The Early Years (1969-1979)
In order to understand how the Wilen Group of companies grew to be a major Direct Mailer and Digital agency it is necessary to know the history of Wilen's interaction with the postal system from its very beginnings. In 1969, Richard Wilen started a print brokerage company, specializing in service to the nascent Cable Television ("CATV") industry in the basement of his Long Island, NY home.
In 1971 Mr. Wilen formalizes the company as Seal Send Systems. Richard and Robert W. Beemer (creator of COBOL computer language) combine forces to produce the Honeywell Computer Journal. In 1972, Wilen acquires Athena Communications as its first CATV client. The 1970’s was a period of growth for both Wilen and CATV. As a broker Wilen prints and direct mails the first HBO Program Guide; this leads to Wilen producing advertising, direct mail and bill inserts for Teleprompter Corporation (Manhattan’s 1st CATV Company). As Wilen’s CATV customer list expanded the company established its Long Island office in 1978.
Richard and the new Wilen Media Company became ensconced with CATV producing Cable Guides for new cable networks i.e. HBO, Showtime and ESPN. These guides were delivered to subscribers via USPS. This effort lead the company into several new directions. Richard directed the course of the business as it became the preeminent CATV marketing company always using Direct Mail as an integral strategy.
Richard began to understand the importance of trademarks and patents when a few of his brands became ubiquitous such as 'Premium Channels' and 'TV Blueprint'. To become more cost efficient to its customers required Richard's creativity and inventiveness.
The Formative Years (1980-1989)
Wilen Media was formed to assist CATV operators acquire, maintain, inform, entertain and invoice subscribers. The integration of these marketing and financial functions into direct mail started the flow of patented products and systems several of which are in common usage today. During this time Wilen expanded its Long Island office while simultaneously maintaining client contact offices in Manhattan.
One of the earliest products was pioneering printing 'Program Guides' on the lightest weight paper available. The purpose of light weight paper was to expand value by creating expanded print coverage space while meeting USPS weight requirements, for 1st class mail, justifying piggybacking promotion materials to be included with the invoice/statement. In addition to direct mail magazines (US Patent No.4,824,503 Magazine Assembly System and Method), new patented formats were created that allowed for including a modified light weight paper 'Program Guides' within a CATV billing envelope. This was further developed into light weight billing inserts that included a return envelope. (US Patent No. 7,770,069 Insert With Return Envelope and US Patent No. 7,726,650 Insert With Return Mailer).
In 1980, Wilen became a publisher, in the form of 'Premium Channels' the 1st multi-pay television program guide, which was the linchpin to multi-pay TV and multi-pay TV marketing. During the 1980's Richard invented several methods to automate the production of program guides leading the initial transition into word processing as replacement for typesetting one of the forerunners and early adopters of digital printing technology.
Major Growth in Printing and Direct Mail (1990-1999)
Due to Wilen's CATV marketing prowess in 1991; Wilen began a multi-year relationship as the authorized direct marketer and promoter for pay-per-view Boxing events. The promotions, expanded Cable Guide publishing and rapidly growing CATV Direct Mail programs had Wilen printing their work at several printing plants around the country. The significant coordination efforts, printing press availability, strict publishing deadlines and lightest weight paper necessities were endemic of Wilen's growth. During this time Richard continued to expand 1st Class US Mail with light weight paper to piggyback with today’s low rate for the 2nd oz. of postage using the available weight space. Further, Mr. Wilen to this day believes that the Direct Mail industry is obligated to support the USPS for both job creation and excellent delivery.
Throughout the 1990s Richard's three sons (Darrin, Corey and Kevin) joined their father in multiple management capacities. In 1997, at the age of 56, Richard made a large investment in buildings, printing presses, digital plate making equipment, computers and staff as Wilen opened the Florida facility and Wilen Press was created.
Wilen transitions to High Volume Direct Mail and High Technology Manufacturing (2000-2009)
In 2000, Wilen Press becomes the sole tenant of its 55,000 square foot facility as well as adding its 2nd web printing press and the employee count rises to 100. In 2003, Richard forms the Wilen Group as a way to separate management functions, but more importantly Wilen, re-establishes itself as the preeminent CATV marketing and publishing source. During this time Richard received a patent (U.S. Patent No. 6,691,610 Method for Printing Metallic Inks). The purpose of this patent was to make light weight papers more opaque as well as more pleasing to the eye.
In 2006, in order to satisfy CATV acquisition demands Wilen establishes its letter shop and direct mail division as a standalone business unit. Wilen continues its technology growth and recognition from its dedication to inline print manufacturing and integrated 600 dpi digital printing. The company was growing so fast that it constructed and added an additional 35,000 square feet of manufacturing space to its Florida facility. This helped accommodate a 3rd web printing press with inline finishing capabilities.
While all this was taking place Richard Wilen became more creative than ever. Richard ran a project to expand Wilen's capabilities into E-mail and Internet marketing and even payment systems. This project also paved the way for moving the company into gift cards, print-at-home formats and Internet software method techniques. This was evidenced by a plethora of new patents, such as US Patent No. 8,577,735 - Interactive Gifting System and Methods, US Patent No. 8,616,434 - Multi-Component Forms, US Patent No. 8,893,966 - Customizable Interactive Gifting and Advertising System and Method, US Patent No. 7,882,651 - Slide out card configuration with booklet, and US Patent No. 9,002,737 - Gift Card Mall in the Home.
In 2007, Wilen Press' vertical and horizontal integration, extensive IT integration and the combination of digital printing into inline print manufacturing ensured Wilen is a client’s most valued go-to business partner. A third press is installed and launched for variable data and advanced inline finishing business.
In 2009, Wilen Press became Wilen Direct emphasizing its focus on 1:1 marketing and expanded digital capabilities.Wilen Direct became the 1st direct mailer to install and use the Kodak Prosper S10 system, allowing for 600dpi digital printing.
Wilen's Continuing High Technology Digital and Inline Manufacturing Growth (2010-present)
In 2010, Wilen pioneered the implementation of full 4 color digital, with in-line finishing on the Kodak Prosper S10 system. During this time Wilen Direct started a period of rapid growth based on its unique capabilities combined with Wilen Media's transformation into a digital marketing agency named Wilen NY.
In 2011, Wilen Direct developed full color digital for use on the outside of envelopes. Since Wilen was in the unique position of continuing to serve the CATV industry and as a marketing leader Wilen Direct started supplying promotional plastic cards to all of its clients.
As a leader and innovator in digital and variable data imaging, personalized direct marketing, advanced mail strategies and technologies, and fulfillment, which include all of the traditional direct mail services and more, such as: format development, inline/offline finishing, data hygiene, postal optimization, variable data printing, digital integration, logistics, real-time mail tracking and response analysis and program optimization.
By 2013, Wilen had grown to more than 250 employees and was in need of additional space. Wilen constructed an additional 55,000 square feet for warehouse, envelope inserting and postal sorting and finishing space.