*Fist Bump* for Biden! And Why the Obama “Be the First to Know” Campaign is Pure Marketing Genius

*fist bump* for Biden!

*fist bump* for Biden!

I am awaiting for Barack Obama and Joe Biden’s first TV appearance as running mates as I write this. I received the email announcement early this morning from the Obama campaign, a couple of hours after the information got leaked in the New York Times.

I didn’t get a text message, but that may be because I signed up for text notification too late. But even before the New York Times broke the news last night, Twitter and Friendfiend were already buzzing about the presence of Secret Service at Biden’s house. By then it was just a matter of public confirmation. The Obama campaign did a great job at keeping the VP choice a secret until the last minute. The Obama VP announcement was a resounding success in generating excitement. From a marketing perspective, the “Be the First to Know” campaign was pure genius.

I’ll leave it to the political pundits to analyze and riff on Biden’s political impact on the Obama candidacy. But I’m personally happy with Obama’s choice. I think Biden would make a good Vice-President. It’s about time they put some balls in this campaign.

What I’d like to focus on at the moment is my admiration for the people running the Obama campaign, because they get it. They know how to leverage internet and instant communication technologies to maximize their marketing efforts.

I said marketing because Obama is not just a politician running for president. Obama is a brand. A damn good and juicy brand. The people running Obama’s campaign are excellent grassroots marketers. They have successfully tapped into the lucrative marketing channel of the internet on building Obama’s amazing money machine. And now they are tapping into the power of instant communication technology–text messaging–not only to market the Obama brand, but more importantly, to mobilize people as the election day draws near.

By now the Obama campaign have already hundreds of thousands (if not millions) of email addresses in their mailing lists–a direct marketer’s wet dream. With the “Be the First to Know” campaign, they’ve probably collected hundreds of thousands of mobile phone numbers, a lot of which are from a crucial voting demographics known as millennials–“individuals born, roughly, between 1980 and 1994.” Young people are not known for their voting records and interest in politics. But in this election, the Obama campaign had captured the majority of this demographic because of the campaign’s embrace of the internet and mobile instant communication technology.

Text messaging is not as popular in the U.S. as it is in Europe and Asia. But the Obama campaign understand the power of this technology to mobilize people. For instance, it was through the power of text messaging that the People Power in the Philippines had toppled the Estrada administration. The Obama campaign is now banking on the viral nature of text messages to mobilize people. I can already imagine text messages like this spreading like wildfire during election day: “C u @ d polls. wear ur Obama shirt, k?!”

Obama and McCain’s big generational gap is reflected in the style of their campaign. McCain’s campaign is more traditional (e.g. town hall meetings, attack ads) while Obama’s is more tech-savvy (e.g. Twitter, Youtube, social networks, killer website, text messaging; see Obama’s Wide Web). If and when Obama wins the presidential race (which I believe he will), then a crucial factor could be credited to Obama’s embrace of millennial marketing–the same grassroots movement that won him the Democratic primary.

c u @ d polls. vote Obama-Biden, k?! thx! xoxox.

Comments (10)

  1. Its me Bri!! wrote::

    I really loved that I got the text at 2:38 am. It was awesome. I had a lil flurry in my stomach thinking about everyone else that might be awake and receiving it at the same time. Unified. I agree it was true Brilliance for their campaign.

    Here’s a link to how short codes are being utilized in marketing strategies. It could come in handy one day 🙂


    Saturday, August 23, 2008 at 9:27 am #
  2. Casey wrote::

    Great insights c4. Among marketers, the Obama brand is already legend, not just as a dominant political campaign, but as one of the strongest brands of all time. Their utilization of technology to awaken and involve supporters is amazing. I look forward to the voter counts come election day. I expect record numbers.

    Saturday, August 23, 2008 at 9:43 am #
  3. Branding huh? Why not have Tony the Tiger run for President? He’s got to be even more popular Brand because most everyone has seen the commercials, and probably even eaten Frosted Flakes at one point in their childhood, even as adults! And it gives you the warm fuzzies to see him on TV, reminiscing about those fun and fancy free childhood days. “They’re Grrrrreat!”

    Naw…I don’t want a “Brand” running the Country. I don’t want marketers trying to second guess how to get me to be loyal to their Brand, creating loss leaders to get me into their “store”. Or using sex to get my attention. (Is that next for Obama? Appearing nude on Playboy/girl?) Sorry, I don’t want to be sold. I want to see proof that that there are leadership abilities in the person, not in the “machine” behind the person.

    I want a real person. Someone that is more interested in making a difference than his own self-grandeur. I want real people making real world decisions, not based on marketing trends, but based on real hard facts.

    Branding is for the Proctor and Gamble’s, the automotive industry, for fashion, music and Entertainers like Oprah and Dr. Phil. The President should not be a “Brand”.

    If we turn politicians into Brands, then why not turn the elections into a sales function. Whichever Brand’s products sell more WINS! Sounds democratic to me.

    Saturday, August 23, 2008 at 9:44 am #
  4. c4chaos wrote::


    good points. i agree with you in principle. but i disagree with your assessment that Obama is just a brand (i.e. “I don’t want a “Brand” running the Country.”)

    first of, let’s accept the reality of presidential election campaigns. it’s run as a marketing campaign (whether we like it or not). from the ads we see on TV, radio, internet, to all the talking points of all presidential surrogates. from this perspective, Obama and McCain are both brands (i.e. “Change We Can Believe In”, “Straight Talk Express”, etc.)

    second point, branding and marketing are just part of the equation. no amount of branding and marketing will save a product that sucks.

    the Obama “brand” was successful in part because of the grassroots approach to marketing, but more so because of Obama’s x-factor: intelligence, charisma, eloquence, life story, etc.

    although there is some truth to it, it’s not that “Whichever Brand’s products sell more WINS!” it’s about whichever candidate who have a better personal branding have a better chance of winning.

    but no amount of personal branding can cover up a candidate who sucks.


    Saturday, August 23, 2008 at 10:08 am #
  5. c4chaos wrote::

    @Bri. thanks again for the Triple O link!


    i updated my post to include that link. thanks for making my case even stronger. the Triple O team rocks!


    Saturday, August 23, 2008 at 2:54 pm #
  6. Sean wrote::

    Obama has run a tremendous media campaign so far and I think he has the ideas, charisma, and leadership to be a far better president than McCain.

    I’m curious about just how much influence tech users will have on the rest of the country. Although it varies by media format, the people paying attention to these modes of communication are largely early adopters. Early adopters are often defined as “opinion leaders” who influence the majority in terms of product adoption rates.

    I’m curious as to how respect for the opinions of early adopters regarding products might translate to politics. Will the same people who convince their friends and relatives to try out a new gadget be able to convince them to vote for Obama?

    The research I’ve seen leads me to believe that the early tech adopters are solidly in Obama’s camp. If the widely accepted Innovation Adoption Curve model is correct, this influential group of people could be instrumental in putting Obama in the White House.

    Saturday, August 23, 2008 at 3:06 pm #
  7. Matthew Mogen wrote::

    Your analysis rocks, as usual!

    Tuesday, August 26, 2008 at 2:30 pm #
  8. c4chaos wrote::

    btw, thanks to Luke Russert, i just read this New York Times article by Brian Stelter. here’s a quote.

    The efforts spotlight Mr. Obama’s push to harvest millions of cellphone numbers of potential voters through text messaging, a technology that is increasingly moving into the mainstream. And it could have a significant effect in November, when the campaign plans to use the technology to get out the vote.

    The campaign is drawing on its technological know-how and its support among younger voters, who as teenagers and younger children embraced the technology — often surreptitiously in their classrooms.



    Tuesday, August 26, 2008 at 3:27 pm #
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