Brand Obama & the potency of digital marketing


The recent American presidential election has proved a rich source of debate and not just in the realm of politics. The most expensive presidential campaign in history has confirmed digital marketing as a potent strategic tool.

Obama, in my opinion should be hailed as the brand of the 2008, as that is what he sold himself as – not a politician but a brand. While the old-fashioned connotations of a politician are personified 100% through John McCain i.e. a suit, old(ish), boring and speaks in jargon to confuse the masses. Obama on the other hand, was promoted as a product, similar to the Beckhams, J-Lo and Lewis Hamilton perhaps.

The Democrats key strategy was obvious – we have an African-American candidate – and it’s highly unlikely we’re going to get any of the die-hard Republicans to change their political stance, so why not go for the untapped market – the youth market. And they did this brilliantly.

Joining forces with Facebook, the Democratic Party made a fortune in public contributions. Key data was captured to allow outbound contact with signed-up members to gather contributions, and provide updates via SMS and email. This was highly cost-effective in comparison with traditional direct mail and below-the-line strategies.

And instant availability of information via iPhone applications, including Twitter, made the Democratic candidate immediately accessible to a technologically-savvy market. This interaction is what acted as an absolute driving force for Obama ’08, the brand.

Suddenly it wasn’t about two – without sounding ageist – ‘old’ men arguing about who should run the country. Instead this ‘brand’ interaction made the campaign seem new and radical. An enticing strategy, revealing that ‘hype’ can play a beautiful role in enhancing a particular product’s image overnight.

Essentially, I think that what the Democrats have done is create a blueprint for the future of political campaigning. The key points that shaped this are:

  • Utilisation of all available budget by incorporating a digital strategy, which garnered phenomenal exposure at a global level
  • Provision of user-interactive resources; making the audience actively feel part of the process
  • The candidate is the political party’s billboard, a brand; treat him/her as such and you’ll create a strong brand perception as opposed to a political ideology (let’s face it – who actually knows what the two candidates were really standing for?)
  • Finally, never underestimate the power of digital marketing… this was McCain’s downfall, something he should have picked up on when Obama beat Clinton to the Democratic candidacy.

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