Thursday, 8 November 2012

The Obama Brand

The world woke up this morning to hear that President Obama will serve a second term in the White House.  After what we were led to believe was a close fought campaign, Obama romped home with a comfortable majority.

It got me thinking about the similarities between political campaigning and ordinary straightforward marketing.  Not that anything is ordinary or straightforward in today’s marketing world of course!  A lot has changed in the four years since Obama first took up office; at that time he was well ahead in the use of social media but in 2012 both candidates used every possible method to engage voters….including Facebook, Twitter, et al.  

But what really interested me was the way in which the two presidential candidates ‘lived’ the brands that represented their campaigns.  It raises all sorts of questions about where brands and what we might call ‘public personalities’ start and end.  Could they be one and the same thing?  Do we want them to be?  Think about Richard Branson or the late Steve Jobs.  They’re so synonymous with Virgin and Apple, respectively, that they seem to embody the values of those particular brands.  Branson and Jobs have been nothing but fabulous ambassadors but we can all think of instances where one person has single handedly brought down a brand through careless actions or words.

Is there anything we can learn from this I wonder?  I happen to be a one-man band (well, a one-woman band to be accurate!) so I guess that my ‘brand’ is me.  There is no one else to represent my business; I create the values that underpin it and I promote those values through the way I work.  But I used to work for a multi-national company – in my office alone there were roughly one thousand people.  How can a brand possibly remain strong in the face of such diverse values, personalities and aspirations?

I think the answer lies, at least partly, in defining the brand, championing it at every possibility and being true to the values that it represents.  Actions always impact a brand!  It’s what we do that gives our customers the opportunity to adjust their thinking, positively or negatively.  Our marketing may be spot on but if a disgruntled employee lets loose on Facebook or a senior executive’s rude comments end up in the press, that single action will have substantial repercussions.

The truth is, it’s the opinions of others that build our brand – whether we are aware of it or not.  Now that’s food for thought!

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