a his & hers weblog of worlds apart

Barack, People and Brand

I promise this is the last Obama post for a while. It’s just too hard for me to watch the events of the last few months and not apply them to what I do. Already, Barack has been named Marketer of the Year, and countless others have dissected the genius of his digital strategy.

Last week I received a forwarded email originating from Barack. It was the note he sent out to his online support base just prior to giving his acceptance speech. It is remarkable that this sort of thing is being sent around for several reasons: 1) he is a politician; usually these campaign notes are viewed as spam 2) I am Canadian; even us non-Americans are obsessed with the guy 3) what he says is simple – yet it so perfectly represents the personal tone of his campaign. The note reads as follows (I’m sure many of you received this):

Subject: How This Happened


I’m about to head to Grant Park to talk to everyone gathered there,
but I wanted to write to you first.

We just made history.

And I don’t want you to forget how we did it.

You made history every single day during this campaign — every day
you knocked on doors, made a donation, or talked to your family,
friends, and neighbors about why you believe it’s time for change.

I want to thank all of you who gave your time, talent, and passion
to this campaign.

We have a lot of work to do to get our country back on track, and
I’ll be in touch soon about what comes next.

But I want to be very clear about one thing…

All of this happened because of you.

Thank you,


Did Obama write this? I’m usually pretty skeptical about these sorts of things, but the language he uses is so conversational and on message that I believe they’re his words. Obama clearly understands the grammar of social media. He recognizes that underneath all the talk of hope, the movement for change, the “yes we can” tagline – what people really want to believe in is Barack the person. His campaign ensured that they never let his brand outshine his personality. Amidst all they hype, Obama kept it real, and he was rewarded for it.

When I first wrote about Take Your Customer To Work Day, I received a comment that has stayed with me:

So many companies have this insular approach to customers, that they “wouldn’t understand” or that the real grit of the daily business would just scare them away.

We all work somewhere, & we all consume. This would help make the business-to-consumer relationship a lot more human-to-human. – Geoff

I love this idea of human-to-human. It’s so often forgotten once organizations’ reach a certain size. But smart orgs, like Obama’s campaign, are now recognizing the upside of staying personal. Innocent Drinks is another great example. They built the human ingredient into their business strategy stating “with a non-corporate attitude, and a sincere commitment to the cause and creative thinking, it is possible to create a fast growing company that acts responsibly.” Today they have annual revenues of £75 million. Not bad for a little juice company with executions like this.

Both Obama and Innocent show how human-focused business activity can deliver attention, respect and ultimately sales. Further, this approach is particularly relevant amidst today’s economic turmoil, when people are inclined to support companies that they identify with on a personal level. But it should be remembered that with this personal trust comes accountability. There is a two-way conversation now. So while you’ve earned your customer’s/supporter’s confidence, you will continually be asked to meet their personal expectations.

6 comments on “Barack, People and Brand

  1. Amelia
    December 11, 2008

    “the grammar of social media” is a lovely phrase!

    Good post BTW

    • sean hazell
      December 12, 2008

      Thanks Amelia! I wish I could take credit for the term, but it’s all Jason’s (full disclosure: he’s my boss).

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