Tuesday, January 20th 2009 is the dawn of a new era, the first black man will become President of the United States. Barack Obama is not just our new President but a new type of leader, one like we have never seen before. Not only does he understand politics, but he also understands branding.
Obama was the consummate underdog. As a candidate, the negatives were stacked against him. He was black, inexperienced and had a strange name. In the Democratic primary, Obama faced Clinton, the most powerful name in politics today. The Clinton machine had money and experience. By all odds, they were almost assured an easy victory and Obama was almost certain to go down in defeat.
Of course, that is not what happened. Obama beat the odds and won not just over Hillary Clinton but over the Republicans as well. The lesson is that brand, message and consistency matter. Even against the toughest competitors with the most recognizable names, you too can be a winner if you keep your focus and your cool. Obama beat Clinton the same way that Red Bull beat Coca-Cola in energy drinks.
The only candidate with a consistent message throughout the entire campaign was Obama. His word: Change. He hammered that one word over and over again. In every speech, sign and commercial. While others moved this way and that, Obama stayed steady.
Winning in politics is not always determined by what you say, but how often you say it. Sure, change happened to be the message that Americans were craving the most. But I would also argue that Obama stoked the fire that ignited the public’s desire for change. People don't always know what they want until given a choice and offered a brand that represents it. That is why polling isn’t always helpful.
Not only will Obama become the leader of the free world today, but he also will become the biggest celebrity pitchman in the world, albeit one that won’t earn him a penny from endorsements.
Check out this recent Obama quote: “I'm clinging to my BlackBerry. They're going to have to pry it out of my hands.” Reminds me of Charlton Heston raising a flintlock over his head at an NRA meeting and challenging his detractors to pry the rifle “from my cold, dead hands.”
We live in a celebrity-crazed world. Magazines are filled with photos of what celebrities are wearing, driving and drinking. And many a brand has been built just by having famous people photographed with it.
How do you get celebrities to use and love your brand? How can you get Obama or Oprah to give you their endorsements? You can't buy them. Neither will take money or freebees. You can only get their endorsements by giving them a brand with a meaning that fits with their own brands.
Obama's love of his BlackBerry isn't just a lucky break for Research In Motion. It is the inevitable result of a brand with a great name that was first in a new category that has exploded in importance. For years, BlackBerry has benefited from fabulous PR and word of mouth. Because of its addictive nature, fans called it the "CrackBerry." No matter where you are in the world, BlackBerry is the ultimate tool for keeping in touch.
As much as Obama's love of his BlackBerry is good for RIM, Obama is using BlackBerry to make a statement about his own brand.
Obama wants to be a new kind of leader. One that stays in touch with people and reality. A leader that is not insulated in a bubble of top advisors and aides. By being seen using a BlackBerry, Obama sends the message that he is not out of touch with real people. In the same vein, Obama used YouTube, text messaging and his website with great success during the campaign.
As the ultimate communicator and networker, Obama loving BlackBerry makes sense. When your brand stands for something, you can attract celebrities who want to broadcast that same message to the public. What brands we use says a lot about us. Boxers or briefs, Coke or Pepsi, iPhone or BlackBerry, Budweiser or Heineken. Celebrities understand this even more so than the average consumer.
Welcome to the branding era, President Obama.