Sunday, March 01, 2009

Behind the marketing "magic" of Barack Obama

Doug Hall's revolutionary book Jump Start Your Marketing Brain (2005) was one of the first quantitative examinations of marketing programs.

Rather than relying upon subjective opinion or creative "breakthroughs" by self-proclaimed experts, it utilized decades of research. Its lessons were based upon statistical analysis of:

• 2,700 ads
• 12,600 brands
• nearly 300,000 retail consumers
• and more than 3,500 salespeople

It is through the lens of Hall's book that we can view the marketing strategies that lurked behind the curtains of the Obama campaign.

Strategies for achieving success of new initiatives

Hall identifies three tactics for success. Of the three, the Obama campaign utilized two:

Uniqueness -- "the uniqueness must be big enough and bold enough to be worth the hassle" -- Obama represented a truly unique candidate. His heritage, speaking ability and newcomer status to the political arena underpinned the "uniqueness" attribute.

Spend! Spend! Spend! -- "spending more money does work" -- the Obama campaign raised nearly a billion dollars, which was a record by a huge margin.

In fact, Hall recommends creating a "surge" in spending that will "break the will" of the opponent.

First to market

Being first to market can double success rates -- Obama informally announced he would be running for President on January 16, 2007. This beat his primary rival to the punch: Hillary Clinton announced the formation of her exploratory committee four days later.

Furthermore, research showed a five-fold improvement in marketing effectiveness when marketing offered "real news" rather than "less novel, established brands". Like the Clinton brand, for instance.

Hall asserts that it's not enough to be first -- when you are first to market, the ideal situation is to define your marketing with "a simple and dramatic statement" (e.g., "Change!"). Defining first as a combination is also a winning approach (e.g., "Hope", "Change").

And he states that marketers must "repeatedly articulate what makes you the first... articulate your point of difference everywhere -- at the start of every... advertisement, on every brochure, on your voice mail message, or your business cards, on your letterhead, and on every T-shirt, mousepad and coffee cup...

As for overcoming resistance to the change represented by a unique, first-to-market strategy, Hall recommends two tactics:

Focus on Serving Others: e.g., help for the "middle-class", Latinos, the LGBT community, etc.

Evoke the only emotion more powerful than fear: Greed: e.g., promising tax cuts for "95% of working Americans".

Tapping new markets

Hall's research also discovered a counter-intuitive insight: finding new customers is 2.8 more important than building customer loyalty. In other words, recruiting previously disinterested parties (e.g., "Obama's `Youth Mojo' Sparks Student Activism, Fueling Campaign") can help supercharge a marketing campaign.

To speed success, Hall also recommends targeting marketing resources on those who are "most open to trying new things." New media company MediaSauce described the Obama campaign's "use of digital and social media was the best executed integrated business initiative EVER implemented since the inception of the Internet."

Obama's use of social networking platforms like YouTube, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Flickr and blogs -- starting with a guerilla "1984" campaign that targeted Hillary Clinton -- was therefore key to his success.

Why? As Ed Keller wrote in The Influentials, "One American in ten tells the other nine how to vote, where to eat, and what to buy." Those words were never more true than in 2008.

Hall also says to "leverage your fanatics". Since all categories have fanatics (e.g.,, campaigns must use these "fan clubs" in different ways. For instance, give the club the first opportunity to experience new variations on the campaign; then seek help in spreading the word. And "Influentials" have a "passion for being smarter". They love to be seen as smarter; campaigns must therefore empower them with knowledge -- for instance, using technologies like "Obama Action Wires" -- to spread the word virally.

Donations, new and old

The Obama campaign also utilized a variety of other Hall approaches to capture donations, new and old:

Remove credit checks on orders: Obama's campaign appears to be the first to have removed all credit-card security. Furthermore, Obama's website was the only one that allowed unverified contributions from foreign sources, likely a direct violation of campaign law.

Create special new follow-up systems: the Obama campaign followed Hall's advice to the tee, continually asking overtly for repeat donations and scheduling follow-up solicitations.


Hall's advice on brand recognition:

Aligning your brand name with your benefit doubles customer recall: consider the endless series of Obama posters depicting the candidate's visage with simplistic messages espousing his "benefits", nebulous though they may be. Hope. Change. Progress. Yes we can.

Think graphically: Hall emphasizes the importance of icons and symbols; they must be analyzed for connections to the brand's values and core benefit. Hall believes that once you've "connected the dots" for customers, they'll always associate your graphics with your core message.

New brand name: Did you notice Obama's reluctance to use the name of his party or any Democratic branding? That appears to have been intentional. Hall's counsel: "with really unique new products or services, you'll be more successful with a new brand name than with an existing brand name."


Barack Obama's handlers have followed Hall's statistically developed advice to the letter.

No matter what happens to the economy under the disastrous stewardship of Barack Obama's big government policies, Republicans will have to emulate these mechanisms if they are to effectively capitalize on the Democrats' policy failures, which are as inevitable as the sun rising in the east.

Linked by: American Thinker. Thanks!

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