The Marketing Of Obama 2008

This quote is from a new article today at TechPresident, a non-partisan, content filled site that tracks the use of Net and other techniques of all the campaigns: 

The Obama effort seems to be something wholly different. The campaign and its marketing seems designed to evoke aspirational feelings that have virtually no political meaning whatsoever. This is what great brands do. They evoke feelings that have virtually zero connection to product attributes and specifications.

The subject is the Fortune 500 style marketing of the Obama Campaign. Barrack Obama’s effort is the first campaign to fully incorporate the ‘non-content, pro-feeling format’ of a good product marketing campaign.

The end result is that great brands are fungible. They can be all things to all people. The branding approach liberates Obama to be the candidate of the MoveOn wing and of national unity. That’s not a criticism. It is a compliment. Now we’ll see if it stands up in the land beyond the energized core, in the land of 50% plus one nationally, where evangelism alone is not enough. [My italics]

Obama literalists may read back chapter and verse on his policy initiatives, but let’s be real here. [...] Morover, they were never intended to be the underpinnings of the Obama candidacy. Millions of “HOPE” and “CHANGE” placards later, I think that’s fairly clear.

To better understand the Obama Campaign read this insightful article.

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24 Responses to The Marketing Of Obama 2008

  1. alrudder says:

    More power to Obama. He’s the first Democrat to use sophisticated marketing and operational techniques. I thought HRC would be there but as Dee Dee Myers said today, they have no strategy right now for delegates and message. They are also scrambling to assemble an organization in these states. Also, this article has been heavily talked about for the last two days, it shows tremendous dysfunction among her high command.

    There are lots of progressive policy white papers and law review articles out there, but you need to be elected first. Then appoint the executives and judges to carry them out. Above all else, I hope all readers on the DD want a D elected.

    Obama needs to speak in more concrete proposals to appeal to blue collar types.
    HRC needs to show better plans, and contrast the values behind those plans. Like covering all for the sake of covering all.

  2. ‘More power to Obama” for running a contentless campaign?

    Agreed that he’s done a masterful job of organizing the right people but does that qualify him to be president.

    This is a campaign of evangelistic fervor.

    I fear another President that is fully dependent on his advisor’s, however well chosen. I want a person who can read through the bullshit and call it for what it is and send it back for review.

    Sorry, Al, while I was trying to pull together just such an effort (recognizing it’s power) with some very heavy Madision Ave people, with content, for Wes Clark prior to this race, I can’t see the value in empty evangelism.

  3. alrudder says:

    Stuart,
    Obama does need more specifics, but looking at his backers and the fact that he did do some substantial issues in Illinois, he is not an empty suit.
    I don’t equate Obama with other cult-candidates since his coalition is so broad. Believe me, I am very wary of cults and the wacktivists they attract. I had been involved with HRC, and even she has some followers with blinders on. But we all know she has serious policy cred.

  4. kcowley says:

    It is not only his insultingly empty platform, but his and his surrogates sexist comments, their divisive tactics and double standards, as well as his arrogant assumption that Hillary’s supporters will vote for him if he is the democratic candidate- that makes this life long “D” say he’ll never have my vote.

  5. Chani says:

    Mr Obama was the first black President of the prestigious Harvard Law Review. Read why even his opponents admire him to this day – they worked with and against him up close. Read his two books and judge for yourself whether that is a man you can trust. He has excellent judgment and ability to ferret out good from bad. His campaign is no accident – the success of that in itself a strong testimonial for Obama’s leadership. To understand Mr Obama may I suggest

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2008/jan/09/barackobama.uselections2008

    and

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/george-lakoff/what-counts-as-an-issue_b_84177.html

  6. myopinion says:

    Finally an article on what the silent majority in the democratic party is whispering about.  “I’m not feelin’ it dog-”  For those of us that take the nominating of a president seriously, Obama’s campaign and moreover his “followers” seem very lunatic-fringe.  Try being in a caucus with them.  I just heard a Newsweek journalist say how he feels like “he fell in love” with Obama.  Please!!!I’ll tell you what is a fantasy- that a significant number of republicans will vote for this guy and that if he gets into office the halls of congress will unite around him to work together. We need some one with credentials and experience to compete agains John McCain.  The last man standing is Hillary Clinton. 

  7. Trevor Owen says:

    I’m still rather amazed that people continue to say that Obama is “contentless.” Seriously, is it that hard for people to go to his website and look it up? I went to Hillary’s website and looked at her stuff, and I went to Obama’s website and looked at his. That is why I chose Obama, not because of media hype. What the effective “marketing” does is put Obama on an equal footing with Clinton. She already had great name recognition, now they’re about equal in my opinion.

    Logically, effective marketing should not discredit someones message. All it means is that they’ve found an effective way of getting it out there, and getting recognized. If you think he has no content, that’s your own choice, but effective marketing and a lack of content do not equate to being the same thing.

    Myopinion, I don’t know what problems you’ve had, but I don’t think I’m part of a “lunatic fringe.” Also, when I went to my local Caucus, everyone was quite respectful of each other. The only way you could really tell anyone apart (in regards to who they were voting for) was by the pin on their shirt, if they even had one. Plus, it’s insulting that you think that I don’t take the nomination seriously. Are you saying that 50% of the people that have voted so far in the Democratic primaries are ill-informed lunatics who don’t really care what happens anyways?

  8. Trevor

    Seriously I can’t believe you are repeating this complaint here. As I told you here already, typically, people don’t go to websites to read candidate’s postions.

    Also it should be noted that yesterday when Obama delievered a speech he pretty much acknowledged his speech has been content lite when he said: “Today I want to take it down a notch,” he said, saying his speech would be, “is a little more detailed, a little longer, with not as many applause lines.”

    He then proceeded to attack Clinton and attempt to kiss up to John Edwards, who’s endorsement is still not sewn up.

    With proper marketing, anyone can sell anything – including some pretty worthless products. That is not meant as a slam on Obama, it is a fact in the business world.

  9. alrudder says:

    Thank you Pamela for that last paragraph. Obama, like Hillary, has substance and will appoint good people. For those who are complaining about style, which is most campaign discourse, here is the substance if you care to read:
    Hillary’s Substance
    Obama’s Substance, and his 64-page blueprint

  10. bjerryberg says:

    Pamela, you are a sweetheart, but debating the fine points of Obama’s positions or his campaign’s quirkiness is pointless. Trevor needs to face reality about his chosen Rock Star candidate.

    Like him or not the only thing you need to know about Obama is that his, ahem, questionable relationship to international organized crime figure Tony Rezko MAKES HIM UNELECTABLE.

    The Rezko dossier has already surfaced in the British press.

    US Corporate Media are awaiting the convention or thereabouts to turn on their Rock-Star Barry Obama.

    Rezko goes on trial March 3 in Chicago–prosecuted by the meticulous Patrick Fitzgerald.

    A vote for Obama at this point–is really a vote for the independent candidacy of Mussolini Mike Bloomberg–or for a McCain-Bloomberg ticket with the sick old man from Arizona the junior partner.

    Bloomberg is the new Cheney, only worse.

    I hope Democrats can handle the truth.

  11. alrudder says:

    To finish, since this is an important topic, Mario Cuomo said “you govern in prose, but campaign in poetry”. I define political communication as “TRANSLATING law and policy prose into campaign poetry that resonates with people’s VALUES”.

    Drew Westen wrote about how Democrats need to speak of emotion: “MLK’s memorable speech was I have a dream, not I have a plan.”
    His book The Political Brain was the flavor of last summer for Democrats. His HuffPo posts are here.
    Here is a quote of his from last summer when Obama struggled in the first debates.

    On the stump, Obama can be electrifying. And behind all that electricity is a first-rate intellect. But if you have electricity, the last thing you want to do is pull the circuit breaker and start explaining the fine points of transistors, electrons, and electrical engineering. Yet that’s exactly what Obama has done in his recent debate performances. Whether the decision was his, his senor strategists’, or some combination of the two, he seems to have decided to check his charisma at the door, avoid the moving imagery and oratory that electrified the electorate from the first time they saw him on the national stage, and talk about issues, positions, “marginal tax rates” (as opposed, for example, to “your taxes”), and the fine print of his health care plan.

  12. Trevor Owen says:

    As long as people keep saying he doesn’t have content, I’ll respond that he does. I’m not trying to create conflict, and I’m not even trying to tell you to vote for Obama, I respect your choice of candidate for your own reasons. All I am attempting to accomplish is put forward an argument with more substance than “Change” and “Hope.”

    If I’m causing an issue, I’ll leave, but it’s my opinion that with reasoned debate you can make a better choice of candidate. If you can convince me to vote for Hillary, that’s fine, I approve. All I ask is that you don’t misuse/twist facts, which you haven’t and I thank you for that.

  13. Trevor

    It really is a matter of opinion and everyone is entitled their own. I think that people who have seen Obama’s speeches as lacking in substance have vaild reasons to say as much. That he is now catching up to filling his speeches with more substance is at least a step in the right direction.

    Frankly I am a voter who wants to hear substance on policy in speeches and debates. We’ll see how Obama fares in the next debate because in my opinion, he’s lacked on policy in the debates as well.

    At this point we have a mixed crowd here on the Dem Daily with some of our writers supporting Clinton and some supporting Obama. I have given every front page writer here the power to express support for the candidate of their choice so that we can all celebrate our democracy. In that I hope that readers and commenters will all be respectful and not continually push the same talking points here.

    In truth this post is largely quoting another source and the opinion that Obama’s lacking in content was not actually expressed by Stuart but quoted from the other source.

    And it goes both ways in my opinion — I don’t find it acceptable that Barack Obama twists Hillary Clinton’s positions on issues.

  14. Trevor Owen says:

    Thanks Pamela, what you said is fair, and I realize I have pushed that issue multiple times.

    I appreciate the fact that there are a great many people here who can give good logical and thought out reasons to vote for Hillary. In most other places there is just a constant back and forth of short lines such as “experience” vs. “hope.”

    On topic a bit more: Do you think that this “marketing” approach is going to become the norm for political campaigns?

  15. Trevor

    In most other places there is just a constant back and forth of short lines such as “experience” vs. “hope.”

    There’s a lot of that in the blogosphere.

    I do think that marketing is integral part of campaigns at this point. Was it you I pointed to the book Applebee’s America? All the prevelance of demographics we are seeing in this race is a huge part of marketing a candidate to the voters. The Bush campaign was simply far more successful in ’04 than we were, in part by target marketing to voters.

    We are by and large a consumer society. If voters go to the booth on style over substance that doesn’t say a lot in my opinion. But remember last time around people chose the guy the wanted to have a beer with. Me I wanted the guy who had the policy creds and the experience. I’m going there again.

  16. alrudder says:

    Trevor, the answer to your last question is YES. Also, modern dynamic management and organization will become the norm in large races.

  17. So, now Obama is being attacked on the false premiss that his campaign lacks content on issues. This is just plain wrong. He has clear, concise, statements on all important national and inter-national issues. If you want to take the time to see what they are, you can look them up on his website, Obama.com.
    This man has far more going for him than Hillary. He is young, charismatic, a good speaker, knowledgeable, couragious, and inspires hope for positive change whenever he speaks.
    I fail to see how four or eight more years of the Clinton’s represents change. I know that I will be taken to task for saying this again, but Hillary brings entirely too much negative baggage with her. Do we really want to revisit Vince Fosters’ death, Arkansas land deals, Bill’s sexual escapades, her failed chance at medical reform etc. etc. The GOP baintrust has publically gone on record in stating that they would much rather have Hillary as their opponent in November. Polls also indicate that Barack would beat Senator McCain by a large margin. So, if you are in to gambeling, just vote for Hillary and then pray that we don’t suffer our third consecutive presidential defeat !! Buzz

  18. Buzz

    You know this was a decent conversation about the marketing aspects of the campaign. An attack on Obama – it wouldn’t even come close to an attack if we weighed it up against your comment dropping the same old tired right wing talking points about HRC, that I have asked repeatedly (and politiely) for months that you don’t continue to post here.

    I’m trying really hard to all the conversation civil here. I’m trying really hard to moderate comments as little as possible here, and I really don’t want to ask again. You are valued member here Buzz.

    Many of us feel that Obama would lead us to a “third presidential defeat.” It’s not going to help those of us who feel that way to post the vile innuendo about Obama here — is it?

  19. Buzz

    Also the Sacramento Bee published a piece a few weeks ago that I already quoted in a post here. The Obama campaign’s “basic training” here in CA, stressed not talking about Obama in terms of policy by merit of supporters’ conversion:

    On the verge of a hectic few weeks leading to Super Tuesday, the crucial Feb. 5 multistate primary including California’s, Mack wanted to drill home one of the campaign’s key strategies: telling potential voters personal stories of political conversion.

    She urged volunteers to hone their own stories of how they came to Obama – something they could compress into 30 seconds on the phone.

    “Work on that, refine that, say it in the mirror,” she said. “Get it down.”

    She told the volunteers that potential voters would no doubt confront them with policy questions. Mack’s direction: Don’t go there. Refer them to Obama’s Web site, which includes enough material to sate any wonk.

    Wonderful – what ever happened to being able to actually discuss the issues and know your candidate’s platform. No small wonder why people think he’s lite on policy. Non of his supporters talk about it and likewise the candidate himself is just getting around to it, as I noted above.

    FYI, the Republican Noise Machine is kissing up to Obama with all the media love because he’s no match for Hillary and they will roll over him with a steamroller. That’s my opinion. And I stated it without using tired right wing talking points.

  20. Trevor Owen says:

    Well, some of his supporters know about his policies, this video is a great example. I wish all of his supporters we’re like this, actually, it’d be nice if everyone’s supporters were this informed and thoughtful.

    I think that a large part of the “marketing” is done by people who aren’t really associated with his campaign at all. The Obama girl was one of the earlier examples of this, and more recently, the music video by will.i.am. I think the fact that people have been inspired by what Obama says (even if you don’t agree with or like him he does say some fairly inspiring things) has done just as much if not more as any intentional marketing. The Obama campaign knew how to grab on to that wave though. It’s like a company that makes a product for one use, but when people use it for something else that wasn’t originally intended they realize they can make more money marketing it for that instead. For example, Coca-Cola started out as a medicinal syrup.

    Of course, now that the politicians are starting to see the effectiveness of viral marketing, I think we’re gong to be seeing a lot more stuff like this in future elections.

  21. alrudder says:

    The opening paragraphs of this article in today’s LA Times sums it up.

    CHICAGO — Sen. Barack Obama strode into a hotel ballroom filled with expectation one recent Tuesday and declared that his quest for the Oval Office, which “began as a whisper in Springfield, has swelled to a chorus of millions calling for change.”

    That’s the essence of the Illinois senator’s message: Obama equals change; Hillary Rodham Clinton equals status quo. All else cascades from there. In this contest — where the candidates are but a micron apart on most policy matters — message is everything.

    This simple theme has powered Obama to victory in 23 contests,

  22. Just for the record, the term “lunatic fringe” has been copyrighted by the Ron Paul campaign. I’m pretty sure that they will be issuing t-shirts to their “fans” with that as their new slogan. Obama voters may be overly exuberant but (a) younger people are like that; and (b) there’s worse things than having excitement replace apathy.

  23. myopinion says:

    I know not all Obama supporters are lunatic-fringe for those of you who commented. I did have “black panther-style” oratory/intimidation as well as a variety of other “negative” points of information delivered in my caucus by the “inspirational team.” I’ve also seen “conspiracy theorists for Obama” on Bill Mahr and know personally two former Nader voters for Obama. (these were not the kids) Need I say more?
    I have 15 years in the sales and marketing field and have no problem with good marketing. What I do have a problem with is that this is a serious presidential election and Obama is lacking content to hold the #1 job in the entire world.
    The actual product will not perform as advertised!
    The only reason we are having this conversation about snazzy marketing and the Obamapalooza at all is that there is such a dramatic difference in the qualifications of these two candidates.

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