Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Marketing Lessons from the US Elections

I just finished watching Mitt Romney's concession speech as he ended with a prayer for Barack Obama's success as he continues as President of the United States for the next four years. Rest assured though that Obama's victory by a wide margin was not all based on faith. There will be a lot of political analysis over the coming weeks but here is my marketing perspective on Brand Obama and some key lessons DesiCMOs and CMOs around the world can learn from the campaign he ran. This is very timely since we have our CMO-CIO Leadership Symposium tomorrow in Gurgaon where we will explore "Smarter Marketing: The Science of Giving People What they Want"...and that's exactly what Team Obama did.

A great ground game enabled by a passionate "workforce" aligned to an authentic brand. 
No matter how sophisticated election analysis and polling seems, elections are still won through personalized interaction at every touch point, in this case building an authentic brand that galvanizes volunteers to go door to door. Brand Obama was able to infuse energy and passion in his campaign team and volunteers who went that extra mile, even on election day to get out the vote. Trust in and authenticity of Brand Obama has been a critical factor in the big victory as Romney wasn't able to communicate a clear and consistent brand to the market (he was swinging right to center throughout) and that created doubt despite big ad spending and a big win in the debates and impacted his ability to win the swing states. As Obama stated in his victory speech "The best campaign team and volunteers in the history of politics...all of you are family."
Takeaway: Don't understimate the power of  deliberately designing your brand and culture so they are authentically one.

Sophisticated targeting using digital media - both e-mail and social.
Even sitting thousands of miles away in India I received regular personalized e-mail communications from the Obama campaign asking for small donations and support over the last couple of years. Even today, he first tweeted his gratitude to his followers before he has given any official statement to the press. I have already received a personalized email before he got on stage to deliver his acceptance speech. His team's ability to leverage digital to connect to each voter as an individual, even those in remote locations is the reason why he was able to not only hold onto democrat strongholds (i.e. Blue States) but also ensure early victories in swing states by reaching young first time voters, minorities and women as individuals vs. treating them as segments. This was a man to man/woman to woman/neighbor to neighbor campaign. 
Takeaway: Understanding your target audience as individual allows you to build a more loyal, engaged install base and also systematically acquire new supporters.

This was not a campaign, but a system of engagement with citizens, who happen to vote every four years. Team Obama has been engaging citizens in a dialogue throughout the first term. The election wasn't the reason he started this communication campaign, the dialogue had started long before and will continue long after the election is over. Voters, whether they agree or disagree with Obama's policies, at least felt he was listening and was transparent.  As he said in his victory speech: "Whether I have earned your vote or not, I have listened to you so that I can become a better President". That earned him the right to reach out to his followers to ask for votes and donations because it was a natural and logical extension of the conversation and not an out of context request.
Takeaway: Create a system of engagement (vs. ad hoc engagement campaigns) to maximize value at every touchpoint. Brands have to first give and be willing to listen before they earn the right to ask.

These three imperatives continue to make more and more sense to me as I apply them to my profession. I am looking forward to hearing examples from 30 leading brands tomorrow from across the country on how they apply these imperatives in their industry context. Even if you aren't attending, do leave a comment with your perspective!

1 comment:

  1. Very interesting analysis Virginia. I would like to add one more point- The personal touch was blended with some very smart segmentation of voters- and wooing each segment with specific campaigns- example, I saw a Spanish version of Obama's speech ( where he appears to have spoken himself) which was advertised on Latino channels- which possibly helped him woo those voters ( bolstered of course by Romney's hard stand on illegal immigrants!). Ultimately I think it was about authenticity! Obama clearly is a more authentic brand.........