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An Overview of the Evolving Obama Campaign

by Milica K.

Merge branding and politics? Yes He Can. The first time around, the Obama campaign found new ways to engage voters. With Election Day around the corner, let’s see what Obama’s communication team is up to, and what parallels we can draw to help solve everyday marketing challenges:

  1. Listen to your audience and address what matters 
    The interactive storybook The Life of Julia attempts to simplify the complexities of healthcare by depicting how Obama’s policies might affect a woman throughout key milestones in her life. Team O expertly crystallizes the campaign’s stance through a clearly articulated message and clean, simple illustration style consisting of a muted color palette. There is a subtle humanity and thoughtfulness to the tone and design of the piece that stays true to the brand.
  2. Diversify your channel strategy 
    The Obama campaign does an exemplary job of adopting emerging and well-loved platforms such as Pinterest, Instagram, Spotify, Twitter and YouTube. On Instagram, the Obama staff posts photos from the campaign trail, giving people a behind-the-scenes perspective. His communications team asks supporters to share their own photos using the #Obama2012. A well-planned media mix gives a brand exposure and creates multiple touchpoints with the audience. Obama’s team gains social momentum by understanding how to leverage the native functionality of these platforms. For example, his team of strategists asked fans to submit songs for a Supporter Picks playlist that appears on Spotify alongside Michelle’s Workout Mix.
  3. Utilize influencers 
    Early in March when comedian Aziz Ansari spoke at a fundraising event in NYC, the POTUS thanked him and also gleefully reminded Aziz that he did not have as many Twitter followers as Obama himself. Questlove from the Roots—who was in attendance providing entertainment as the President’s “house band”—changed his profile picture shortly thereafter to show his support. Appearing on NBC’s Late Night with Jimmy Fallon a couple of weeks later, Aziz fondly recounted the personable nature of the president and his love for music. The banter between the two continued on Twitter when the Obama staff announced they would be taking playlist recommendations. Fans also welcomed the “Barakness Monster” for a presidential first when he joined Jimmy Fallon and Tariq Trotter in a “Slow Jam the News” session. The Obama brand is cleverly woven into popular culture, which is something that makes his appeal “pathetically successful”, as described by funny-man Stephen Colbert.
  4. Engage with advocates of the brandIn early May when the president announced his support of same-sex marriages, thousands expressed words of gratitude and hope. His team acknowledged the masses by retweeting and aggregating those sentiments on the blog. Retweeted by the president? Talk about the ultimate bragging rights. The constant feedback loop continues. In January, the Obama team set up a virtual birthday card for The First Lady. Everyone who signed the card was thanked in a personal email from Michelle Obama, who used the communication opportunity to announce her venture into Twitter. The Obama campaign continues to hook supporters by rewarding campaign donations with a 10% off discount on campaign gear.
  5.  Innovate to evolve 
    The recently released collaborative online planning tool called Dashboard helps mobilize supporters in the same neighborhood. Think of it as a virtual version of the campaign field office, allowing users to join a neighborhood team of local volunteers and see events in the area. These teams are given tools to call voters and report on recruitment and donation progress throughout the election. Empowering a network of volunteers with Dashboard adds to the grassroots efforts that sit at the core of the Obama brand.

Overall, Obama’s campaign elements represent universal best practices that would be an asset in most any successful brand and marketing campaign. When strategically executed, these principles help win consumers, awards and even elections.

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