Kennedy-Nixon Debate – A Lesson in Marketing Perspective

It’s Hump Day again – hope you all are having a great week.

I know that some of my “insights” are not really new ideas, but I try to bring a fresh perspective and find pop culture or historical events that really make these marketing concepts come to life. Like Petey Greene said “I’ll tell it to the hot, I’ll tell it to the cold. I’ll tell it to the young, I’ll tell it to the old. I don’t want no laughin’, I don’t want no cryin’, and most of all, no signifyin’.”

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Today in 1960, John F. Kennedy and Richard Nixon took part in the first Presidential debate ever to be televised. Historians have pointed out how this event forever changed the way Presidential campaigns were run and really showed how the medium of TV could be a game-changer. You couldn’t have two differing figures – John Kennedy, the young Senator from Massachusetts. He had spent weeks tanning on the campaign trail and was made for TV. Nixon, who was coming off knee surgery, looked ill. The interesting outcome of this first televised debate was that those who watched the debate came away thinking JFK had won – those who listened to the debate on radio came away thinking Nixon was the victor.

Why am I bringing up a debate from 58 years ago on a marketing blog? The answer is Presidential elections are essentially marketing campaigns and this being the first televised debate highlighted the difference in how TV and radio conveyed the message of the same event. How is it that the same event could be seen differently by those who watched vs those who listened?

Marketing professional are a bit like armchair psychologists, using data to profile prospects and customers that fit the target for specific offers.


In 2018, we are running into similar situations with multiple marketing channels – social media, TV, radio, display ads, email re targeting, direct mail, and many others. All these channels have distinct audiences that if, using the Kennedy-Nixon debate example, would probably see the outcome of the debate quite differently base upon the medium they viewed it.

So, to finally get to my topic for the night – how do we as marketers craft and make sure we are using the right messaging for the audiences of these different channels? Marketers need to find the right channel, like Kennedy did with TV and Nixon with radio, to effectively make their campaigns a “winner”.

I have a few ideas and tips:

1)Prospecting via outside lists: Finding the right audience for the right channel

If there is one area of marketing I know, it’s data sourcing and finding prospect lists for B2C or B2B campaigns. If you intend to have prospecting be a large part of your marketing strategy, I suggest investigating sites like Nextmark, which will give you all the tools you need to find the right target lists for a yearly fee.

If it’s not, you can use their free service. Or find yourself a good broker who can pull together media plans for you and negotiate the best rates for the data.

Here are a list of questions I’d advise asking any list owner when vetting a potential outside prospecting list:

The sourcing of the data

The first step is to find out where the data is coming from and how often it is updated. If its an email list, find out if the names are all double opt-in and Can-Spam compliant. Data hygiene is of the utmost important, especially on B2B files. So make sure the list is updated at a minimum quarterly and best case is monthly updates for all B2B files. The last thing you want is a customer complaint because the source of the data is dirty or not updated enough to have the correct information.

Usage of the data – 

Always confirm with the list owner what you are allowed to do with the data. For email lists, always ask if they release email address to the end user for deployment or if they must do the deployment for you.

Digital usage is key in 2018. Ask if the data can be uploaded via companies like LiveRamp for digital and social media advertising. In some cases, the files will already be “digitized” and you can leverage the list owners platform to serve up ads.

Postal data is still viable and you need to ask about reuse of the file, as well as if they offer up unlimited use deals. Unlimited use deals are the best – as it allows you to mail the names over a specified time period (usually 12M) as you like. This is the best bang for your buck and the more you mail, the lower your effective CPM will be on the data.

Pertinent Usage of file-

Imagine if a baker purchased a list that had a ton of list usage by Weight Watchers and Jenny Craig. The chances of any campaign the baker ran from this list being successful would be slim and none (excuse the pun).

So my final tip in vetting lists is always ask for usage, and specify pertinent usage. For instance, if Bedford Street Marketing was looking at a B2B list – we would want to see usage from other marketing firms. If your competitors are using the data, chances are it will work for your offer.

2) Data Mining and Using In-house Customers:

Now that you’ve run a few prospecting campaigns and got good response – a new data emerges to help find your TV audience or Radio audience from the analogy above.

A customer file is only as powerful as you make it. A few tips on how to make the most of a customer file:

Create a unique identifier for each record. It can be as simple as starting with a number like 1000 and carrying that forward. Each record will have this identifier and when you add data points to the record, the unique Id is the most efficient way to make sure you are updating the correct record.

Add data points to the customer record. Things that are easily identified are Gender and how the customer was acquired. The values in the acquisition field can be as simple as DM (Direct Mail), Web (website signup), FB (Facebook), IG (instagram), etc. The more data you can string on a customer record, the easier it is to upsell them. If you know that Customer 1008 was acquired via social media, but also responded to a digital ad – then you know the channel to contact them is digital/social. Essentially, build a customer attribution flow chart with data points to learn how to best engage each customer.

If the offer or way you capture data does not allow for additional data to be acquired (home owner vs renter, income, net worth), consider having one of the large data companies append demographic fields to the data set. This may cost a bit, but it gives you further insight into your customers and creates a profile of the best customers. Again, the more information available to target a Kennedy TV customer vs a Nixon Radio customer means more residual income for your business.

Well, that’s it for tonight. If have any questions or need help in prospecting/setting up your customer database, feel free to reach out to us –




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