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FutureNow Article
Tuesday, Feb. 5, 2008

How Barack’s Strategy Could Help You Win Customers

By Michele Miller
February 5th, 2008

barack_obama.jpgI’m old enough to have grown up in the 1960’s, which was a “you-had-to-be-there” era of civic thinking and electrifying ideas. Not since that time have I found myself as excited as I am now over the upcoming presidential election.

I’ve been making donations to all of the major campaigns (Democratic and Republican) in order to see how each system works and talks to me, and while none of them do a bad job, there’s a definite divide between how the older and younger candidates communicate. The standout in the group is Barack Obama.

You may feel that Barack is not your candidate, but do take a look at his communication style, which is the definitive example for how to speak to customers (especially the younger generation) if you hope to do business with them.

No chest-thumping allowed. While other candidates focus on what makes them special as a candidate (count how many times a candidate uses the word “I” or “me” on their website), Barack’s campaign theme is “Yes We Can.” His website offers the theme of community, and uses terms like “you,” “we,” and “us” to draw you into the fold.

It’s all about US. When making a donation to the campaign, you are asked to write a short note about your feelings about Barack, the campaign, or anything you wish. Then, when you receive your thank-you note, it includes a message that another donor wrote (along with their first name and city). Suddenly, you are no longer a lone, isolated donor; you feel an immediate sense of community, belonging, and mission.

“Please, call me Barack.” As with any campaign, automatic emails and news items are sent to members and donors. The language used is serious in tone but not condescending. And each email is signed, “Barack.” Not “Barack Obama.” Not “The Barack Obama Campaign.” Just “Barack.” A decision as small as how you sign your name to a piece of marketing (because that’s what this is, after all), can make a world of difference.

After last weekend’s Barack Obama rally in California, an editorial in The New York Times said,

“The Times editorial board has endorsed Mrs. Clinton’s candidacy, and we are enthusiastic about her ability to be a great president. But candidates have to win in order to serve. Attending the rally here, we hoped Mrs. Clinton and her team were also watching and listening, very attentively.”

Not only should Clinton (and McCain and Romney) be paying attention, so should you. This is the communication style of the future.

Are you ready for change?

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Comments (9)

  1. I got a voicemail from Chris Rock this morning telling me to go make history and vote for Barack Obama today. The last time I got a celeb voicemail was from Samuel L. Jackson telling me to see snakes on a plane, which was funny. Chris Rock’s message this morning, even though from a comedian was different, it was sincere.


  2. Thank you. Your site one of the best that I saw

  3. Well, Obama’s staff still has a ways to go with the email part of the campaign (asking a question doesn’t automatically mean I’m signing up as a supporter, for one thing.)

    That said, his style is – in my not-so-humble marketer opinion – a winning one. Hillary may well actually be the the more qualified candidate but Barack is the one that incites passion, across age, gender and ethnic groups. At this point, I think many believe we need an ‘energizer” more than we need “experience.” And, qualifications don’t necessarily translate into achievement.

  4. I think you nailed it, Mary. The “why are you donating?” testimonials are nice icing on the cake, and may help to fuel word of mouth for Barack, but the campaign has really already done the hard part at that point: They’ve persuaded the visitor to his website to donate. Whether that happened entirely online is a different story — probably not, but they still did a good job with the follow through.

    In terms of Barack’s email strategy, the numbers speak for themselves. He’s raised more so far in small-money donations ($32 million last month alone) than any candidate in the history of American politics. Meanwhile, Hillary’s already tapped out a lot of her supporters because she’s relied on big-money donations to fuel her campaign — and many of those people have already given all they can legally give to support her Primary bid.

    Barack, on the other hand, can tap his list of some 750k online donors via email anytime (100k first-time donors in January alone!).

    Where does all that money come from? Communication, persuasion, and telling people who can only afford to spend 20 bucks or buy a t-shirt that THEY are the ones his campaign is about.

    Powerful stuff.

  5. Right on, Mary and Robert. It’s interesting to compare how Hillary has raised money (big time contributors, PAC’s, and can anyone say lobbyists?) where Barack has done an amazing job of grass roots fundraising. Interestingly, a new story just broke, saying that Hillary lent her own campaign $5 million and may lend more – things seem to be tight. To have the communication system in place with his supporters must help Barack to sleep better at night.

  6. Aaron Wall posted this about what a Barak supporter did for him on YouTube. I read it and remembered your post…

  7. Tom: MediaPost’s Joe Marchese seems to agree with your assessment of the Snakes-on-a-Plane-style social medial impact on the campaigns. Clearly, Barack has the edge in that department.

    Julie, Mary & Michele: Did you see David Brooks’ NYTimes column (“Questions for Dr. Retail“) about the Obama marketing strategy? It’s pure genius, and very balanced.

    Also, heard a great commentary by Kieth Olberman and Chris Matthews last night about how it’s difficult for Clinton and McCain now that Obama’s branding message has been so crystallized by results. The gist of it was that Hillary’s already learned that it’s futile to campaign against “hope” — and what’s McCain’s message supposed to be now? “No We Can’t?”

  8. [...] vind ik ook het voorbeeld dat Grokdotcom noemt in de campagne van Barack Obama: As with any campaign, automatic emails and news items are [...]

  9. [...] vind ik ook het voorbeeld dat Grokdotcom noemt in de campagne van Barack Obama: As with any campaign, automatic emails and news items are [...]

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