Monday, August 11, 2008
Case Study: Obama and Generational Marketing
You may have noticed that each Monday I publish a direct marketing case study. Many times I find these client success stories on corporate websites. Sometimes, like today, they come from today's news.
I was very interested in reading how Obama is using an understanding of the Millenial generation to capture their loyalty and (presumably) their votes. I've pulled out pieces of the article, below, but for more complete information, I urge you to read the full "Ad Age" article: What Obama Can Teach You About Millenial Marketing.
Mr. Obama's brand management, unprecedented in presidential politics, shows pitch-perfect understanding of the keys to appealing to the youngest voters.
Why is it working?
So what's the appeal to the under-30 set? True, the youth vote traditionally skews Democratic, but the difference this year is that Mr. Obama has actually motivated turnout. His success, it seems, is a result of both product and the branding behind it. The qualities he projects -- a cool, smooth aura, the communal values of hope and unity, his teeming crowds and his campaign's seamless graphics -- are the essence of appealing to millennials.
"Millennials want someone smart, funny and with a slight edge," observes Allison Mooney, who tracks youth trends for Fleishman-Hillard's Next Great Thing. Mr. Obama's occasional prickly moments, as when he dismissed Mr. McCain's recent ad comparing him to Paris Hilton -- "Is this the best you can do?" -- shows them he gets it. "Obama's kind of mellow. He doesn't have polarizing views."
He's got branding down, too.
Wrote Newsweek's Andrew Romano, "Obama is the first presidential candidate to be marketed like a high-end consumer brand." His rising-sun logo echoes the one-world iconography of Pepsi, AT&T and Apple.
Design guru Michael Bierut told Romano that the stand-alone logo, consistent use of the Gotham typeface ("very American ... conversational and pleasant") and his online look and feel make Mr. Obama the first candidate with a "coherent, top-to-bottom, 360-degree system at work. ... There's an absolute level of control that I have trouble achieving with my corporate clients."
Generational Marketing Basics
Mass brand experiences, from the iPod to Harry Potter, appeal strongly to millennials, who have been shown to be a more communal, pro-social generation than their predecessors.
While critics see Mr. Obama's penchant for mass gatherings as arrogant, Mr. Howe finds it perfect for millennials: "They're more civically connected, and they find strength in numbers."
According to Fleishman-Hillard's Ms. Mooney, the Obama campaign's mastery of cutting-edge social media, through the my.barackobama.com site (known internally as "MYBO"), is optimized for millennial appeal. For this generation, "the new pronoun is me, my. Using my-dot brings it to a personal level."
The MYBO site shows that Mr. Obama's campaign has made the leap from CRM (customer relationship management) to CMR (customer-managed relationship) better than many commercial marketers, according to Ms. Mooney. "Young people want to be in control of their relationship with a brand. They want to customize and personalize," as they can on iTunes, Mobile Me and YouLocate. The campaign's site allows this with its use of tagging, discussion boards, photo uploads and other interactive elements.
Lesson learned from this case study--if your target market is people 26 and younger (Millenials were born in 1982 and beyond), you should take a close look at how Obama is reaching and connecting to this group.
RRW has put together an overview of the five living generations. It provides key motivators and descriptions of each group. We'd be happy to share it with you. Request it here: Generations Overview.