The Real War is at Home
infamous slogan on a sign in James Carville's office during the Clinton-Gore election campaign of 1992
"It's the offer, stupid!"
a favorite saying of Bob Hacker, founder of direct marketing agency The Hacker Group
These two quotes have more in common than their structure: Both were said by colorful characters whose style of getting to the point in a fun but take-no-prisoners way earns them much respect and success. The most important trait they share, though, is that they are highly applicable to the current marketing environment.
In a recent teleconference, "In the Event of ... The Impact of War with Iraq on the American Consumer," J. Walker Smith, president of Yankelovich, used the Carville quote to emphasize that historically, the impact of the economy on consumers has been more meaningful to response rates than the threat or actuality of war.
Currently, the American mind-set is being shaped by four main factors. First, people have economic concerns based on job security and new changes in how they need to save for retirement. Second, a switch is taking place in life priorities, based on the cultural evolution from the 1960s to now: Self-righteousness led to realism, pessimism, greed, victimization, exuberance and then today's anxiety. Third and fourth, the threat of terrorism coupled with scandal in all trusted institutionsreligious, corporate and governmentalis exacerbating the anxiety about who we are and what we value. Overall, we are becoming less materialistic and more principledand that, Smith explains, translates into more dramatic offers to spur purchasing activity.
This period of flux is a more important factor on spending activity than a war with an indefinite time-frame and objective; the major problems that are of concern to Americans will still be here when the battle is over, and any economic stimulus could be short lived, says Smith.
Which brings me to Hacker's quote: When you're trying to make a sale, it begins and ends with the offer. The external environment is not fully responsible for your sales or losses; it's how you match your direct marketing efforts to the current environment to create relevancy and demand that affects your success. Denny Hatch has said to me, "People don't need much: food, water, shelter. So marketers have to speak to people's deepest wants, not their needs." And what do people want right now? According to Smith, it's honesty, integrity and a vision for the future that taps into people's natural optimism. Appealing to these values will provide the rationale to support consumers' pursuit of the satisfaction of their wants.
So forget waiting out the international crisis. The real drama is right here on American soil. Now get out there and make folks an offer they can't refuse!