Can politics teach Marketers anything ? David Plouffe, the architect of President Obama’s election campaign, recently spoke at the M50 CMO Summit I attended. Sitting at the intersection of Marketing and politics, Plouffe had some interesting thoughts about the Presidential campaign that are highly relevant for Marketers.
Much has already been written about the Obama campaigns innovative usage of social media, and what business can learn from it. It’s true that they led with new media (e.g. Twitter, MyBarackObama.com, etc.) and used the various tools to great advantage. But listening to Plouffe, it’s clear there are other important lessons as well.Plouffe described the two pillars of Obama’s campaign as “message” and “strategy.” Message was what Obama stood for–his “brand,” including his policy positions on health care, the environment, economy, etc. Strategy was about where to play and how to win choices–e.g. contest the swing states, leverage the web, how and where to communicate the message, etc.
Plouffe talked at length about how Obama’s message was non-negotiable. Obama defined the message based on his beliefs and policy positions, and then it was communicated clearly and consistently throughout the entire campaign organization. Everyone in the campaign–from the candidate himself down to the ground-level volunteers knocking on doors, had the same basic understanding of the message and what Obama stood for. There was one and only one message.
The campaign “media” strategy was to be where the voters were. Every meaningful media channel was used if it could help communicate the message to target voters: community events, e-mail, door-to-door, candidate interviews, etc. And importantly, the message was coordinated across media channels on a daily basis. If the message of the day was about health care, everyone from top to bottom knew the daily health care message and exactly what they were supposed to communicate.
What Marketers Can Learn
The Obama campaign approach above illustrates good basic Marketing principles. Define your value proposition and communicate it effectively. For me, though, what really stands out about their plans are two things:
First, was their consistent and disciplined message communication. The Obama campaign had a clear message, and they stayed with it. They even had a key brand visual. No significant changes or deviations. McCain, by contrast, careened from message to message. The lesson: brand message consistency and focus are important. Decide what you want your brand to stand for and stick with it. Otherwise, you’ll stand for not much of anything. For more on this topic, the Branding Strategy Insider had an excellent recent post on the importance of brand consistency.
Second, the campaign drove the same message across multiple media on a daily basis. This magnified and multiplied the impact of the message as it reverberated across the media channels. Voters heard the same message from multiple sources via different channels on a daily basis: Obama’s speech, a David Axelrod interview, a voter registration effort, TV ads–they all carried the same message at the same time.
The Obama campaign was a model of strategic focus and message management coordination. Marketers could learn from the campaign by sticking with a focused brand message and leveraging the message throughout their marketing mix.