Creating an Effective Brand: How President Obama Used Social Media to Create a Brand

To create a modern brand a marketer must have a “conversation” among “friends “. Okay, now just how does a marketer create those “friendships” to have those “conversations” to create those strong, effective, brands? A case study in how to do this is the presidential campaign of Barack Obama in 2008.

At the beginning of this article I want to state this misnomer. President Obama is a lightning rod. Some people love him and some people hate him, but even his biggest detractors have to admit that his social media strategy was a classic. Marketers should study this campaign because it is a tutorial on how modern products must be branded. I hope that the reader will focus on the marketing and not the politics.

Barack Obama is a classic case in how a brand can be created in a New Media Age. To win the American presidency a candidate must have a great deal of money and a great deal of name recognition—a brand. If a candidate does not have a brand, if voters do not know who you are, you are not going to be elected. If a marketer cannot distinguish their product in the market place, that product will not be bought. This is why modern marketers should study the Obama campaign. Before the 2008 campaign, Barack Obama had no money and was unknown. By contrast, Hillary Clinton was a well-known senator from a large state. During 2006-2007, it was a foregone conclusion that Hilary would win the Democratic nomination She and her husband had created a vast political network to draw from, and she a lot of money—she had a strong brand. Barack had no brand; even in his own household. When Barack broached a potential candidacy to Michelle, her response was, “This is the craziest thing you ever said to me. Nobody is going to beat Hilary this year…Get over it, kid”. Barack and his team did have knowledge of social media and how to use it in a campaign. This knowledge was his biggest asset.

The campaign of 2008 is analogous to the modern market place. In times past, it was very hard, and very costly to create a new product and brand it. This is why social media is such an important element in modern marketing. A social media campaign allows a new product to be created and branded in the market place quickly, at very little cost. The modern market place is best explained by author Shiv Singh. There has been a change in the market place. No longer are consumers interested in engaging with large impersonal brands. Consumers do not trust brands any longer—they trust their friends. In a recent survey conducted by The Economist half the respondents stated that they don’t trust big business. They trust the recommendations of their friends. Leveraging the recommendations of friends is the way to create brands. This is the reason why the use of social media is so critical to branding. Through social media, friends meet, conversations happen, and brands are created.

This means that if a product is going to be selected, the brand must become a “friend” to its consumer. This is what the Obama Campaign did and the way that he did this should be studied by marketers because it is a case study in how to create modern brands using social media. By combining social media that creates micro-targeting, force multipliers are created that are Volgers kopen needed to create world-class brands.

The knowledge of the modern market place allowed Barack and his team to quickly develop a strong brand and overcome the Clinton campaign. At this point, I would like to clear up an error that I made in a previous article. Recently, I wrote an article entitled, “The Perfect Storm: Why Companies Should Adopt Social Media Marketing as the Center of Their Marketing”. In this article, I identified David Plouffe, Mr. Obama’s campaign manager as an original member of the Facebook management team. This was an error. The Obama staff member that I was thinking of was Chris Hughes, who served as the Obama Campaign Director of Online Organizing. Mr. Hughes had a great influence on the campaign social media strategy.

Let me summarize what the Obama campaign did to brand itself:

• They had a goal
• They created the scale to achieve this goal
• They made their platforms easy to find, and fun to use and navigate
• They channeled online enthusiasm into specific, targeted activities that furthered the campaigns goals
• Integrated online advocacy into every element of the campaign

The Obama campaign was not the first campaign to use social media. They were the first to co-ordinate social media with an entire campaign. They were the first to organize the use of social media. For social media to work, it has to be organized. John McCain and Howard Dean used the medium before Obama, but Obama and his staff was able to integrate and organize social media into every area of the campaign in a seamless way. Because of this Barak was able to create “conversations” that engaged. He created enthusiasm, but the enthusiasm his sight created was smart enthusiasm. He used social media sights in a way that targeted supporters and voters. This targeting allowed him to understand the important metrics that he needed to know in order to win his campaign. He was able to target and focus on his true supporters.

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