The United States presidential election was by far the most watched political campaign in history. The struggles Obama surmounted during his face-offs with Hillary Clinton and other contenders to become the Democratic nominee can only be described as unforgettable.
Political advertisements are fundamental to the success of any campaign. Most often, the advertisements surround the theme of the campaign and the individual seeking leadership. In today’s world, the media available to reach a possible market is constantly growing becoming even more innovative. Traditional media like television, radio, and print are being replaced by non-traditional forms like the internet, billboards, blogs and the use of the cellular phone technology among others. Marketing the total product (the candidate) is the centre of the campaign and obeying advertising 101’s most fundamental rule – stay on message – is even more critical.
Marketing gurus acknowledge the fact that Obama ran a perfect campaign using tried and true marketing methods to fulfil his objectives. The newly elected president’s bid to hold the highest office in the United States was entrenched in building an image. Although he did not having a substantive record as a policy maker, his marketing team portrayed him as respectful, visionary, transformative, warm, articulate and, of course, presidential. Marketers today are working hard researching and finding the right ways to position their products in a market where consumers will readily consume them.
In a campaign fraught with interesting twists and turns driven by the machinations and schemes of his adversaries, President Obama always remained in control. This led to various reports that the media was in love with Obama – the widespread sentiment often referred to as Obama mania. Lecturers remind students that a good product will always sell itself; and this was true in Obama’s campaign. The theme of the campaign was ‘Change’ and this was positioned to be the panacea to the myriad problems the American people were already struggling to overcome. Observers will admit that Obama’s appearance and bearing only helped the process. Being tall and good-looking may not be paramount on a voter’s criteria but, subconsciously, voters will respond to an individual who appears easy on the eyes and who articulates his/her vision clearly and coherently. Here it is apparent that Mr. Obama’s packaging played a major part in his success.
Naturally, there was the nagging question of race: Could the American voters accept a black man as president? Would race play any role at all in the election? These questions had to be asked and they were rejected as he was not judged by his colour but by his character and judgements.
Barack Obama’s triumph shows that America has indeed come a long way. It illustrates the drastic shift in race relations and the dominant perception of racial minorities as being ill-equipped to lead and inspire in areas other than athletics and entertainment. Colour would appear to have finally become insignificant or secondary to character. The Obama campaign only facilitated this process along by engaging this discussion. It would be disingenuous to overlook Hillary Clinton’s leviathan achievement on behalf of women. This will always be historic, despite Obama’s success in the electoral process. However, Obama’s accomplishment is more salient in light of the fact that he has assumed the leadership of a nation whose constitution considered blacks to be only 3/5ths human.
As young marketing professionals, we can learn a few lessons from Obama. Not only place, price, and packaging but we can learn to have the audacity of hope, the strength to break barriers and the willingness to challenge ourselves to be the best. An undergrad degree should never be the end of our journey. It is a beginning – the first step towards something much greater and lasting – the first stone laid in the foundation of a rich and full career that serves our community while enabling us to fulfil our potential as industrious, creative human beings.