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How Barack Obama Marketed His Way through the 2012 Election

Obama Campaign Marketing 2012Let me begin by stating that this is not a political post (and for full disclosure…I wasn’t very fond of either candidate :)). This is simply meant to be a quick-and-dirty analysis of the presidential campaign and result.

Because what is a presidential campaign if not just a long, very extended marketing campaign?

Barack Obama clearly has a good handle on his marketing (or at least someone in his campaign committee does).

From hiring one of Facebook’s brightest marketing minds for the last election, to everything he did this election, marketing was at the core of his victory.

So how did he do it?

Negative Ads Work

Did you get sick of the negative ads during election season? Many people sure did. There were probably more complaints about the ads than ads themselves.

So why did they keep running?!?

Simple. They work…

…especially when you distance yourself from them.

At one point during the campaign, everyone in the Obama administration began saying that “[they are] sure Mitt’s a good guy, but…”

In the meantime the negative ads kept rolling.

The negative ads work because of one simple principle: the enemy of my enemy is my friendClick to Tweet This

This is precisely the reason you find “internet marketing gurus” talking negatively about…well…”internet marketing gurus”…in their sales pitches.

Speaking of enemies…

YOUR AVATAR “STICKS”

The Obama campaign did a great job of painting Mitt Romney as the rich guy who only cares about rich guys.

They did this instantly, and it stuck through the election.

By the time Mitt Romney was able to come off more moderate and “likable” it was almost too late.

Obama’s campaign was able to do this by capitalizing on past statements (like the 47% quote) in a much better way than the opposition (whether or not the quotes were in context doesn’t really matter).

Image and likability are two of the most important factors in people’s purchasing (or voting) decisions. Click to Tweet This.

Consistency Matters

….at least in terms of what you say.

Congruence is a huge issue in marketing. What you say about your product should be what you actually deliver. And what you say at the beginning of a sales page, for example, shouldn’t shift by the time you get to the end.

Trying to convey a positive message while writing it next to a negative image sends mixed signals – not good.

In politics it’s a bit different, however.

It’s not so much that you have to deliver what you promise. You just have to keep promising the same thing consistently. Whether you deliver on that promise or not doesn’t matter as much as not changing the promise.

Catchy Names catch on

This is kind of a biggie.

Slogans and titles make a difference. They catch on. They spread. They make the old seem new again.

In the case of the Obama campaign, let’s take a look at at a name and a slogan:

1. “The Buffett Rule”

2. Building an economy “Middle-Out” instead of “Top-Down”

Neither of these actually mean much of anything. They’re not new. They are just new names for a platform that has always existed.

But it makes people feel that there is something new brewing. Something that can make a difference.

How can this be applied to your own marketing?

A while ago Derek Halpern of Social Triggers shared his drafting technique. The technique itself isn’t necessarily anything new or evolutionary (doesn’t mean it’s not effective!).

But giving it a new, catchy name helped it spread like wildfire. And now Derek is forever tied to the technique.

crisis mitigation

In politics, everything is a marketing opportunity. Everything is politicized. Including crisis.

President Obama was quick to respond to Hurricane Sandy. Much quicker than most other crises during his term. But then again…it was election season.

This certainly helped his image right before the election.

On a side note, I recently visited Breezy Point. The devastation there is heart-breaking. This was the area where a whole block of houses burned down. Most houses in the area will probably have to be leveled because of the damage. If you have the opportunity to go help in any way, please do. 

Back to marketing…

Just the other day I received an email from Dane Maxwell of The Foundation.

It was more or less an apology email about an issue they were having launching due to problems with their merchant account.

The email gave an insider look as to what happened, what problems it caused, and what they were planning on doing to mitigate the situation.

Moreover, it did a pretty decent job of creating a common enemy (as previously stated). Those damn merchant accounts :).

A good, timely response can easily turn a customer service horror story into a marketing opportunity. Click to Tweet This

Capture leads

If you visited the White House website any time before the election you  may have noticed that it wasn’t a regular government.

It was a landing page meant to capture leads. An opt-in form was front-and-center.

White House Landing Page

Kind of like the ones you see all over this site – you should enter your email into one of those for future updates :). 

The President’s team clearly understood the value of an email address for marketing purposes. And you shouldn’t understimate it either.

If you aren’t capturing emails and leads yet start now

leverage connections

Speaking of capturing leads and emails…

If you happen to subscribe to any newsletter that has even a slight affiliation with either party, chances are you were getting bombarded with emails trying to persuade you to vote.

You can’t possibly capture every lead that might be interested in your product or service. But you can increase the exposure you get by leveraging the audiences of others.

Danny Iny of Firepole Marketing did this brilliantly. He quickly grew his business and audience by using guest blogging as a core marketing strategy.

tap into data

I voted through an absentee ballot. The second I registered for one, I was bombarded with letters and brochures from both main parties to “educate me” about issues and candidates that are running.

The state party committees got a hold of the data…my data!

We live in the information age…with a lot of data right at our finger tips. Making decisions driven by data leads to better results more often than not.

You should always be testing, collecting data, and analyzing it. This is just more profitable! Click to Tweet This

For a clear example of this let me reference Peter Sandeen and Danny Iny (again).

They recently had a friendly competition to see who can create a better sales page for Danny’s premium training program. By testing and collecting data Danny was able to drive a lot more sales.

Politics is serious business

I’m often very cynical about politicians…and will continue to be until they give me a reason not to be.

But politics is serious business.

And every business is in the business of marketing.

McDonald’s is in the business of marketing burgers. Apple is in the business of marketing computers and phones. Political committees are in the business of marketing candidates.

So every once in a while, I like to take a step back, put the cynicism on pause, and see how these business machines do what they do.

What do you think?

image: Real Clear Politics

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2 Responses to How Barack Obama Marketed His Way through the 2012 Election

  1. Hey a lot of truth in this one, but you gotta give credit to republicans too. They had solid, really good social media strategy.

    Unfortunately the message that they wanted to come across, didn’t appeal to enough people in enough of the swing states, for him to win the elections. Close race, but still the libs knew how to communicate to their base better.

    And it was easy, promising “free” healthcare, did the trick. Entailment mentality at it’s best.

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