What does the US election outcome mean for the ROW (Rest of the World)?

07Nov08

Like a shot heard round the world, (a line referencing the start of the American Revolutionary War), the election of Barrack Obama signals the beginning of something new in America. It’s no secret that most of the world was rooting for Obama to win (see map below). Polls showed that in countries such as France and Germany, support for the Democratic candidate ranged between 65% and 80% of the population.

Before the Election – Gallup Poll Results – Electoral Map of the World

How the World Would Vote

How the World Would Vote

Gallup Question: Do you think who’s elected President in the United States Makes a Difference in your country or not?


His victory was celebrated with parties all around the world. (See video below).

Reactions around the world

Editorials in major papers around the Continent generally praised America’s selection. According to one German Newspaper, Obama resurrected the American Dream. Writing in the Süddeutsche Zeitung, Reyman Klüver said: “The election of Barack Obama was an act of self-liberation for America.” British newspaper headlines read: Headlines read, “Gobama!” (The Daily Mirror); “The History Man (The Independent); and “Obarmy Army” (The Sun). Britain’s left-leaning Guardian called it “a milestone in America’s racial and cultural evolution.”

In Kenya (the birthplace of Barrack’s father), there was cause for rejoicing as “one of their own” was elected President of the United States.

International Lessons on Marketing from Barrack Obama

But as international marketers, we should ask, how will the U.S. election outcome affect our efforts? What lessons does it teach us?

A Brand called Obama

A Fast Company magazine article in April 2008 called Obama the ultimate political brand.

“Barack Obama is three things you want in a brand: New, different, and attractive. That’s as good as it gets,” said Keith Reinhard, president of DDB Worldwide to FastCompany.

Creating a campaign as a brand was a new paradigm in politics. A key component of the Obama campaign was the way it embraced – and was embraced by – the internet. Perhaps Obama’s campaign truly was global, in that sense. His message transcended traditional American audiences, and reached out to the world population for support. Obama’s viral support ranged from Facebook fan clubs, to YouTube videos, to online donations cards …all of which translated into votes.

What is most interesting to note in all of this, is how Obama’s campaign was an example of an integrated marketing strategy.

Strong positioning

Some Americans who voted for Obama did so not only out of concern for their country and belief in what Obama would mean for the future, but out of concern for how their country’s leadership was perceived by other countries. The current President’s lack of popularity among world audiences …and among Americans … leaves him rated as the LEAST popular president ever in American history (amazing, isn’t it, how he could have been elected a second term?). Apparently, there is some good to be said of a recession and economic downturn just before an election.

Clear message

Obama’s campaign clearly and consistently positioned Obama as the choice for change. The voice of reason. The hope for the future. He never wavered from his stance that he was the bearer of change.

Listen to your audience

That Obama’s followers felt heard and understood by him was undeniable. A key part of the campaign’s target audience was young voters. Barrack realized the place to reach young voters was online – social media, viral media, email referrals from friends– and used that to his advantage. He gave them a chance to explain their concerns. And he listened.

Get involved

Barack’s team showed the importance of getting involved with various target groups on different levels using a variety of media. Obama’s online campaign efforts went hand-in-hand with offline grassroots efforts made up of small meetings, rallies and even fundraising parties lead by small offices in small cities close to the people.

As E3 Network member Holger Ambroselli noted:

“The market changed from push to pull and his campaign is an example of how a pull strategy should work.”

Create Ambassadors

One thing Obama’s campaign did well was to evangelize his followers. Barack reached the young generation, and for every brand, the young generation is the most important brand motivator. They are quick to develop brand images, and associate with them. If a brand is to evolve, it must embrace the younger generation, and make the brand a part of their lifestyle. The student ambassador campaign of Barack was crucial to his success, and shows that he understood this fundamental marketing principle.

The U.S. election outcome tells us: The brand gives the direction and people are engaged by the brand promise.

Some lessons Obama gives international marketers:

1. Create a strong brand positioning. Have a clear mission, vision, and be different.

2. Distribute your key message. Repeat it. Stay focused.

3. Listen to your audience.

4. Get involved.

5. Go create your brand evolution. Create ambassadors.

What is your take on the election campaign? Tell us what you think.

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