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Marketing lessons from Barack Obama

By November 5, 2008July 20th, 20218 Comments

Marketing lessons from Barack Obama

Whether you are red or blue, you can’t deny Barack Obama’s marketing prowess. Here are a few lessons every organization should consider when they are seeking ‘votes’ from prospects:

Develop strategies based on consumer insights. The Obama campaign clearly understood where America was hurting most, and developed strategies in response.

Build an organization that can deliver that strategy. Obama was casting responsible, fielding an impressive team from the very start.

Own a unique position. Hillary and Barack stood out in a sea of mostly white guys. While Obama was new, different and attractive as a brand, he claimed the word “change” first. It was the thing the market wanted most, and when others tried to claim “change,” they looked like copycats.

Work from a plan. The Obama campaign never veered very far off course from their original plan. They said they would compete in and win in red states—and they did just that.

Stay on message. From the primaries through the general election, Obama did a better job than his opponent at staying on message. Though distracted more than once, like clockwork, he would faithfully return to his message strategy.

Get a great name. Okay, maybe his name didn’t help him much.

Offer form and substance. While Obama’s marketing was the best presidential politics has ever seen, his opponent’s statements that he was a great orator but simply wasn’t ready to lead fell on deaf ears. His policies resonated better with voters, and his delivery, especially later in the campaign, were downright Presidential.

Stay positive.Yes we can” trumps “No you can’t” every time.

Work from the ground up. Over 90% of the $640 million raised by Barack Obama came from individuals, and the bulk of that was contributions under $200.

Respond to the competition immediately. Smear tactics were often responded to within minutes by Obama’s staff and the candidate himself. The campaign’s Fight the Smears site helped spread the truth to supporters and the media.

Pick partners that reinforce your strengths and make up for your weaknesses. Obama chose a running mate that filled one of his greatest weaknesses by selecting Joe Biden, the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Embrace social media. The Obama campaign did a masterful job using social networking sites, using word of mouth campaigns that often went viral.

Remember all your audiences. As a minority, Obama understood he would have some cross-cultural appeal. Still, Team Obama pursued an ambitious multicultural marketing effort. Here’s an ad that aired in Puerto Rico:

View this video on YouTube

The strategies above aren’t red or blue. They’re green—the color of money.

So did you pick up any other marketing tips during the campaign that might translate well to your organization?

Comment below to share.

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Photo: Rainer Jensen/European Pressphoto Agency, via The New York Times

Join the discussion 8 Comments

  • Great list – Along the lines of picking the right partners, he reached out to the right influencers, who evangelized why he was the best person for the job to specific audience – Oprah to women, Col. Powell to military, etc.

  • Greg Lins says:

    Great post Patrick (no longer Hussein) Byers,

    President-elect Obama (don’t you like that sound?) executed well, and built incredible brand strength in very little time. The sophistication of the “market” in Presidential politics is astounding – all business leaders need to examine the lessons it teaches.

    There are two sides to brand-building. Promise and execution. If the Promise is different than what is delivered, it breaks the brand. Case in point, the Republican brand is broken. The Republican brand used to mean fiscally conservative until the Republicans gained complete control in 2000 and went on a spending binge.

    Obama has an incredible opportunity. The centrist message he delivered in the campaign, and the constant drum-beat of unity and justice resonated with the populace. The Promises made were carefully considered, I believe, yet they are enormously challenging to deliver upon. Already we see some great news – the international news suggests that we may have a chance to repair damaged relationships and earn our way back to a position of respect and leadership on the world stage.

    Over the long haul, the brand will only be as good as the execution.

    From a business lesson standpoint, this is where I find so many problems. Promises, by whatever name, are often used to build a buzz and new excitement for a company or product. Where so many businesses run amok is when they examine customer wants, needs, and insights without examining the operational issues of “how are we going to do that?” The right Promise, combined with lousy execution ALWAYS results in disenfranchised customers. The usual reaction? Make new promises.

    To sum up, Obama has shown us only the first part of brand-building. He has done an absolutely remarkable job. For the good of America, if not the world, I certainly pray that the Obama/Democrat brand will continue to build because of solid execution and delivery on the promise of this election. I’m not talking about line-item by line item, but more, overall, can Obama and the new Democratic movement keep to the center. He won on a centrist message, and he needs to execute on that message or risk tarnishing the brand.

    God Bless America.

    Take care,


    PS – Hey, missed the Twitter thing a while back, I got nailed with a bad cold. I see you’re not feeling well so I hope you get better soon!

  • Thanks especially for the video clip. I was quite impressed with his Spanish, and that he started off by saying how, being born on an island himself, he understands island concerns such as higher prices on basic needs. His accent is quite good. Whether or not he wrote the copy, it’s clearly not his first time trying to speak the language.

    My own list of marketing lessons from Obama, with some but not a lot of overlap with yours, was posted Wednesday at

  • This was very impressive, very informative and a great video, this man is going to do a lot of good in this counrty

  • Acneguy7 says:

    i would have to say that Barack Obama is a thousand times better than George Bush. Barack is also a very charismatic leader.

  • Hayley says:

    i admire Barack Obama because he is very charismatic and he is liberal minded.

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