It’s about DM, stupid

The US Presidential race is entering its last lap and in under two months’ time voters in the US will choose their president. The economy, debates and a host of as yet unknown variables will play their part in the outcome. A factor a little closer to home will also prove hugely significant: direct marketing.

Russell Parsons

Incumbent Barack Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney are criss-crossing the country kissing babies, making promises and dismissing the other as yesterday’s man. Most of the nation’s 50 states, however, will be all but ignored with the two candidates concentrating efforts on about 10 “battleground” states that could lean either way.

Florida, New Hampshire, Virginia, North Carolina, Wisconsin, Iowa, Colorado, Nevada, Michigan and Ohio will get their fill of Obama and Romney in the next two months as they look to tip the contest their respective way. It will not be a one-size fits all approach either. The campaign staff will have identified groups of voters in each of these states that will swing it for them. Hispanics and other ethnic groups, veterans, female voters and students will all receive bespoke messages.

Personal visits aside, the voters targeted in these game changing states will be deluged by marketing. Television and radio will play a huge part, yes, but the marketing channel that will make the biggest impact as the campaign team get down to the granular is direct marketing.

The Republicans are leading the way in use of direct marketing. The “Romney for America” team spent a whopping $12m on direct mail consulting, printing and postage in August, official figures show, almost a fifth of the campaign’s entire budget last month. More than $2m was spent on telemarketing, while $2.3m was spent on online channels such as email.

Although Obama is currently leaning towards high impact broadcast ads – 80% of his campaign spending – the President is no stranger to DM. A Democratic DM campaign recently targeted women in swing-state Pennsylvania promoting his “Obamacare” healthcare plan.

Although Romney has slipped behind in most polls recently, the election is still very tight. Every last vote will be fought for in the ten or so states still considered up for grabs. Segmenting the audience into potential voters and them targeting them with compelling DM will be key.

At this stage, voters need a reason to believe. The candidates need to provide them the reason that is bespoke to them. Whether it be in the hand, in their inbox or at home on the phone, DM will prove the best channel to employ to achieve this.

The 2008 election was dubbed by some, the “social media” campaign. Unlikely as it will be to get the commentators rushing to bill it as such, 2012 should be handed the moniker the “DM election”.

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