Wilen Group — Adapting To the Times

The Wilen family is dressed to kill and grow its market share. From the left are Corey, Kevin, Richard and Darrin Wilen.

IN THE world of business, sometimes recognizing an unprofitable trend is as important, or perhaps more so, as spotting a lucrative one.

Take the Wilen Group, a family owned and operated company based on Long Island, NY. Founded in 1972 as a publishing firm from the basement of Richard Wilen’s house, the company quickly made a name for itself as a publisher for the cable television industry and an original vendor to the cable TV circuit. In fact, it produced the first HBO guide in 1973.

When the pay-per-view craze hit in the late 1980s, Wilen Group took the lead in producing booklets for that sector, as well. At its peak, the company churned out more than 12 million cable books that populated thousands of cable systems throughout the country.

But when the Internet age began to rear its head, it didn’t take Nostradamus to predict a change in the future for the printed TV guide.

“The transition was simple. It was either evolve or perish,” notes Darrin Wilen, son of the company’s founder and president of Wilen Group. “We were facing extinction. We specialized in the in-the-bill cable guide business, but then more clients were paying their bills through credit cards and not receiving a bill, or paying their bills online. In-the-bill messaging or marketing had matured, as well.”

The reaction has been equally appropriate and highly effective. The company evolved, bringing previously outsourced printing in-house, with a dedicated division—Wilen Press—based in Deerfield Beach, FL. Headed by Kevin Wilen, Darrin’s brother, Wilen Press recently added its third web offset press, a six-color Goss M-110 with in-line finishing capabilities that went live in February.

Sprouting New Wings

Wilen Media, based at the parent locale of Farmingdale, NY, has sprouted a new set of wings, taking its marketing messaging from bill insertable communications to another level as a vertically integrated agency, providing brand strategies, direct marketing, custom publishing, advertising, promotions, digital and Web database management, media planning and buying, and brand identity.

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