The Secret of Winning Elections: Direct Mail
Direct Mail Crosses All Marketing Borders
Once the basic principles and techniques of mail-order promotion are understood, they can be applied in the most unlikely places, and for unexpected products. Although my own initial mail-order experience happened to do with magazines and books, the same rules would have applied had I been working on a correspondence course in accounting, the mail-order sale of Christmas hams or Chesapeake crabmeat, securing leads for Ford cars, or, indeed, getting political candidates elected or fund raising for a political organization like the Republican National Committee.
Fortunately, in direct mail you are able to test almost anything, including political appeals.
In 1952, I went to work for the Citizens for Eisenhower-Nixon, and I might add, I quickly became an enthusiastic supporter of General Eisenhower. I was asked to write 10 letters—each based on a different campaign appeal.
With these letters, we reasoned, we could test different campaign appeals and find out exactly what issues really did arouse the voters.
- Were they really upset over corruption in Washington?
- Was it inflation and the high cost of living that troubled them most?
- Or was it government regulation (a favorite Republican issue, even in those days)?
We would ask for money to check the relative effectiveness of various appeals. We would then mail millions of letters, using the most successful appeals, and the mailing would be at least partially self-financing, because it would pull for contributions.
The letters, besides making money, would reach millions of people, with strong arguments in favor of Eisenhower and Nixon. Most importantly, we would then have hundreds of thousands of small contributors who had "bet on a horse"—given small sums ranging from a dollar up to $25 or so to support Eisenhower's campaign.
We sent out an initial test of 10,000 of each of 10 letters, and in each case we said, "If you would like to see Eisenhower elected President, please send back the enclosed contribution card, together with your contribution and your name and address."