Friday, 9 November 2012

Obama’s winning 2012 election strategy

[image courtesy:]
It’s not every day that you get to watch an American presidential election unfold. Over the past few months I’ve been following the 2012 presidential election. I would be lying to you if I told you that I wasn’t interested in knowing the outcome of the election (let’s just say that I would be a rich woman if I was a betting woman) but that I was keen to know what aspects of the winning candidates campaign strategy would resonate best with the target audience.

Target audience, who would that be? Any American over the age of 18 who was able to vote? The American population is deeply divided by a number of factors. Race and age being the most obvious, but income, sexual preference and gender also featured high on this list. How could a campaign be created to best address ALL of the American population, as vast and varied as it is?

In a recent Marketing Strategy class we learnt that you must know where your business competes, what your business offers to differentiate itself from competitors, and how it balances these advantages in its favor.

If we take a top level approach to dissecting these three aspects of the Obama campaign strategy, we can see that the ‘where’ aspect of his strategy was clearly defined. It was a simple numbers game. He had to achieve an Electoral College vote majority in the swing states, also referred to as the battleground states. Similar to the Olympic 100m sprint final, Obama was well aware that he didn’t need to beat his opponent by miles, but that being fractionally ahead of Romney would be all he needed to gain these states’ electoral votes.

In my opinion, the ‘What’ Obama offered to clearly differentiate himself in this election was empathy. Plain and simple. The American population responded well to this offering, stating that they didn’t just want their leader to be solely concerned with fixing issues, but that they wanted a deeper presidential engagement. They wanted their leader to care about the issues their country faced.

So ‘how’ did Obama cross the line? Women, minorities, and young people were part of the Obama coalition. Empathizing with these groups was key. Registering new voters, and increasing polling stations' opening hours to attract supporters who don’t consistently vote was also a successful tactic (getting the ‘new business’ as opposed to focusing on the ‘switch’ business is usually the easier sell).

Obama's appeal to be a supporter of the middle class resonated well with a large portion of the population. How many times did we hear Obama tell a story about Joe, a struggling middle class man in Ohio….? Having buddies with benefits such as Bill Clinton, Bruce Springsteen, Stevie Wonder, and Katy Perry only strengthen his campaign.

Obama’s use of social media in this 2012 election campaign did not hold the novelty that it did in the previous election. Obama’s tweet for voters support in the final hours leading up to the polls opening didn’t just focus on his followers, but he extended his tweet message to request that his followers also enlist their friends to vote as well.

These strategies were employed and executed to win the hearts and more importantly the votes of the American population. U.S. Marketers could learn an important strategy lesson from Obamas campaign: know where your business competes, what makes your business unique, and how your business leverages their advantages. With this knowledge as a backbone, all you have to be is just a little bit better than the rest to win the gold medal, or in this case four more years of calling 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, Washington DC home!

Where do you think that the presidential candidates could have improved their campaign strategies in hind sight?

Mina D’Souza
Current student in the Master of Marketing program at the University of Sydney Business School

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