Millennial Ad-Grad: Marketing lessons from Brand Obama

by Faheem Chaudhry (@FaheemChaudhry) Arguably one of the most memorable arrivals to South African shores in recent years was that a few weeks back of US President Barack Obama – the man who during his first presedential election captured the imagination of the world through his message of hope and change for all. While President Obama always has and always will have his fair share of critics, I found myself captivated by his trip, his message for our country, simply, by brand Obama.

As disciplines, politics and marketing are social science cousins. In fact, politics is marketing. It’s about projecting and selling an image, talking to human aspiration and bringing people together through common interests and shared values.

But what underpins brand Obama? And what we as marketers can learn from his brand?

Communication failure: ‘Brand Obama’ tired and tarnished

by Kevern Verney, Edge Hill University An illustrious predecessor of Barack Obama once wrote: “I am a great believer in luck, and I find the harder I work, the more I have of it.” But Thomas Jefferson didn’t have to live with today’s 24-hour media cycle – and while there’s no evidence that the current US president’s capacity for work has in any way dissipated in recent months, his luck – and more importantly his knack for media management – appears to have.

Take Obama’s visit to Africa this weekend. The only news anyone really wants from Africa right now concerns Nelson Mandela. The symbolism of Obama’s visit to Senegal’s slave ports has been swallowed up in the bedside vigil the whole world is keeping for Africa’s greatest statesman.

The situation is fraught with risk for the US president. Any visit to Mandela’s bedside risks being seen as a cynical move by Obama to boost his flagging popularity, while his speeches will be analysed for signs that he is trying too hard to link his own civil rights credentials to those of South Africa’s first and most beloved black president. Meanwhile, away from Mandela’s hospital bed, Obama faces hostile criticism of US trade policies and a “NoBama” campaign organised by South Africa’s biggest trade union.

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