The Professor’s Perspective

Michael Clayton Talks About What’s Happening With Direct Marketing at the Collegiate Level

by Nancy Rathbun Scott

D13_193_Oct_OS_Faculty nfs  Michael_Clayton, KSB, faculty

Michael J. Clayton, Ph.D, accepted the 2015 O’Hara Leadership Award at the Best of Direct ceremony in December. We asked Dr. Clayton to share some insights about direct marketing education at the collegiate level.

First, the credentials …

As Professorial Lecturer and M.S. in Marketing Program Director at American University, Dr. Clayton is the eighth recipient of the O’Hara Leadership Award.

Created in 2008 by Michael O’Hara, long-time DMAW and DMAW/EF supporter, the award recognizes professors who promote life-long learning in general. More specifically, the award honors professors who promote direct and interactive marketing as a career choice to students. Dr. Clayton was honored on the occasion of DMAW’s 60th anniversary.

Now, the Q&A …

  • What are your students’ most common misconceptions about direct marketing? And how do you go about correcting those?

The most common inaccuracy is that direct marketing equals direct mail. The focus on “Big Data” in the news has certainly helped with this. Now students are beginning to recognize all the value and opportunities created through customer databases.

  • Is there anything in your curricula where you can see a student having an “Ah-ha” moment?

Entry-level marketing courses are traditionally lecture-based, so they stress terms and concepts. Typically, at some point during their senior year, students get into courses that are more applied. That’s when they start connecting the dots—for instance, how market research yields consumer insights and how those insights becomes the foundation for developing a completely integrated marketing campaign.

  • What is the value of the DMAW Educational Foundation’s programs to you as an educator? And what is the Foundation’s value to your students?

I have been attending DMAW/EF events for over eight years now. The most valuable program is the Professor’s Institute (PI), which allows faculty like myself to meet practitioners from a wide variety of industries. The PI gives us current and interesting examples/cases we can bring back and apply in the classroom. I have also had the opportunity to be an advisor for a number of teams who competed at the bi-annual Collegiate MAXI competitions, including some who won. The Collegiate MAXIs allows students to tackle real-world marketing problems and improve key professional skills like business writing and presenting.

  • How can direct marketing professionals identify and attract qualified students with educational backgrounds in direct marketing?

Employers need to dig below the surface and get a little more familiar with curricula at different local universities. For instance, there are several schools in the area that may not have the prestige of Georgetown, but may actually have curricula that are doing a far better job preparing students for a career in the DM field. For instance, as we speak, I’m about to go into the classroom and have my students conduct an RFM exercise where they’ll be working with a customer database and will need critical thinking and functional Excel skills to run an RFM (recency, frequency, and monetary) analysis of customer transactions to determine who would be the company’s most valuable customers.

Contact Dr. Clayton at

Nancy Rathbun Scott chairs the Marketing Committee of the DMAW Educational Foundation Board of Directors. She was editor of DMAW Marketing AdVents for 17 years. Reach her at nancy at