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Publication Number:      Date:  Nov/Dec 1998
Issue No: Vol. 62 No. 3
Date: Nov/Dec 1998


Editor's Notes

"Marketing" and "Marketer" Are Not Dirty Words

In this issue, we have two articles about the influence of the Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century (TEA-21) on the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) and two articles on marketing, which is described as a process for finding a need and filling it. Although at first it may seem to be a stretch, there is a connection between these articles.

FHWA has always prided itself on its strong partnerships with state and local highway agencies, industry, academia, and others in the total highway and transportation community. Nonetheless, as a result of TEA-21, FHWA now more than ever before must "work with the States and others in the transportation community to develop a shared vision and goals for a national intermodal transportation system." (1998 FHWA National Strategic Plan, p. 7)

The strategic plan also says that "employees of the FHWA" must "champion FHWA initiatives, plans, and programs" if we are going to be successful in achieving our goals.

This is where the marketing comes in. To be "champions" and to be able to participate in shaping the "shared vision," we'll need to be more in tune with the need to "market" our ideas and programs. For many reasons, this wasn't quite as necessary in the past. We didn't have to persuade folks that the Interstate Highway System was a good idea, and we didn't have the same fierce competition for attention and resources.

Some people in FHWA are not comfortable with the idea that they should "think marketing" and participate in marketing activities. They apparently equate marketing to selling and selling to advertising and advertising to lying or, at least, to stretching the truth. Most of us disdain hype and blatant self-promotion, but we shouldn't act as if "marketing" and "marketer" were dirty words.

When we are being champions, we are not selling; we are presenting factual and pertinent information for the purpose of persuading. Persuasion is one of the three major purposes of communication. (The others are to inform and to entertain.) If one is producing a worthwhile product or providing a worthwhile service and he believes in the value and utility of his work, he should be eager to share information about it with others who may be able to use this product or service. And that, in a nutshell, is marketing. Marketing is a mutually beneficial activity; good marketing serves the needs of the marketer and the needs of the customer.

As Steve McDaniel writes in his article, "Although many people falsely associate marketing with the used car salesman trying to push a lemon on to a victimized customer, the truth is that the goal of marketing, in its proper form, is to satisfy customers. As marketing expert Philip Kotler contends in his best-selling marketing textbook, 'The aim of marketing is to make selling superfluous. The aim of marketing is to know and understand the customer so well that the product or service fits him and sells itself.'"

The mantra "think marketing" doesn't mean that we have to be marketing experts. We just need to be marketing-sensitive - to include marketing as an element of every appropriate project and program. FHWA has professional marketing specialists who are ready, willing, and able to coach us and to assist us.

After all, many people work for FHWA because they want to use their talents to affect national programs. "Think marketing" is simply a mindset that helps us to maximize our influence and success.

We at Public Roads are pleased to participate in the marketing process by presenting information about FHWA policies, programs, and research and technology to meet the needs of our readers.

Bob Bryant




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