Obama and Old Spice – the future of internet marketing

The Obama campaign’s use of social tactics in the 2008 election not only changed the way politicians run for office, it gave us a peak at what social media advertising can be at scale.  The popularity and apparent sales success of Old Spice’s re-branding efforts, while for a very different purpose, parallel the work Obama and team did in 2008.  Consider the parallel principles guiding both initiatives:

Have a consistent voice but optimize the expression of that voice for multiple platforms. Obama had an website and a carefully planned and executed message but the Obama team also devoted significant energy to their Twitter Feed, Facebook page, platforms like my.barackobma.com.  The thematic issues of the communication were “on message but each platform took advantage of the unique reasons people used that platform.

Old Spice’s recent marketing work did the same.  What was a very clever concept that could easily have simply been a popular series of TV commercials became the heart of a much broader messaging platform that included facebook, twitter, youtube, AND their own site.

Give over the microphone to the people you want to influence. One of the things I most respected about the Obama campaign was the fact that they allowed these platforms to be a place for dissent as well as support.  They responded to both and made it available as a tool for support and dissent.  When Obama changed his policy on some issues during the campaign, many of his supporters responded negatively on his campaign site’s forum.  While the team certainly was aware of this activity and had the ability to bury it (think Apple in their customer forums when there are complaints) they left it up and actually pointed to the discussions and participated.

Old Spice listened for and responded to comments about their campaign.  For example, this video in response to a tweet.

In both cases the exchange was dictated by customers/voters and not the creative.  Even more powerful, the responses to customers actually generated the buzz.  The only thing more exciting than an amazing shot in a tennis match is the subsequent amazing shot in response.

Style is important but content is king. This is not about sub-par production values but it is about content.  But the effort there.  Agree or disagree with the content (that is the conversation) but production values without something to say is a recipe for disaster.  The responses to customers in the Old Spice campaign looked good but had none of the visual effects of the initial TV campaign.

Make it sharable but promote like mad. So many “social” efforts are discrete initiatives with success/failure almost solely dependent on whether the effort goes viral.  If you have something to say and it is important to your efforts, support that effort.  Online advertising, TV, print, etc. were a part of both programs. The social aspects focus allowed for easy sharing but people didn’t rely on sharing to accomplish reach.

Finally, both initiatives have a home base. Don’t expect your customers/voters to connect the dots.  When they come to you, curate the conversation you’ve been having across these platforms.  This is not a YouTube campaign, a blogger outreach campaign, a TV campaign it is a messaging/marketing campaign.

The success of the efforts speak for themselves.  The lessons gained from that work seem to be clouded by parochial arguments (“see, TV is social!”)

1 Response to “Obama and Old Spice – the future of internet marketing”


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