Political Marketing

The October 20 issue of Advertising Age announced that Barack Obama was the “Marketer Of The Year”.  His “electorate” were hundreds of marketers (at CMO level), agencies and the like who had gathered for the annual Association of National Advertisers.  Obama not only creamed his political competitor John McCain(who still made the list), he beat out mega-brands like Nike and Apple who are know for their marketing.  It all started (and ends) with passion and world-of-mouth.

In 2003, my friend and artist manager Ann Marie Wilkins called and asked me to contribute money to a politician I had never heard of named Barack Obama.  Because it was Ann Marie, I did it first and then did the research (she manages my friend Branford Marsalis who I’ve been friends with for over 20-years).  Turns out she could not have been more right about Barack and I became what Malcolm Gladwell would call a “Sneezer” or early adopter….and game on.

As Ad Age pointed out, the Obama campaign has won over voters with a mix of “grass-roots appeal and big-media-budget know-how”.  THAT MY FRIENDS IS A MOUTH FULL!!!  To put it in artist and record label terms for those in the music industry, Obama has marketed like an artist on an indie label with major label money and staff.  Of course, it starts with grass-roots and that’s where a lot of us go wrong…by starting big (like Hilary Clinton’s campaign).

Barack Obama started out as a community organizer and boy can you tell.  There are “Ann Marie’s” all over this country spreading the word one person at a time.  In Pennsylvania alone, there are now 80 Obama campaign offices…thousands of kids on the street.  Everyone involved feels empowered and part of the process.  Obama has used a combination of social networking and other 2.0 tactics along with traditional political organizing on the ground, to go for virtual unknown to one of America’s best known brands.

By breaking traditional with typical campain fund-raising and marketing, the Obama Camp has been able to not only out market and probably out spend his competitors (Democrat and Republican), but create a real passionate army of disciples to spread the message.  And that message has been clear from the start and has never changed!  This is another important lesson and what makes a great brand (staying on message).

Of course to reach those voters needed to win the election, mass-media (TV, Radio, Print, Outdoor, etc) was incorporated into the marketing mix.  Again, the campaign’s message stayed the same and the mass-marketing re-enforced everything coming from the street.  The Ad Age article points out that as the economy became most important to potential voters, the McCain campaign changed their ads and messaging.  “While Team McCain threw up ad after ad and tried to carve out a position during the financial crisis, Team Obama seemed to move at a slower pace, content to let Mr. McCain flail and then use his own words against him”  Consistency pays off.

As many have said before me, you can’t really market something you don’t believe in.  Since Ann Marie’s call in 2003, I have been a supporter, “sneezer”, contributor, and sometimes stalker for the Obama brand.  After his 2004 speech at the Democratic National Convention, many more bought into the brand (mass marketing).  This was followed by great grass-roots marketing, organizing and ultimately fund-raising that fueled the Obama becoming a household name…and the marketer of the year.

See what you can learn from the Obama campaign to help put butts in seats for your next event.

Talk to you soon…

Jim

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