A few weeks ago I traveled to the District of Columbia, a city I once called home, to participate in the second inauguration of the 44th President of the United States, Barack Obama. While the crowd lacked the same energy and fervor of 2009, the influx of nearly one million people to the Capitol stood as a reminder of the public’s fascination with the Presidency. You could hardly look around you without seeing a vendor peddling Obama buttons, t-shirts, hats, posters and even iPhone cases. The Obama brand is arguably one of the most effective in the world.
Every Presidential campaign since Richard Nixon has marketed its campaign to the American people; however, no campaign has successfully executed the same kind of cohesive voice of Obama’s 2008 and 2012 campaigns. The marketing efforts rivaled that of high-end commercial brands. Ad Age even went so far as to name Obama “Marketer of the Year” in 2008 over the likes of Apple, Nike and Miller Coors. He’s often perceived by supporters to be relatable, savvy and hip.
Where George W. Bush skimmed the tip of the brand iceberg in 2004 with his “W” campaign, Obama faced it head-on in 2008 and again in 2012 with a full-tilt marketing approach. In order to secure the millennial voter block, his strategies had to extend beyond bumper stickers and yard signs. Smart web design and a savvy social media presence translated into political currency and complimented his oratory ability and memorable taglines. Obama had become an iconic figure of the millennial generation.
By adopting the marketing strategy of a consumer brand, Obama was able to communicate his message and drive action in his target audiences across two Presidential elections in a way never seen before. Voters are moving beyond caring only about candidates’ political platforms and policies. Personality and how candidates communicate – or in other words, their brand identities – play a huge factor.
As the President exited the Capitol stage after delivering his second and last inauguration speech, he paused. Turning around he stared out at the crowd gathered that day on the National Mall. A reporter was able to pick up the private words he spoke to his family. “I want to see this one more time,” he whispered while lingering onstage. “I’m not going to get to see this again.” While we’ll never again see Barack Obama the candidate, there’s no doubt his political successors will study his campaigns and aspire to the brand standards they set.