Proliferation of Trade Associations—The Direct Marketing Evolution Part 7

[Editor’s Note: This is the seventh article in an eight-part, weekly series.]
Quick! How many of these do you recognize? AAAA, AAF, ACMA, AMA, ANA, DMA, IAB, NRF and SEMPO.

Did you think I just had trouble clearing my throat? Or did you recognize all of those as trade associations that serve marketers?

In a way, what’s happened with trade associations during the past decade mirrors what’s happened with content marketing. (Check out Part 5 of this series to see how.) Once mighty organizations have been brought to their knees, niche associations sprang up, previous enemies partnered or even merged, and upstarts became powerhouses.

It’s not quite fragmentation (Part 2 of this series), but it does feel Darwinian. Sure, some of the legacy organizations are shrinking and some of the upstarts are growing, but they’re all being measured by how relevant they are to their members. If they’re producing results, direct marketers keep them around. What a coincidence, right? That sounds identical to how direct marketers measure themselves.

New vs. Old
Social media marketing is the perfect example of an opportunity for a new professional association. At Target Marketing, we think of social media as a direct marketing channel. However, there are still some “traditional” marketers who think SMM either lacks a clear call to action or ROI, and a few “digital” marketers who think social media should lack a CTR and ROI and be completely about communications. There’s also a chance that newer marketers don’t know that older organizations, such as the Direct Marketing Association (DMA), cover that discipline. (Or they just think their discipline should have a standalone association, etc.)

Enter the Word of Mouth Marketing Association (WOMMA), which sprang up in 2004.
How about search engine marketing? The Search Engine Marketing Professional Organization (SEMPO) came on the scene in 2003.

Heather Fletcher is senior content editor with Target Marketing.

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  • HeatherReporter

    Good addition! Re: tools: Sure, there are plenty of arguments to be made. For instance, it’s surprising how many people still think social isn’t direct. So I think trade associations are springing up around the way people think, not necessarily around the way they should think.

  • John Schulte

    Forgot one: NMOA I think it’s unusual for associations that are ‘marketing tool’ based. For instance, Word of Mouth Association. (Not picking on you.) Is not Word of Mouth part of the overall marketing strategy ‘a tool to use’? I think this is more of a forum topic for a main association that covers all marketing tools.

    To me it would be like the Remodeling industry having a hammer association, a nail association, a saw association, etc..


  • HeatherReporter

    Here’s another I left off, which Michael Lowenstein, PhD, CMC, mentions in a video: