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A Winning Brand Strategy

Barack Obama has offered the world a master-class in brand creation, says Paul Temporal

Barack Obama has built a global brand in less than two years - a phenomenal achievement but one nevertheless accomplished using the methods of all successful international brands:

  • A Central Vision: Branding is all about consistency and emotional appeal. Obama’s vision was ‘Change for the Better’, a vision given emotional power by such universal triggers as ‘Yes We Can’ and ‘Hope’. In all Obama’s speeches these words are forcefully repeated.

  • Powerful Values: Underpinning brand vision are core brand values, both emotional and rational. In Brand Obama these were honesty, openness, integrity, professionalism, passion, patriotism – all complemented by a powerful brand personality – that of Obama: approachable, caring, understanding, warm, firm but fair, visionary, cool and cosmopolitan .

  • Understanding the Target Audience: Obama’s soaring aspirational rhetoric was plentifully salted with down-to-earth practical understanding of the customer (that is, the voter): for instance, the pain and helplessness they might have experienced or the hope they carry for their children.

  • An Overarching and Empowering Message: Obama reached out to all his target audiences with a single powerful message embracing vision, values and competitive positioning: ‘Yes We Can! And Yes You Can!’ In addition, his brand communications strategy cleverly exploited the fact that no consumer can resist an approach that talks about them and helps them feel they are in control. Obama would say things like ‘This election is not about me – it’s about you’ and ‘I’m asking you to believe. Not just in my ability to bring about real change in Washington......I’m asking you to believe in yours.’

  • Multiple Touch: Communicating via all channels relevant to target consumers and creating a great brand experience for them at every touch point is vital. Obama reached out to all communities and every demographic and psychographic target group brilliantly exploiting a mix of traditional media and modern technologies.

Offline, his events have been magnificent spectacles, choreographed to perfection, presidential in presentation. His retail outlets (‘Obama branches’) covered the whole of the US, offering accessories and memorabilia such as his ‘Change the World’ T-Shirts.

Online, his strategy had something for everyone - tools to organise locally, talk to voters, form local groups, find events, raise funds and blog. Browsers could connect via the website to Facebook, MySpace, YouTube, Flickr and many other social networking sites or click on Barack TV to see videos about the man and his life. Even his website sign-off enshrined a key emotional message (‘Powered by Hope and supporters like you’).

You could also contact the Obama campaign by mobile by just texting HOPE (that word again) followed by the number. Advertisements were even placed in electronic games to catch the young, newly franchised voters.

Barack Obama has used these established techniques to attract friendship, loyalty and trust and to create a compelling and attractive image that few can resist. By so doing he has changed perceptions in unprecedented ways, not just in America but globally about America. The American Dream has been brought to life, and like a global brand, he has made everyone feel they can have a piece of it.