Each year, political campaigns become more sophisticated because of the increasing use of new technology and techniques to attract voters. In an increasingly fast-paced society, voters have less time to devote to researching a candidate’s position and what he or she ultimately stands for. This same logic is applied to branding a product such as Nike or Starbucks. Branding has become a more important part of the advertising process in recent years because of the importance in presenting the core message in a way that will attract an audience. President Obama effectively used branding techniques through social media to present a succinct message that gained him support going into the 2008 primary season.
Interbrand kept a blog that focused on political branding during the 2012 campaign. Interbrand identifies an effective brand as one that defines a product to its very core. The brand of a product will be what ultimately sets it apart from all the rest, according to Interbrand. Obama’s social media campaign focused on branding the candidate. Each account, whether it be Facebook, Twitter or another medium, delivered a coherent message across platforms that reflected what Obama said at speeches and rallies. For example: this tweet was posted during the third presidential debate. The tweet emphasized the core message (“forward”) that Obama was trying to convey that night and throughout his entire campaign.
Interbrand goes on to say that America has a brand just as Starbucks or Nike does because it is structured like a corporation. The strongest brands, such as Google, usually have a compelling story. Interbrand argues that America is a strong brand because it was built from a great story: the vision (and ultimate success) of breaking ties with England.
Obama’s family background was symbolic of America in itself. His mother was born in Kansas and his father was born in Kenya. His grandmother was Hawaiian. He came from a middle class family. He attended college with help from student loans. These are all characteristics of the “American brand.” Though what it means to be an American, in a symbolic sense, is different to everyone, there are certain characteristics that have often defined the nation: a strong, hard-working middle class, acceptance of different cultural backgrounds, etc. The ability for Obama to use his own story to establish his message set him apart from the other democratic candidates in 2008.
In 2008, Barack Obama secured the presidential nomination in a historical election, not just because of his diverse cultural background, but because of his campaign team’s embrace of new media to strategically disseminate a strong, coherent message of “hope” and “change.” He continued the pattern in 2012 with the new message of “forward,” emphasizing his strengths as president and how they will keep the country moving in the right direction if he is reelected.
In 2008, Obama was defined by his savvy use of the internet to disseminate this message of “hope” and “change.” In another blog post as part of the Interbrand series, Jeremy Villano and Forest Young identify social tools as what elevated Obama’s message to the audience that would listen the most. Because of the way that the internet connects people of like-minds, those that were inspired by the message Obama had rallied together and created a strong voice of support for the candidate..
David Trahan and Tom Shanahan identify the core campaign message as that of “policy, capability and character.” Obama’s policy was emphasized through Facebook through the use of graphics that highlighted his successes in his first term. Capability falls under this same category. His character was reflected in a variety of ways: through Twitter, the most tweeted tweet of all time was a picture of him and Michelle embracing with the caption “four more years.” Many pictures are posted to both Twitter and Facebook showing Obama as a president who is willing to listen to “regular people.” This picture was recently posted to the Barack Obama Facebook page which shows the president talking to citizens in a diner regarding the fiscal cliff.
Not only was the message Obama had (and still has) for Americans strong because it was coherent, but the way the message was presented was aesthetically pleasing. Obama’s design team, led by Thomas Scott, wanted to create a design that was consistent through all mediums1. The iconic “O” logo is seen on everything associated with Obama which makes it easy for voters to identify events or posts on Facebook (as examples) that are associated with the president. Even graphics posted on Facebook and Twitter feeds were consistent in their modern and minimalist style. A picture of Obama was posted of him standing next to a poster with his message of “hope” and “change” within the modern design scheme of the campaign.
The combination of the strong, clear message that Obama had in 2007, and the use of social platforms to spread his message to an audience willing to listen gave the young senator a strong foundation on which to build a successful campaign. By forming a team of branding and marketing professions, Obama established a clear and consistent message that carried across all mediums: Facebook, Twitter, blogs, speeches and rallies to name a few.
1 Harfoush, Rahaf. Yes We Did: An inside Look at How Social Media Built the Obama Brand. Berkeley, CA: New Riders, 2009. 66-69. Print