Ten marketing lessons from the Barack Obama Presidential campaign

I write about strategies to turn fans into customers and customers into fans. I also share ways to use real-time strategies to spread ideas, influence minds, and build business.

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I wanted to make a few observations about why Obama was elected to be the 44th President of the United States.

This is a marketing blog, not a political blog. These are not political observations, but thoughts about marketing. It doesn't matter who I supported or voted for or who you supported or voted for us all to learn from Obama's victory.

1. Social media and the new rules of marketing are essential. The other campaigns seemed to be fighting using the playbooks of past campaigns. Hillary Clinton was relying on what worked to elect Bill Clinton. John McCain was relying on what worked to elect George W. Bush. Obama realized that to become president, he had to deliver information to people online as a primary tool, not an afterthought. In my opinion, Barack Obama is the most successful "new marketer" in history.

2. Embrace citizen journalists.
My friend Steve Garfield is a well-known videoblogger. He's got tens of thousands of followers. During the primaries, Garfield attended several rallies held by various candidates. When he asked to go to the media section at a Hillary Clinton rally in Boston he was tuned away (because he was "not a real journalist") and had to cover it from the back of the crowd. However, Obama's campaign immediately brought him up to the media section where he was placed with print reporters from the major dailies and TV crews from the networks. The Obama campaign understood that citizen journalists have immense power.

3. Clearly and simply articulate what you want people to believe. From the beginning, Obama was about "change." The word "change" was everywhere in his campaign, so much that the entire world knew what Obama stood for. I asked a group of 300 people in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia what was the one word they think of when I say Barack Obama and all in the room said "CHANGE". Amazing. Quick: What do the following candidates stand for? John McCain, John Edwards, Hillary Clinton, Mitt Romney, or any others. Hard to say isn't it?

4. People don't care about products and services, instead they care about themselves and about solving their problems.
Obama understood that his job was to solve the problems facing voters. He also knew that voters were buying into solutions, not just an individual. Did you notice in speeches how often Obama referred to his audience compared to how often he referred to himself? How about the other candidates in the primaries? How about John McCain? The other candidates talked about themselves a hell of a lot more than Obama did. Obama was the most Tuned In candidate.

5. Don't obsess over the competition. Did you notice that Obama rarely talked about his competition? Once in a while he would, but mainly he talked about the problems facing voters. McCain talked a lot about Obama. Interestingly, Clinton and McCain both tried to associate themselves with the "change" word (the competition's word) but both failed because people already associated it with Obama.

6. Put your fans first. Obama had many ways to make an inclusive campaign and alert fans about developments first. I found out on Twitter that Joe Biden was to be Obama's running mate. Amazing. Obama told his fans first BEFORE mainstream media. (Of course, smart reporters were following his Twitter feed).

7. People don't like tele-marketing.
Do you like getting phone calls at dinnertime? McCain supporters seem to think so as they unleashed a barrage of so called robo-calls, which seemed to have backfired.

8. Negativity doesn't sell. Obama’s theme of hope and the idea that life can be better with change was uplifting to many people. The other campaigns of fear didn’t work this time around.

9. When someone becomes a customer, they want to talk about it. Obama tapped over 3 million donors who provided $640 million to the campaign. The majority contributed small amounts online. Once someone donates money, they have a vested interest in the candidate. So lots of small donors are better than a few fat cats.

10. Take time for your family.
(Okay maybe this isn’t really a marketing observation). Obama took time to be with his wife and daughters when he could have done another rally somewhere. He took several days at the end of the race to spend time with his ailing grandmother. While he was pulled away from "work" I think people respected his devotion to family.

Anyone have any other observations?

Marketers can learn a great deal from political campaigns. I encourage you to take a look at these ten lessons and apply them to your business.