The White House Won’t Build a Death Star, and Why Marketers Should Care


When was the last time you got excited about a White House petition?

If you’re like most people, the Schoolhouse Rock video “How a Bill Becomes a Law” was the last time you were even remotely interested in the bureaucratic happenings in Washington.

However, the White House has quickly changed that with a simple but significant addition to the White House website: Now anyone with an internet connection has the ability to submit a petition to the white house. The best part? If a petition racks up enough signatures, the White House has to respond. That’s right, the people busy running the free world are now at the mercy of any idea that garners enough support, and yes, that has already included a petition to create a Death Star.

The Right Solution for the Time

Although it may appear to be a frivolous PR stunt, the petition platform, “We the People,” was actually created as an ingenious solution to a problem faced by marketers everywhere: our audience is evolving. Where millions of people would have tuned in to a presidential address just 10 years ago, now only a fraction of that number even bother to tune into the news at all.

Consumers are scattered over dozens of different channels, with content they prefer to consume on each. Marketers can no longer blast messages to the masses. The modern marketer must focus on providing value to their target audience to entice, or pull them into engagement. We are living in an age of inbound marketing, and the White House gets it.

Lets take a look at what the modern marketer can learn from the White House’s new petition platform.

Content is Key

The We the People platform is designed to bridge the gap between the White House and unengaged citizens by providing great content. The posted petitions have garnered viral social sharing, articles, and even websites, but the real show-stopping content has been the White House’s responses. Well-crafted and designed to foster engagement, these responses are what keep people interested. For example, part of the White House’s official response to the petition to build a Death Star included, “Why would we spend countless taxpayer dollars on a Death Star with a fundamental flaw that could be exploited by a one-man starship?”

Marketing Lesson: Content has become a crucial tool for the modern marketer. Like citizens easily growing bored with government, consumers are becoming less and less interested in marketing messages. Content has become a marketer’s best weapon to stand out from the crowd and form real relationships with their audience. Providing real value and entertaining your audience with content will deliver far greater results than any advertising campaign.

Understand Your Audience

What many don’t realize about the We the People platform is that when you sign a petition, you implicitly agree that the White House has a right to communicate with you about that matter by email. No matter what petitions roll in, the White House couldn’t be happier. Not only do they receive thousands of emails from the petitioners, they know what those petitioners are passionate about. They are able to create genuine, helpful dialogue with audiences that may not have even tuned in to a State of the Union otherwise.

Marketing Lesson: Understanding your audience and their pain points is equally important for marketers. Marketing automation platforms allow you to track prospect behavior on your site and pull in data from professional and social profiles. This data paints a detailed picture of what matters most to a prospect, allowing your sales team to tailor their approach and take the chill out of cold calls.

Focus on Relationships

Underneath the humor and media coverage, the petition platform is about openness. Macon Phillips, the digital director in charge of the platform said, “We wanted a system that is as open as possible so people can use it as they will.” Turning over this sense of ownership to the site’s audience is what has truly allowed people to connect with the site and keep coming back.

Marketing Lesson: Modern marketing needs to take a similar approach to building relationships. Marketing is no longer a one-way conversation. Marketing should be a dialogue, allowing for and encouraging co-creation, idea sharing, and personalization. Create a petition-style platform of your own for customers to share and vote on ideas, like the Pardot Idea Exchange. Use segmentation and dynamic content to make each email seem like a personal note. You have more tools than ever to deliver exceptional experiences to your audience.

What do you think of the We the People platform? Let us know in the comments below!