at the intersection of brands, media and culture

Free Advice: Repositioning Obama

In Branding, Brands, communications, marketing, strategy on August 4, 2008 at 1:16 pm

I’m starting up a new section of the blog here called Free Advice in which I will give advice to brands who haven’t asked for it. First up, Mr. Barack Obama.

It should be noted that I love what you are doing to date. Strong consistent positioning around HOPE supported by “Yes we can” making it feel achievable and believable. Short, simple, to the point and looks great on posters and t-shirts.

But it’s time to realize that these themes aren’t yours alone. We’ve wanted to BELIEVE and HOPE, since well before Bill Clinton came from a little place called Hope, ARK. We’ve also wanted to CHANGE Washington ever since Washington needed changing, which was pretty early on. You embody these themes making them ring out as resonate and true and yet they aren’t absolute positionings. They remain relative to the other candidates faced in the primary. In order to win the general election I think we are going to need a bit more information and you are going to need a positioning to coalesce that around.

Keep HOPE as a messaging pillar but adjust your overall positioning to “Leadership for a Changing World.” You support this by continuing to create a leadership agenda, domestically and reasserting America’s leadership in the broader world.

It also continues to create a distinction between yourself and Mr. McCain while subtly reminding folks that he continues to mention countries that have been non-existent for a decade, can’t use a computer and wants to pursue many of the same strategies that got us to where we are.

  1. I hope he keeps HOPE a central theme to his position as well. He will need it.

    Unfortunately, associating Leadership with Obama is a gift to any Republican strategist. Leadership implies a proven track record of accomplishment, not simply a desire to perform. With Obama’s vapid track record it would be easy to take a Leadership campaign and use it against him.

    Also targeting McCain’s verbal miscues would then open the door for any Republican group to begin to pick apart Obama’s verbal gaffs as well. (“57 states”, “Israel is Israels best friend”, “My banking commitee” when he’s not on the banking committee, etc)

  2. Perhaps “Leadership” is a dangerous territory; however, I think it is essential to the debate. I would be like Tide foregoing white because Clorox is stronger there. Essentially, it is the most important attribute in the category and he has to make a claim to it while continuing to create differentiation.

  3. Does Obama really need another buzzword or catchphrase? I’m inclined to agree with Tim and would rather forego new themes (leaving Hope and Change alone) and have Obama focus heavily on details in the next four months. How, for example, will he make sure that 20 years from now, we aren’t still talking about Darfur, forgotten neighborhoods of the Gulf Coast, rampant poverty in Camden, New Jersey, and working poor and small business owners who can’t afford even the most basic healthcare. I’d like to hear exactly how he plans to interact with Putin and Ahmadinejad. We should have some indication of who he plans to appoint as his Chief of Staff and Cabinet. Words like Change, Hope, and Leadership are inspiring, but his knock is that people worry he’s only a good orator — not a good practitioner. We need a candidate who can simultaneously be both. Obama will have to choose a running mate who bolsters his credibility and provides the missing attention to detail and practical solutions. He would take great leaps forward by choosing Joe Biden (or announcing him as Secretary of State). Were it not for his last name (bound to cause confusion), Chet Edwards would be another good choice. My $0.02.

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