The Marketing of Barack Obama


Themes: Marketing
Pub Date : 2009
Countries : US
Industry : General Business

Buy Now

Case Code : MCS0016
Case Length : 7 Pages

The Marketing of Barack Obama


Bookmark and Share

ICMR regularly updates the list of free cases. To view more free cases, please visit our site at frequent intervals.

In the end, that's what this election is about. Do we participate in a politics of cynicism or a politics of hope? John Kerry calls on us to hope. John Edwards calls on us to hope. I'm not talking about blind optimism here - the almost willful ignorance that thinks unemployment will go away if we just don't talk about it, or the health care crisis will solve itself if we just ignore it. No, I'm talking about something more substantial. It's the hope of slaves sitting around a fire singing freedom songs; the hope of immigrants setting out for distant shores; the hope of a young naval lieutenant bravely patrolling the Mekong Delta; the hope of a millworker's son who dares to defy the odds; the hope of a skinny kid with a funny name who believes that America has a place for him, too. Hope in the face of difficulty. Hope in the face of uncertainty. The audacity of hope!1

– Barack Obama, Illinois State Senator (in his keynote address at the Democratic National Convention on July 27th 2004)

If there is anyone out there who still doubts that America is a place where all things are possible; who still wonders if the dream of our founders is alive in our time; who still questions the power of our democracy, tonight is your answer.2

– Barack Obama, President-elect of the US (in his victory speech at Grant Park, Chicago, Illinois, on November 4th 2008)

The Marketing of Barack Obama

Barack Hussein Obama was elected 44th President of the US in the 2008 election. If we re-wind this scene 2 years back, today's achievement by Obama would not have been thought possible.3 He had many disadvantages that a marketer could attribute to a disastrous brand. He is a black man born to a Kenyan immigrant father in a country where racism is still rampant. 4 He also has a Muslim middle name, Hussein, which most Americans have come to hate. 5 More important, being a young single term senator, he lacked the experience of his rivals. Even with all these disadvantages, Obama pulled off emphatic wins over the heir apparent in his own party and the invincible Republican machine. Not only did the American people elect a black man as Head of State for the first time, they also voted for a Congress that has the biggest Democratic majority since the 1970s. By voting for Obama and his party, the American people demonstrated their unique capacity for self-renewal. 6 But the key to Obama's success was his instinct for marketing. It would hardly be too much to say that Barack Obama's presidential campaign is a case study in marketing excellence. 7

Strategic Planning

Obama announced his candidacy for the presidency of the US of America in Springfield, Illinois, on February 10th 2007. In the beginning itself, Obama assembled what was to become one of the best campaign teams ever in the history of politics. 8 The key strategist in Obama's campaign team was political consultant David Axelrod. Axelrod played a key role in crafting Obama's main campaign theme of ‘change'. 9 Obama felt that Americans were eagerly looking forward to ‘change' because of their dissatisfaction with the economy and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. 10 Therefore, he would promise economic redistribution and a foreign policy rooted in peaceful diplomatic engagement. In a country regarded by many Europeans as irredeemably right wing, 11 Obama would try to change the minds of the majority voters to his thinking while carefully targeting market segments, which wanted a President who could bring fresh thinking into the country. His main rival, Hillary Clinton, would play into his hands when she started her campaign as the ultimate Washington insider. 12 People felt that she was too much of a Washington insider to bring change to the nation's capital. John McCain chose his irrelevant theme of ‘Country first' way too late in the campaign. 13 Obama's ‘change' message was to play a key role in his victories over both his rivals.

Obama also understood that the youth vote was the most powerful place to seed the ‘change' idea and building a grass roots community organisation through the internet was the way to build a movement that superseded politics.14 Axelrod again played a key role in planning and implementing this powerful shift to a bottom-up revolution that drew heavily on Web 2.0 technologies and viral

Next >>

1]“The transcript of a speech by Barack Obama”,, July 27th 2004
2]“Transcript: ‘This is your victory,' says Obama”,, November 4th 2008
3]Latiff Shiraz, “Obama the greatest marketer of them all!”,, January 4th , 2009
4]Kelley Anthony, “Is Barack Obama Black Enough?”,, October 6th 2008
5]Obama the greatest marketer of them all!”, op.cit.
6]Baker Gerard,”Analysis: Barack Obama's victory is head-spinning stuff”, us_and_americas/us_elections/article5084748.ece, November 5th 2008
7] Quelch John, “The Marketing of a President”,, November 12th 2008
8] “Transcript: ‘This is your victory,' says Obama”, op.cit.
9] “David Axelrod Biography”,, 2009
10] “Analysis: Barack Obama's victory is head-spinning stuff”, op.cit.
11] Ibid.
12] Crowley Michael, “What undid Hillary Clinton”, 2008jun08,0,5078706.story, June 8th 2008
13] Al Ries, “What Marketers Can Learn From Obama's Campaign”,, November 5th 2008
14] Tepper Marlin John, “Obama's Branding Genius”, b_141585.html, November 5th 2008