A marketer must be able to have “conversations” with “friends” in order to create a modern brand. Now, how can a marketer build those “friendships” that allow them to have the “conversations” necessary to create strong brands? This is how the 2008 presidential campaign of Barack Obama shows you how to do it.
This is a misnomer. The lightning rod of President Obama is his name. While some love and hate him, many people admire him. However, even his most ardent critics can admit that his social media strategy is a masterpiece. This campaign is a great example of how to brand modern products and should be studied by marketers. I hope the reader will not be distracted by politics but rather the marketing.
Barack Obama is an example of how a brand can emerge in the New Media Age. A candidate for the American presidency must have a lot of money and name recognition. A candidate without a brand is unlikely to win the election. Voters will not be able to identify you as a candidate if they don’t know your name. A marketer who cannot differentiate their product from the rest of the market will not sell it. Modern marketers should learn from the Obama campaign. Barack Obama was unknown and had no money before the 2008 campaign. Hillary Clinton, on the other hand, was a well-known senator hailing from a large state. It was clear that Hilary would win the Democratic nomination in 2006-2007. Her husband and she had built a large political network and had a lot to draw from. She also had a strong brand. Barack didn’t have a brand, even within his own family. Michelle responded to Barack’s question about a possible candidacy by saying, “This is one of the most crazy things you have ever said to me.” It’s unlikely that Hilary will be beaten this year… Get over it, kid. Barack and his team had a good understanding of social media and how it could be used in campaigns. This was his greatest asset.
The 2008 campaign is a good example of the modern market. It was difficult and expensive to create and market a new product in the past. Social media is an integral part of modern marketing. Social media campaigns allow a product to be quickly created and branded in market place at very low cost. Shiv Singh, an author, best explains the modern market. The market has changed. Consumers are no longer interested in engaging with impersonal brands. Consumers no longer trust brands, they trust their friends. A recent survey by The Economist found that half of respondents don’t trust large businesses. Their friends’ recommendations are more trustworthy than big business. The best way to build brands is to rely on the recommendations of your friends. Social media is crucial for branding. Social media allows friends to meet, people have conversations, and brands can be created.
If a product is to be chosen, it must be a friend to the consumer. This is exactly what the Obama Campaign did. Marketers should study the Obama Campaign’s approach to creating modern brands through social media. Combining social media with micro-targeting creates force multipliers that can be used to create brands of distinction.
Barack and his team were able to quickly build a strong brand and defeat the Clinton campaign thanks to their knowledge of today’s market. An error I made in an earlier article is corrected. Recent article: “The Perfect Storm”: Why Social Media Marketing Should Be the Core of Your Marketing Strategy. This article identified David Plouffe as Mr. Obama’s campaign manger, and a founding member of the Facebook management group. This was a mistake. Chris Hughes, the Obama Campaign Director for Online Organizing, was the person I was referring to. Hughes was a major influencer on the campaign’s social media strategy.
Let me briefly summarize the branding efforts of Obama’s campaign:
* They had a goal
* To achieve this goal, they created the scale.
* Their platforms were easy to find and enjoyable to navigate.
* They turned online enthusiasm into targeted, specific activities that helped the campaign goals
* Online advocacy integrated into all elements of the campaign
Social media was not a new concept for the Obama campaign. They were the first to coordinate social media across an entire campaign. They organized the use of social media. Social media must be properly organized in order to function. John McCain and Howard Dean used social media before Obama. However, Obama and his staff were able to seamlessly integrate and organize the social media into all areas of the campaign. Barak was able create conversations that were engaging because of this. Barak created enthusiasm but his enthusiasm was intelligent enthusiasm. He targeted voters and supporters with social media sights. He was able to identify the key metrics that were important to him in order to win his campaign. He was able focus and target his true supporters.
Obama’s social media branding strategy is strong because it was designed to build and maintain “friendships”. This is a crucial point for marketers. There is a veil that separates you from someone you meet when you first meet them. The veil will begin to fall as you get to know one another better. As trust grows, deeper conversations can begin. These conversations lead to deeper human relationships. These relationships are strong for marketing.
Obama knew it had to engage people but had to do so based on trust. Obama engaged people by using what it called the “ladder”. Each step builds trust and commitment. The ladder is based on the individual’s comfort level in relation to the campaign. These steps are what a marketer calls touch points.
Personal would be the first point of contact. This is where a customer and marketer first meet and become “friends” on a platform such as Facebook. This is the stage where people start to get to know each other, as in the Obama case. One signs up for emails and messages. Next is Social. This is where people make comments or posts to a friend’s profile regarding your product. This is when a friend tells a friend why they think a product makes sense. These profiles were integrated into the Obama campaign’s web site. A supporter can create an account on the Website. An organization could integrate with Facebook or Twitter in the marketing area. A customer might feel at ease with a brand and join or create a group.
The next step in the Obama campaign would be to become an Advocate. You can post pictures, blog posts, or create a video and upload it to You Tube in order to drive interest. The advocate stage is where a marketer tries to talk about the product with a friend (a customer). The advocate stage is where a supporter may feel sufficiently committed to Obama to host an event or ask friends to donate money or register to vote. A person may recommend a product to a friend in the Advocate stage. This creates a brand.
Next is the Empowering stage. This stage is reserved for Obama supporters who are serious. This stage is where a supporter becomes heavily involved. This campaign could track volunteers and target its most reliable supporters.
These people can create fundraising and social groups on MyBO Web site. Obama’s campaign could create their own networks of supporters, which would give them access to the Obama database. From there they could pull numbers from their homes for phone banking. Marketers need to draw an analogy between what the Obama campaign did and what they can do to improve customer engagement. Maybe some companies could offer discounts to customers if their friends refer them to the marketers. This would help to solidify the brand. Marketers can adapt to their circumstances and expand their brand.
Social media platforms have become so popular because friends can now share videos, photos, and posts with each other. Marketers will find this a huge help in their quest to expand and create their brand. Ford Motor Company did this with an efficient campaign to launch their new Fiesta car. Ford called it the Fiesta Project. The Obama campaign also helped to increase brand awareness for Fiesta. This is where the importance of scale comes in. Both Obama and Ford had the scale to allow “friends” (or “converse”) to create their brand. This is why Obama’s campaign was so successful. Planning is crucial in building a brand. Napolean stated, “Every army has plans until the first shot is fired.” Marketing campaigns are chaotic. There are always surprises. Marketers must be flexible. Social media campaigns by Obama and Ford were successful because they had enough scale and planning to engage their “friends”.