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What marketing lessons can be taken from the New York City mayoral race?

Published September 12, 2013 at 10:27 pm

In this increasingly digital age it can be easy to overlook marketing campaigns that some consider “outdated.” With email, social media, text messaging and online videos, does your company even need direct mail marketing anymore?

Yes, and here’s why.

Bill de Blasio is likely to be the Democratic nominee in the New York City mayoral race. The popularity of his upstart campaign surged in the last few weeks and vaulted him to the top of the field. Much of his success is being credited to his advertising approach, which did not include reaching out to supporters through direct mail—traditionally the preferred outreach method for campaigns. Instead, the campaign budget was used for television ads.

Michael Barbaro wrote a recent piece in the New York Times, explaining that political candidates can often benefit from “microtargeting,” which is where specific appeals can be made to varied demographics.

However, when de Blasio opted out of this approach, he was able to devote his campaign to television. The result was “unimaginable.” Each candidate was bound by a spending cap, but de Blasio outspent his nearest competitor by about $200,000 on TV ads.

A Slate Magazine contribution piece said that many organizations have opted to not use “snail mail,” but when it comes to political campaigns, they have been much more hesitant to give up the practice.

“That’s not because they like the medium itself, but because, as Barbaro suggests, it’s a way to do what’s known in the business as ‘microtargeting,'” the article explained. “Via mail, you can send messages carefully tailored to small fragments of your constituency without having to worry too much about alienating everyone else.”

Essentially, de Blasio is an exception to the rule. The 2012 presidential campaign between President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney relied heavily on direct mail. In a business context, a targeted marketing campaign that places a message directly in customer’s hands might be an older option, but it is still a very viable one.

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