Brands in the News

Learning from Obama’s Big Win

7 Nov , 2012  

Now that President Obama has secured another four years in the White House it is time to reflect on the election and what we can learn about marketing and branding from the past few months.

There will be time for in-depth analysis and consideration, but here are three initial observations.

1.  Marketing isn’t cheap.

Total spending in the presidential election apparently exceeded $2 billion. That is simply an astonishing figure.

Marketing isn’t cheap. It takes money to create and run advertisements, send out brochures, call targeted households and engage people on Facebook.

If you want to assemble a strong marketing effect you have to be willing to spend money.


2.  Defining your competition is a highly effective defensive strategy.

The Obama campaign attacked Romney early in the election season and this move paid off; Obama created the perception that Romney was an out of touch, socially conservative, super-wealthy hedge fund manager. By the time Romney get around to investing in marketing, Obama had already defined the Romney brand.

This was a brilliant strategy. Obama had a pretty weak track record to run on and few big new ideas for the future. The best way to win: make Romney unacceptable and do it early.

Defining your competition in a negative way is a key defensive tactic; one way to prevent people from moving to a new product is to convince them the new item has problems.


3.  Keep things simple.

There are wonderful studies out there about the power and importance of simplicity. The evidence is pretty clear: people don’t like and can’t follow complicated things.

This dynamic played out in the election. Both candidates stayed away from complicated arguments and policies. But Obama put forth a stronger and more focused case. Obama’s theme was pretty clear: forward. Romney’s plan just didn’t emerge cleanly enough; his five point economic plan just didn’t resonate.

What was Romney’s slogan, anyway?


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