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November 06, 2008


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Bhalchander Vishwanath

Great post !!

On point 1, I think social media was used very effectively with great ground operations, which led to greater believability amongst people.


Kim Cornwall Malseed

Hi David, I agree completely, regardless of whether one supports Obama or not, I don't think anyone can deny he ran a much smarter, progressive and 'in touch' campaign than McCain (or Clinton). I don't think Obama's campaign manager will ever have to look long for a job again :)

Just posted on my blog what B2B marketers can learn from both Presidential campaigns, and one thing many biz owners also forget is to find smart, trustworthy people to advise and help them, as no one succeeds alone.

One of the first things McCain and Obama did when deciding to run for President, well before they announced themselves as candidates, was surround themselves with exceptionally talented, passionate people with proven track records of success in their respective areas.

Most biz owners I know are smart, talented, hard-working, and capable of forming effective strategies and tactics and implementing them. But trying to do everything yourself (or not being able to rely on your colleagues or staff) means you’re making decisions in a vacuum, not necessarily based on the best knowledge or information available. An outside perspective can be very valuable in making decisions objectively. Also, being able to focus on your core responsibilities allows you to perform at your best, while other capable people handle other details. Also allows the all-important family time you mentioned.


Loved the post David. Obama was able to get the youth to actually turn out and vote. He was essentially tied with McCain in voters likely to vote, yet he held a 10-1 lead over McCain in first time voters..hence his 2nd mantra of "Vote".

Kerry held a simlar edge in 2004 and all we saw was the party of young people for Kerry who never showed up to vote on election day.

I think Obama's understating of the new tools of communication used by today’s youth and how to marshal these tools (as you mentioned) was a huge factor of how he was able to create excitement, keep his base informed, and more importantly get his base to turn out on election day.

While a large part of the vote was a referendum on Bush, in my view there is no doubt that Obama's campaign had a fundamentally better understanding of the new communication tools. and how to use them.

It will be interesting to watch and see how his Presidency uses the new tools.

Phil Myers

Congratulations David! New Rules has found it's defacto justification in Obama.

Not only did he leverage the right mediums and messages, he did what noone since Reagan was able to ... create a coalition that broadened his market. The dramatic increase in young voters that voted overwhelmingly for him was quite likely the difference.

So, the next time someone asks what this new rules stuff, social media stuff is all about and why you should spend time on it, two words will suffice as the ROI. Barack Obama.

Ron Miller

Hi David:
Excellent post. I think #2 was particularly important for Obama, and not just citizen journalists. The campaign embraced journalists and gave them *access.*

I've heard so many complaints about the liberal media lately, which always seems to get trotted out every time the Republicans lose.

Earth to McCain Campaign, when you don't allow *any* access to any journalists, citizen or traditional, you can't be surprised when you don't like the coverage you do get.

McCain let the press define him. Obama controlled his message. It was a major difference maker.

Ron Miller
by Ron Miller Blog

Brice Bohrer


I voted the other way, but could see months ago a huge difference between the two. I am newer to marketing—with mainly a design background.

Well going out to the respective websites I was appalled at McCain's and in love with Obama's. I remember telling my wife that I might have to vote for Obama on that fact alone.

Anyways, that was just one piece of the puzzle...but again won by Obama.

out, bb

Paul Roetzer

awesome. we've been talking around the office about how brilliant the marketing campaign was, and how it should be studied for its applications to business.

great stuff!

Mary Cullen

Great summary, David. I agree Barack Obama's communication was brilliant. I volunteered for his campaign, and was getting a little frustrated while eagerly waiting for his acceptance speech, as he was slow to arrive. Then, I received an email from him that read, "Mary --

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,


Now, I know this also went to millions of supporters, but it made me feel connected and relevant. Brilliant communication and harnessing of available technologies.

Colin Warwick

Obama also had a "value delivery system." When he talks, he talks in an intelligent way.
PS Lynn Philips coined the term value delivery system. Think of FedEx's "your package is in one of two places: one of our planes or one of our trucks. Take away our planes and we're like everybody else."

Tim Walker

Good post. To me, #4 is the very most important thing for every marketer to realize & keep in mind. *Nobody* ever buys anything unless it meets some need for *them*. True, sometimes advertising / marketing may successfully suggest the need to them, but the point remains: people care about what *they* care about, not what *you're* selling.

Tim Kaschinske

Another thing I noticed was the great use of search terms by the Obama campaign. I specifically noticed this when trying to research some of the smear tactics that the republicans were using.

For example, there were many emails flying around talking about how Obama didn't have a valid birth certificate. A Google search of "Barack Obama birth certificate" yielded several results, with one of the top results pointing to Obama's web site that had an image of his birth certificate. It also wasn't hard to find blogs, such as one by the Washington Post, that verified the authenticity of the birth certificate that had been posted.

I researched several smears this way, and always found the Obama site tops in the list with an answer to the smear. I was pretty impressed.



Great insight as always, David. Another thing I admired about the Obama campaign was the "Yes We Can" music video on YouTube. Was that even aired anywhere else besides on the internet? I saw that video multiple times, and never on television.

Lady O Trout

I have been saying this to my friends all week, but I could not articulate it like you did. He knew how to communicate with his target audience in a way they wanted to listen. I was not a supporter of his policies, but I was twisting myself in knots with the Republicans saying "Change we Need" and they still insisted on old campaign marketing channels. Obama's team was brilliant and I look forward to seeing what is next.

Kate Brodock

David -

One of the better summaries of "take-aways from the campaign trail" that I've seen so far (and there are a LOT of them).

One thing I'd like to add is moving foward. If you build a relationship NOW, your fans will follow you. This is going to be huge for Obama, and luckily he and his new media gurus recognize the power he now has behind him (he just set up www.change.gov, among other things), and will continue valuing and leveraging the relationships they've built in the past few months.

In my opinion, this is where I think the most powerful movement will come, and to me one of the greatest takeaways.


Shaun Dakin


Yes, there is a reason why there are 160 million phone numbers on the Federal Do Not Call Registry (if you haven't signed up, do it, now: www.DoNotCall.gov).

Voters did not sign up for the do not call registry and also say, "well, we don't want calls from time share companies, but we REALLY REALLY want calls from politicians and their computers".

It is time for a change.

Shaun Dakin
CEO and Founder
The National Political Do Not Contact Registry
Advocating for Voter Privacy Rights


I loved your post...it was passed along to me and I've passed a link along in my blog as well. http://bridgeway2success.blogspot.com

The lessons were so relevant to business - I'm focusing on #3 and #4 immediately.

I've become a "follower" of your blog and look forward to reading more from you!


This is such a great post. I love the connection that you made between social media and the campaign. I think your point on putting fans first is definitely an important rule of thumb for social media efforts. Social media is nothing without those that you interact with, and it's important to make each person you network with feel like a VIP. Thanks for posting this!


This is probably an extension of #4, but in my eyes Obama's campaign suceeded because they made it personal with the "Yes we can" slogan. Those might just be the most powerful three words in the English language. It implies that *I* have a stake in the campaign, what I want actually matters, and *I* have the power to make it happen. The power of this phrase was seen in the past few days after the election - all over the internet people are saying "yes we did!"

Through this phrase, and other actions already mentioned, Obama made the campaign personal. In contrast, I think this was what Kerry most lacked in 2004 - the campaign just wasn't connected to people on a personal level.

Also, as another commented mentioned, Obama's graphics were top notch. His website and campaign collateral were fresh and inspired. McCain's, on the other hand, just felt dated and stale.

Mark Nagurski

Great points which I feel are all the more stark when compared with McCain's campaign.

As you rightly note McCain's campaign was, in effect, against Obama. Obama's campaign was by contrast, against the status quo.

If you can paint an effective picture of the future - be it political or for your product or service - people buy that future.

I suppose we're all selling change.

John P. Kreiss

David, you hit the nail on the head with clearly articluating your message. the Obama campaign developed the message that there candidate would be the candidate representing "change" and they did not deviate from this message.

John P. Kreiss
MorganSullivan, Inc.
Business Solutions in Construction and Real Estate


Obama was successful because he ran a Grassroots campaign. With a background as a community organizer he was already well ahead of the game to truly engage with and connect with people - more so than any other candidate.

I also believe the transparency factor was a big player. Obama's campaign seemed to know that smoke and mirrors were not going to work. Better yet they realized that it would not be tolerated.

Understanding the changes that have now happened to media, marketing and in general how people obtain information - leveraged the Obama campaign above the rest.

Interesting note - I was surprised to see McCain's daughter's blog - http://mccainblogette.com/ - not given more front row attention. Her blog connected me to the McCain camp more so than any of their other initiatives.

It will be interesting to see what the Republicans have learned - marketing wise.

Justin Levy

One of the things that is great about new media marketing and that Obama's campaign realize (I think) is that everyone likes to receive communication in different ways. Some prefer Twitter, while others like YouTube, email, CNN, etc. By communicating on all of these different platforms, it allowed would-be voters to connect with him during the 21 months of the campaign.

It will be interesting to see how President-Elect Obama and his team take this with them to the White House.

Obama 2.0 Marketing

The Obama08 campaign had an forward thinking marketing plan which extends past Election Day. Check out change.gov

Jared Young

Great post David.

Another important point: Obama's marketing wasn't revolutionary... it was revolutionary in his industry. Successful marketing campaigns aren't run by following the heard and hoping someone will notice your ad more than your competitors. They are run by sticking your neck out and stepping outside the proverbial marketing box.

I just posted a blog about Obama's campaign and how it applies to small business marketing at http://www.originalquill.com/blog/social-networking-barack-obama-and-your-small-business/2008/11/.

In most industries, Obama's marketing would have been industry-standard and nothing to talk about. But in the stuffy-shirt, old hat realm of political marketing, it was revolutionary. He reached out to as many prospects as possible in as many ways as possible (even using the web to mobilize grass roots movements). What does it all prove? EVERYONE can stand to benefit from good marketing.

Jared Young
The Original Quill

David Temple

If companies changed their message from "us" to "you" they could change their perception overnight. That's what you pointed out in #4 and that's what really won this. One of the first things I look for on a website when I'm analyzing it is how many times do they use the word 'you'.

doug eymer

As a practicing graphic designer and visual communicator, I have recently become concerned about my place in business and the future of visual design.

It is very evident that the Obama campaign takes a great deal of stock in the use of visuals and visual branding. The "O" mark has been a great departure from the traditional graphics that have been used as political campaign graphics – speaking of welcome CHANGE!

Within the past week, we have begun to see the "President-Elect" seal which has graced Obama's podium.

I will accept this as proof that somewhere out there, there is still a strong belief in the importance of one's visual identity. My confidence has been boosted.

Jennifer Barthe

According to RedWriteWeb, Obama has 844,927 MySpace friends and McCain 219,404. Obama also gained 2,865 new Twitter followers in 2 days while McCain has 4,942 followers in total. Last time I checked, Obama has 126,155 followers on Twitter.

Stop Smoking

Right on. Great article on one of the most powerful PR campaigns ever.

G Gillen

I would also add an asterisk to #7 and #8

Unless it has a coupon or something free, people also hate political direct mail, especially when it's negative.

I must have gotten a dozen direct mail pieces trying to paint Obama negatively (including one piece that looked like a plan flying into a building with Obama prominently featured inside). Not a single word about what the McCain campaign was about.

David Kamerer

Let's not forget what Obama did with most of the money he raised: he spent it on traditional television advertising. But the social media campaign was essential to his success. Without it, he never would have found the funds for the traditional advertising. I would love to know: what was the ROI on the TV? What was the ROI on the social media?

David Meerman Scott

Quick note of thanks to all who posted your comments here. I've learned a great deal more about Obama's marketing from you. Thank you.

If you haven't seen it, Check out the "Barack Obama Vs. John McCain Social Media and Search Engine Scorecard" from Pete Quily http://adultaddstrengths.com/2008/11/05/obama-vs-mccain-social-media/


Arron Lock

This is a great article and dead on the money. I love it.

Sarah B.

Great post! And so very true.

As a young(er) person, I was impressed by Obama's ability to use new media effectively, and, perhaps more importantly, non-intrusively. I was never sent information I didn't agree to receive...and the information that was sent to me was valuable and interesting.

Whenever John McCain admitted that he didn't even know how to check e-mail...it made me question just how much he was in touch with the current world we live in.

This issue doesn't just apply to politicians...it goes for businesses, as well. If you aren't trying to at least keep up with the online world, you are not going to be able to make for very long.


This race wasn't a landslide win. Having said that, had McCain won… would we have read "Ten marketing lessons from the John McCain Presidential campaign"?

Since this isn't a political blog, I would have liked to have read about other candidates’ new marketing techniques as well. After all, we could have settled for a Top 5 “new” marketing lessons in this post (particularly lessons 1-5). Meantime, we wasted five new marketing tactics we could have read about.

In my observation: I believe all the candidates exercised lesson 6. Lesson 7— well it’s not a “new” marketing tactic, however, saying tele-marketing calls from a candidate results in lost votes… that’s a bit of a stretch. Lesson 8 is subjective--but I get your point. Country First. That reads patriotism to me... where’s the fear tactic in that? Lesson 9: Obama did great in raising campaign money through donations. Let’s face it, to compete at this national level – they all do. I believe donations are the results of good marketing— and not a marketing lesson. And finally lesson 10, we’ve already covered that it’s a throw away marketing lesson.

Before this heats up— I disclose I am an Obama supporter. Overall, this is a good post. Let’s just call it what it is. I know, I know… Top 5’s aren’t as popular as Top 10’s.

bobbi Wilson

I agree and would add that he also brings the implementation element needed to bring the change. He is an entrepreneur who can build infrastructure.

Casey Hibbard

I had been wondering what I could take away from the campaign, so thanks for encapsulating it.

I had the chance to go behind the scenes at the Democratic National Convention for a project I was working on. There was an entire room for bloggers - a gymnasium-sized space full of people sitting in front of their laptops blogging. It was very impressive and such a powerful example of the citizen journalists in action.

It's awesome to see such inclusion of new media voices.

Also, another note on the power of words. Did you ever notice that Obama always said, "When I'm president..." and McCain said, "If you elect me president...?" Very different message there.

steve Garfield

Hi David,
Thanks for the mention. The story about being turned away at a Clinton rally was one I heard from other citizen journalists while at an Obama rally, it didn't actually happen to me.

Marcelo Lewin

Hi David!

Fantastic post. I'm one of those that voted the other way, however, I did admire him for how he ran his campaign (and I'm starting to admire him now for other reasons....maybe I may end up liking the guy after all!).

Anyhow... I agree completely with your assessment. His use of new media was amazing, and I think it will continue to be amazing (basing it on his change.gov web site). I think the guy that helped him manage all the new media stuff was the co-founder of Facebook. So I'm sure that helped.

This goes to show you that Obama seems to know how to surround himself with smart people doesn't he (I sound like I should have voted for him!!!)

Anyhow. I will post a link to this blog entry on my site at http://www.PixelHeadsNetwork.com/ for my audience to read!

Excellent stuff as always David!



"People don't care about products and services; instead they care about themselves and about solving their problems."

I don't think this point could be emphasized enough. View how many business put their service/product first and the customer's problems later on.

We've recently been using this tool: Strategic Insight in Three Circles, to address these issues and the results have been very impressive.



One thing you fail to mention is how the mainstream media's coverage was overwhelmingly positive towards Obama vs. McCain.

They had gone gaga over the guy!

It was proven in several independent media analyses including Pew Research Center that the % of negative articles towards Obama was basically nonexistent. Investigative journalism was DOA.

Yeah, he did run a brilliant campaign, but to say he was hardly negative is not true. He had the entire mainstream media do it for him.

Daryl Andrews

From a small business, just getting their feet wet point of view, this is probably the single most powerful piece of information I've ever read. When I play golf, when I hit that one perfect shot, I shout "golf shot," and go home.

So... Golf Shot!


One of my biggest mistake is not embrace citizen journalists. But I started doing it through Linkedin now.

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