DM Days: On Marketers and Politicians
Marketers and politicians have quite a bit in common, according to Donald Evans, the Bush Administration's first-term commerce secretary. Evans told attendees at the 40th annual Direct Marketing Association's DM Days, unfolding in New York this week, "Every campaign season politicians try to deliver their message, but they aren't always effective. The field of politics and marketing will cross paths more and more as years go by."
Evans told the gathering of marketers that they have taught him a thing or two over the years. "Direct marketing has always been on the cutting edge--on the creative edge--of reaching the consumer," he said. As they have moved through different marketing mediums, so have politicians. "Some people say politics and marketing shouldn't mix, but it's been going on since 1796. Thomas Jefferson used newspapers to [promote himself], FDR introduced radio, JFK [took to] television and President Bush rode the Internet into the White House."
The 2004 presidential campaign was a "revolutionary" one, which Evans said he saw the early seeds of in 2000. "In 2004 we were using the same kind of marketing techniques that businesses are using across America to acquire consumer information, not just voter information." The difference, he said, was discovering not just who votes, but what motivates them to vote. "We developed a way to predict the way people [would] vote not just on where they live, but how they live." As a result, he said, more women, minorities, and urban residents turned out to vote.
"With the 21st century direct marketers face an onslaught of challenges, because technology continues to grow," he said. "Consumers are dismissive of marketing that doesn't address their [particular] needs. Direct marketers must engage in long-term strategies that form long-term relationships with their consumers." Opportunities are thriving in financial services, pharmaceuticals, and telecommunications, he said. "I challenge you to do more than make a profit. Be creative, be bold. Give your best to others, the best will come back to you. That's been the formula of success since our founding."
Evans was also tasked with speaking about key business issues that must be pursued during the Administration's second term. Particularly important, he said, is that marketers and other creative thinkers should not be discouraged by strict legislation that has been mandated as a way of punishing corporate wrongdoers. "Businesses are at the strategic center of any civil society, and if businesses don't honor their moral responsibilities, who will?" He acknowledged the need for Sarbanes-Oxley and other disclosure legislation that came about in the wake of the Enron scandal, but expressed that such laws would be refined over time as to "not ruin the entrepreneurial sprit of this country....We cannot create an environment where people are afraid to fail."
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