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The day after the day of all days… Blogs that tell us what we can learn from the 2008 US Presidential Elections


The day after the day of all days… Blogs that tell us what we can learn from the 2008 US Presidential Elections


The 2008 US Presidential Election will no doubt go down in history, politically and culturally. But how has this 21-month odyssey affected marketing as we know it? A number of high profile members of the marketing fraternity have posted blogs revealing the importance of this occasion.

Al Ries, global marketing guru, has contributed a blog to Advertising Age explaining what he believes all marketers can learn from the Obama ‘Change’ campaign. His first comment on simplicity focuses on how Obama’s two opponents (Hillary Clinton and John McCain) couldn’t consolidate their strategies, which ranged from spruiking solutions, using various alternations of the ‘Change’ angle and not being able to stick with one slogan.

Obama’s strength, says Ries, was his ability to position himself correctly.

“Mr Obamas objective was not to communicate the fact that he was an agent of change… what Mr Obama actually did was to repeat the ‘change’ message over and over again, so that potential voters identified Mr Obama with the concept. In other words, he owns the ‘change’ idea in voters minds.”

This blog has some interesting points about the importance of consistency and relevance, two additional elements that Ries worked in Obama’s favour.

Another interesting US election for marketers blog is by Lori Luechtefelf, editor of the iMedia Connection website. Luechtefeld gathers the opinion of a number of marketing experts who were gathered in a round-table discussion for ad:tech New York (although Tina Sharkey, chairman and global president of BabyCenter LLC, seems to be an odd choice as commentator on a political campaign).

One of the experts, chief client officer for CBS Interactive, David Morris, offered what struck him most about the campaign, pointing out that brands make mistakes in their campaigns as well, for example, campaign materials may be distributed that contain copy that’s offensive to a certain group of consumers.

A brand might also make a promise that doesn’t go well. In these cases, says Morris, brand managers have three options – they can ignore the problem, they can dump it onto their colleagues and make them deal with it or they can go to their consumer bases, listen, learn and try to correct the problem to the best of their ability.

And finally, habitual marketing sage, Seth Godin, has posted an extensive blog about the US election (get a cup of coffee and a comfortable chair ready for this one). To be different, this was posted minutes before the polls opened. He looks at classic marketing strategies that were used to their utmost during the campaign: the importance of story-telling, not relying on TV solely to push your messages, marketing as being a tribal experience that needs to be embraced (he cites the different ‘bases’ that candidates have to appeal too, mentioning Karl Rove‘s courting of the right and Obama creating a new tribe) and the limiting success of ads that attack your competition.

For marketers, these blogs reveal techniques that the US election has had to implement to swing one of the fussiest populations in the world. It has not only been the most expensive campaign in history (over US$1 billion when you combine both candidate’s totals, according to various media outlets), it has been the most technologically advanced and both parties used all the channels available to get through to the demographics that they needed to sway people’s opinion.

What can marketers learn from the US elections? While it is imperative to use integrated channels in massive campaigns such as this, utilising avenues like YouTube and mobile technology, the classic principles apply – simplicity, repetition, knowing how to respond to mistakes and don’t forget the classic marketing strategies that work.

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