Chief Strategic Officer Ilana Bryant writes...
This year's Primaries have been some of the most exciting in living memory. It has been a time of new thinking and bold new political approaches, and bold new marketing practice. Barack Obama’s campaign has been extraordinary for a number of reasons, not least for his radical use of new media tools and his extraordinary use of social networking to further his reach. Below is an apolitical summary of some innovative uses of messaging and media to create this grassroots movement.
1. Leveraging the power of inspiration
If you want your audience to love you, wear your T shirt and forgive your weaknesses then you have to connect to them on a level above just the rational benefits/details. The voter's long journey to the voting booth may twist and turn on rational policy points, but selecting the candidate inside the voting booth is often a split second, emotional decision - in much the same way that consumers make product choices on the shelf. This is true even for high stake choices/purchases such as vacations, luxury cars, and selection of leader of the free world - rational points are important in judging criteria, but humans are ultimately far more complicated and emotions connection carry a stronger weight than marketers recognize.
Obama’s campaign has set out a clear set of inspiring values which it weaves consistently through all forms of communication - Hope, Action, Change. The rest is commentary. In addition the campaign has been very good at seamlessly translating the values directly into its campaign slogans using simple phrases designed to elicit said 'hope, action, change'. Phrases like ‘Change we can believe in’ and ‘Yes, we can’ are examples of phrases that epitomize the Obama brand values and speak positively to the subconscious brain in a way that would make NLP practioners proud.
2. Bottom up brand management.
The Obama brand is lead from the bottom up, not the top down. The campaign has an incredible social networking site (reputedly created by one of the Facebook founders) with powerful instant peer to peer communication.
With features like ‘create your own event’ and ‘create your own Obama group’ - the campaign has created a self organizing system. Obama HQ provides the tools for these people to meet, organize, fundraise and canvass voters but does not dictate the content or intervene with the peer groups.
If you look at all the chat rooms and events on BarackObama.com they are just as varied as you would expect ˆ Jazz Brunch for Obama Fundraiser, Young Lawyers for Obama etc. I‚m sure if I set up a ‘Twisty Balloon Animals for Obama’‚ fundraiser this would be uploaded, unedited to the site. This makes the grassroots campaigners less like footsoldiers and more like the passionate Minuteman of the American Revolution. If you want to show up to proverbially fight for Obama with a pitchfork and a home-made uniform, all you have to do is sign up and you’re in.
This user generated brand culture has had a halo effect in spawning independent user generated pro-Obama organizations such as, Dipdive Music which has to created videos for achieving more than 5 million hits online.
3. Continuous momentum through ‘SMART’‚ objectives
Marketing 101 instructs that to achieve goals, objectives must be ‘Specific, Measurable, Actionable, Realistic and Timed’. It seems that all internal Obama peer to peer campaign initiatives follow this dictum. Initiatives give a specific goal and date (eg 1.5 million calls by Tuesday) and make them actionable and realistic (eg click on this button and make 20 calls from this list). Continuous momentum is maintained by achieving goals and setting out new objectives which continuously greet all users on the main home page.
4. Social Networking Infused with Healthy Competition
The Obama website’s social networking tools are infused with healthy peer-to-peer competition that drives frequency to the site.
Matching peer donations, publicly viewable personal fundraising pages and shared postings of peers with the highest calling rates are examples of the campaign harnesses friendly peer to peer competition. There is the genius of the website’s point scoring system where your actions on the campaign are awarded depending on level of commitment and usefulness to the cause. Ironically, these points and ranking systems are not redeemable for anything more than understanding your level of 'action’ in the movement and being able to set your personal goals vs peers.
5. Pop Up Stores to Galvanize Online/Offline Activities
The Obama campaign has overcome its lack of infrastructure in key areas by utilizing what in marketing speak we would call a ‘pop up store‚’ - a temporary distribution channel/brand experience set up in a vacant retail space. For example, my local Obama Campaign HQ was an old movie rental shop. It was re-branded in Obama campaign livery and began distributing campaign material and running phone banks despite still having the original 'We Got Movies' neon sign over the door. These pop up stores on the ground were combined with the website's powerful Mapquest/Google Earth style location search tool so peer groups could find each other and local events instantly as well as find their new 'pop up' campaign HQ. The result was a holistic integration of a real world grassroots meeting place for the virtual, online groups and activities.
ILANA BRYANT IS THE CHIEF STRATEGIC OFFICER OF STRAWBERRYFROG, SHE IS RECOGNIZED AS ONE OF THE LEADING STRATEGIC THINKERS IN THE MARKETING WORLD TODAY. SHE CONTRIBUTES HER THINKING TO OUR STRAWBERRYFROG BLOG ON A REGULAR BASIS. YOU CAN CONTACT HER AT ILANA@STRAWBERRYFROG.COM