Founding Fathers: Marketing and Other Lessons from Thomas Jefferson

JeffersonThe first few blogs in this series will keep with the 4th of July theme. This is the 239th birthday weekend for the United States. Despite current economic challenges, the American dream and the American spirit live on. The American entrepreneurial spirit certainly needs a hand right now, with the number of business startups at a low point and young people choosing not to become entrepreneurs. On the bright side it has never been easier to start a business or come up with an idea that could explode. Look at the businesses of Snapchat and Instagram that did not even exist just a few years ago. Now they have market valuations in the billions.

I have always been interested and hold in high regard our nation’s Founding Fathers for a number of reasons, the greatest of which was the fact that they each put their lives on the line by publicly rebelling against England and signing the Declaration of Independence.

Thomas Jefferson was a remarkable thinker, leader and innovator. We can learn much from his example and his triumphs.

We know that Jefferson was the leading author of the Declaration of Independence but he wrote much more. He was a prolific writer having written tens of thousands of documents. Over 25,000 of these documents are in the Library of Congress.   Expressing opinions, communicating, negotiation and building relationships were as critical then as they are now. We can take away from this example the importance of communicating, writing down ideas and the need to continually producing content. The way we think about content in the marketing context today is different than in Jefferson’s time, but take the Declaration of Independence for example. Multiple copies were created and “shared” (they were posted and read across the colonies after it was signed). This document rallied the colonists and made a clear case to England why the revolution had begun.

Like writing, reading and learning is important for success in marketing and business. Jefferson was a reader and loved books. It is reported that he sold his 6,500 books to the Library of Congress. Jefferson and his interest in reading helped him to navigate politics, communicate with leaders, present augments to Congress and win elections.

Knowledge and continual learning are important for all business people. With our rapidly changing market place and marketing technology we need to keep up and reading is important. Today the ability to consume information has been enhanced by technology. Like Jefferson we need to commit to continually learning, reading and developing our own ideas and plans for success.

Jefferson was an inventor. One of his creations was the wheel-cipher. This was a small machine that allowed for Jefferson to send messages back and forth to George Washington when he was Secretary of State and during the Revolution. This was a sophisticated device which allowed for messaged to be encode and decoded; an encryption device. We are all familiar with encryption today and the need to secure passwords, personal information and other personal data. I encourage you to read more about this device and how it was used.


While we all may not have the ability to design new devices like Jefferson we can recognize the importance of being inventive.  Whether it is working alone or in groups brainstorming ideas, developing campaigns and creating new approaches can and should be done. Due to competition and information overload we have to be creative in the way we communicate.

We see from Jefferson writing, reading and creativity are important for success.  Continually communicate, explore new ideas and use this knowledge to be creative and find new solutions to problems. When you take this approach people will get to know who you are and they will be drawn to you and your brand.


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