The Obama Brand

[NOTE:  This post does not necessarily reflect my personal political affiliation]

I got an email from my good friend Shachin this morning:

From: Shachindra Agarwal
Date: Wed, Nov 5, 2008 at 8:57 AM
Subject: WOW!!
To: Kevin Dahlstrom

A little more than 4 years back in a morning exec meeting, you mentioned Obama and said that this person could be our first black president. That was the first time I heard about him. I could never imagine that he could become the president. It happened…

// shachin

I have no political expertise whatsoever, so how was I able to predict an Obama presidency after seeing him speak just one time as a freshman Senator?  The answer is simple:  It was obvious to me that this guy was incredibly marketable. 

Obama was the complete package — young, energetic, charismatic — like a JFK for our generation.  And what great timing!  After 9/11, two wars, and a financial recession, Americans were looking for a  purple cow — something different and worth talking about.  Obama’s team took advantage of this through a brilliant grass-roots marketing program. 

The result was a perfect storm.  Obama became more than a candidate — he became the first presidential brand (the “Apple” of presidential politics).  People connected to the Obama movement at an emotional level, and once you make that sort of connection, the real issues (healthcare, economy, foreign policy, etc.) become less important.  Obama didn’t get two thirds of the under 30 vote (or 95 percent of the African American vote) because his platform was superior.  He got that vote because young voters and black voters affiliated with the Obama brand and all it represents.

You could argue that politics has always been marketing-driven.  Money buys votes, right?  Well, in this election I don’t think all the money in the world could have bought a McCain victory.  I suspect that we’ve seen a major turning point in how presidents are elected.


4 thoughts on “The Obama Brand

  1. ok, with all due respect, yours wasn’t much of an ingenius prediction. ever since his 2004 convention speech, the whole country was talking up an Obama presidency. surprised your friend hadn’t heard of him. – there is something to be said about marketing. but you can’t market someone who has no charisma.
    Most of all, Obama has George Bush to thank for. If Kerry had won in 2004, Obama might’ve been forgotten by the time he got a chance to run.

  2. Arne,

    The point of the post wasn’t that I predicted Obama would be President. It was that Obama became more than a candidate — he became a brand. There are a number of reasons this happened (his charisma, dislike of Bush, good marketing, etc.). I can’t think of any other candidate that has created this sort of emotional connection with voters.

  3. you beat me to it making a 2nd post… I think the charisma thing is genuine, not just marketing. and I think you acknowledge that. i think where the brand/marketing thing came in was by getting the logo, running a web grass-roots campaign, and MOST IMPORTANTLY not straying from the message for almost 2 years. while mccain weaseled around and had a new angle every 2 weeks, Obama said the same thing every day (which got boring) but which made him a brand like Coca-Cola. You don’t ask yourself if you really like Coke when you buy it, you jsut buy it because you know it’s coke and coke is good. Obama got into our heads for 2 years, one day at a time, McCain stayed on the tv screen. now, let them go to work and prove they’re as good as they think. – Most of all though, America was sick and tired of the Republicans. And to make a predictions, if all goes well in this term, it may be decades before we see another Republican President !

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