M. Brierley (MBA '68), chairman and CEO of Brierley & Partners, describes himself as "an accidental entrepreneur," having entered HBS as a chemical engineer planning to pursue a management career in the oil industry. "HBS broadened my horizons and served as the greenhouse in which I started my first business," he says from his office in Dallas, Texas. Now, with his generous endowment of the chair held by HBS professor John A. Deighton, Brierley's involvement with the School has come full circle. A specialist in marketing and information technology, Deighton will no doubt nurture many future entrepreneurs - accidental or otherwise - in his faculty role as the Harold M. Brierley Professor of Business Administration.

After graduating as a Baker Scholar, Brierley entered the DBA Program and worked as a research assistant for the legendary HBS professor Charles M. Williams. While writing finance cases, Brierley also volunteered to help his college fraternity find a vendor to automate its 150,000 membership records. Failing to find a specialist in the membership record-keeping arena, and recognizing an opportunity, he and Thomas O. Jones (MBA '68) cofounded Epsilon Data Management. The company soon became one of the nation's foremost database marketing companies, helping hundreds of America's leading membership organizations and nonprofit groups with their fundraising and record-keeping efforts. "In helping charities strengthen their relationships with their donors and members, Epsilon engineered many of the ‘customer relationship' techniques that make today's customer loyalty programs so successful," says Brierley, who served as Epsilon's president and CEO for its first ten years.

In 1980, serving as the sole outside consultant for the design of American Airlines' AAdvantage program, Brierley pioneered a customer loyalty program that would change the way consumers would select their travel providers. "While the goal of the program was to identify American's best customers, establish a direct relationship, and ideally ‘shift share' a bit, no one ever dreamed that frequentflier miles would become a multibillion-dollar source of incremental airline revenue," he notes. In 1982, Brierley was named vice president of sales and advertising for Pan American World Airways, where he launched WorldPass - a loyalty program that generated $400 million of incremental revenue for an airline with $3 billion in gross revenue.

After serving as senior vice president of marketing for Continental Airlines, Brierley returned to his entrepreneurial roots in 1985 to start a consulting firm specializing in the design of customer loyalty programs. Brierley & Partners has evolved into a technologybased marketing solutions company that helps clients design and manage customer loyalty programs. With offices in seven cities worldwide and over 250 employees, Brierley & Partners' recent clients include Blockbuster, Hertz, Hilton, Epson, Lufthansa, the NFL, Nokia, Sony, UPS, and United Airlines. "Well-crafted programs have generated hundreds of millions of dollars of incremental revenue for some of the world's leading marketers, while ill-conceived programs have simply raised the cost of doing business for others. Engineering loyalty is an exciting blend of financial planning and creative thinking," says Brierley. "I'd design loyalty programs as a hobby, if I weren't blessed to have been able to make it my vocation!"

Brierley's most recent loyalty venture is e-Rewards. Participating members are paid to receive relevant e-mail commercial messages and research surveys. Sponsored by seven of America's leading brands, more than 750,000 affluent consumers have enrolled. "Rewarding consumers for their time will be the next major loyalty battleground, as marketers struggle to establish and maintain direct relationships with their customers," declares Brierley.

"Hal Brierley has been ahead of the curve on many great marketing ideas," says Professor John Deighton. "He pioneered database marketing when he founded Epsilon, and now he is making permission e-mail marketing work. My research is in interactive marketing, so it's been fascinating to meet Hal and learn what it takes to live on the frontier of marketing practice for three decades."

"John Deighton's passion for marketing and the art of managing customer relationships makes him the perfect candidate to broaden the next generation's understanding of effective customer relationship management or ‘customer loyalty' execution," observes Brierley.

A board member of numerous organizations, including the Dallas Symphony Orchestra, The Dallas Center for the Performing Arts, KERA-TV, The Dallas Opera, and the University of Maryland College Park Foundation, Brierley is a firm believer in the importance of giving back to the community. "It's a source of deep satisfaction that the database management tools and techniques first developed at Epsilon have allowed hundreds of nonprofit organizations to profitably strengthen their ties with their constituents," he declares. "Effective use of the computer for segmentation and personalization has allowed organizations to increase dramatically their annual giving. In the years ahead, effective use of e-mail will again revolutionize how these organizations raise funds - and lower their costs substantially."

As a member of the Board of the Directors of the Associates, Brierley is deeply committed to the School's role in educating the world's future leaders. "HBS changed my life and freed me to pursue my own entrepreneurial dreams. It's exciting to help tomorrow's creative thinkers find their own opportunities," says Brierley. "I consider myself fortunate to be able to share with the School and its future students a bit of a life's learning and to be a part of HBS's continuing mission."

Featured Alumni

Featured Alumni

Class of MBA 1968, Section B

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