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John Tepper Marlin

John Tepper Marlin

Posted: November 5, 2008 04:54 PM

Obama's Branding Genius


A month ago I posted an analysis from my friend Patt Cottingham that gave seven cogent reasons why the Obama brand was better than the McCain brand. See Brand Expert Scores Obama v. McCain 7 Ways. Well, AdAge is convinced by the outcome of the election and announced today that yesterday, November 4, is the most significant day for marketers in the history of the world.

Wow.

AdAge's Al Ries gives President-Elect Obama the marketing prize for the "Change" theme. Here's the picture that set them off (as if you needed to see another):

The Obama branding gets high marks on three criteria:
1. Simplicity. About 70 percent of the population thinks the country is going in the wrong direction. Hence a smart focus on "change."
2. Consistency. Most advertisers try to "communicate". They should be trying to "position" consistently.
3. Relevance. "If you're losing the battle, shift the battlefield." Obama forced his opponents to devote much of their campaign time discussing changes they proposed for the country and showing why they were different from Obama's.

Here's are the words AdAge used to express its awe:

Take a relatively unknown man. Younger than all of his opponents. Black. With a bad-sounding name. Consider his first opponent: the best-known woman in America, connected to one of the most successful politicians in history. Then consider his second opponent: a well-known war hero with a long, distinguished record as a U.S. senator. Obama owns the 'change' idea in voters' minds. It didn't matter. Barack Obama had a better marketing strategy than either of them.

Barack Obama used "Change" as the "big truth."
If you tell the truth often enough and keep repeating it, the truth gets bigger and bigger, creating an aura of legitimacy and authenticity. Hillary Clinton first tried "experience." When she saw the progress Mr. Obama was making, she shifted to "Countdown to change." Then when the critics pointed out her me-too approach, she shifted to "Solutions for America." What word is associated with Ms. Clinton today? I don't know, do you?

I went back to Patt Cottingham to get her take on the AdAge summary. She said:
There was more to it than AdAge's three brand characteristics. Yes, Obama kept his message of "Change" simple and absolutely consistent over many months in delivering the relevancy of his message. But he also understood that
- the context of our times has totally changed
- the youth vote was the most powerful place to seed this idea, and
- building a grass roots community organization through the internet was the way to build a movement that superseded politics.
This powerful shift to a bottom-up revolution was an essential part of the genius of his brand campaign and it is what left McCain in the dust. McCain and the GOP failed to recognize that the world has completely changed.

Read more reaction from HuffPost bloggers to Barack Obama's victory in the 2008 presidential election