IPA Excellence Diploma: Distinction Essay by Chris Gallery

Yes, We Can Learn How to Change From Brand Obama.

Obama's collaborative approach shows the effectiveness of involving consumers in communications, Chris Gallery writes.

The varying approaches to brand building undertaken during the American presidential race show us a clear model of past brand behaviour versus future brand behaviour.

Brand Obama shows us that there is still a place in the world for brands with big ideas, as long as they are driven by a powerful emotion that manifests itself in lots of small actions. Big ideas will work if they make a big impact in small worlds. To make a big impact, future brands need to be emotive, adaptive and generative.

"Yes, we can. Yes, we can change. Yes, we can. Yes, we can heal this nation. Yes, we can seize our future."1 Barack Obama, South Carolina, February 2008.

Obama roused the crowd with his speech after winning the South Carolina primary, leaving the stage as the crowd chanted his three-word promise "yes we can", over and over again.

This presidential race has constantly been on the verge of boiling over into a debate about black vs white, young vs old or left vs right ... but it is none of these; this race is about the past vs the future.

Sometimes, looking at the challenges facing us as an industry, it seems that the future is bleak, but I believe that we can learn lessons from Obama that show how we can change in order to build brands that can thrive in the future.

I believe that there is still a place in the world for brands with big ideas, as long as they are driven by a powerful emotion that manifests itself in lots of small actions. Big ideas will only work if they make a big impact in small worlds. Obama's big idea is that "Change is Possible", delivered with the pure emotion of hope and in a manner that constantly encourages and empowers people to take small actions in their own world.

Many commentators have spoken about the "tyranny of the big idea"2, but what they are all rallying against is the curse of repetition. Too often "big idea" means consistent, lowest common denominator execution of a core message. The successful brands of the future will detest consistency and figure out how to surprise consumers and develop innovative ways to express the essence of a brand to keep people interested.

The essence of Brand Obama is a big idea that has captured the hearts of his supporters, and this essence is brought to life with small ideas that encourage small actions from people, consistently innovating and trying to be interesting.

The election campaign run by Obama offers a pure case study of "old world" brand thinking vs "new world" thinking, (the past vs the future), that will form the body of this paper. From these learnings, I will put forward some suggestions on how we can change to build successful brands of the future.

Yes we can, learn from the past

Before we begin to look at the story that points the way for the future of brands, it would be remiss to not look at the past and why there is a need to change in the first place.

"A brand is a storehouse of trust. That matters more and more as choices multiply. People want to simplify their lives." Niall FitzGerald, Unilever.3

There are many definitions for what a brand is, but the concept of trust is a thought that underpins everything that has been written. As FitzGerald points out, it is trust that people continue to seek out, no matter how much the world has changed.

In the beginning a logo was a simple guarantee of consistency, a badge of origin and a promise of performance.4 People seek out the reassurance that brands provide, so it is fair to say that brands exist because people want them to. People want brands because the reassurance they offer helps them make sense of the world.5

This fundamental value brands offer, trust, is still the main reason people want brands. This is no different in a general election, where supporters need to trust that the candidate they are voting for will deliver what they need. This has not changed in hundreds of years. However, the art of branding, how brands communicate their values and build trust, has changed drastically through the ages.

The evolution of branding

John Grant refers to three ages of branding6, and describes how each stage stemmed from the social environment that brands existed in.

1. Trademark (Basic promise of performance)

2. Aspiration (Brands reflected audience's aspirations)

3. Free-standing cultural ideas

The trademark era stemmed from the Industrial Age, where manufacturers ruled. Levitt advocated moving on from this era, saying: "The view that an industry is a consumer-satisfying process, not a goods-producing process is vital for all businessmen to understand."7

It was this kind of thinking that led to the second age of branding, the age of aspiration. Marketers began to attach social ideals to brands. Brands in this age were essentially ornamental objects that reflected the culture they lived in.8

The third age of branding turned that behaviour on its head. Rather than holding up a mirror to their audience's lives, successful brands simply made a stand for what they believed in. Grant hailed these brands as providers of a "set of ideas for people to live by".9 Iconic brands in this age do not mimic culture, they lead culture, creating stories and providing social currency that helps people interact with each other.10 (In the dark times in which the people of America find themselves at the moment, a cultural idea that believes things can get better is worth rallying around.)

As we have progressed through this age, technology advancements have increased the need for brands to lead culture and provide ideas that empower people to live their lives. This environment has given birth to a new type of brand, an adaptive brand.

Adaptive brand vs authoritative brand

Yes, we can collaborate to reach our goals

In 2000, a gold-mining company named Goldcorp broke its industry's convention of secrecy, making thousands of pages of geological data available online, and offering $575,000 in prize money to those who could successfully identify where on its property undiscovered veins of gold might lie. Amateur experts from around the world jumped at the opportunity, recommending 110 targets, half of which Goldcorp hadn't previously discovered. Four-fifths of them turned out to contain gold. Since then, the company's value has jumped from $100 million to $9 billion.11

This is just one of many case studies used to describe the phenomenon that is wikinomics. The internet has made it possible to collaborate with ease, letting companies pull in expertise from multiple sources very quickly. The cost is cheap and the payoff is potentially huge. In Wikinomics, Tapscott applies the term "wiki" to this phenomenon. A wiki is an adaptive process on the web that anybody can add to or alter. This adaptive process allows the wisdom of the crowd to shape the conclusion.

Obama's leadership style has been described as adaptive, as opposed to the authoritive style of Hillary Clinton.12 An authoritive leader sets out a vision for everyone to follow, while an adaptive leader uses the wisdom of the crowd to devise a plan together.

"I see him as a leader, not a boss. A leader gets people to do things on their own, through inspiration, respect and trust, a boss orders you to do things and you do them because its part of the contract."13 Craig Newmark, founder of Craigslist.

"Yes We Can" is a slogan that inherently invites people to be part of the change that they want to see. In his speeches, Obama repeatedly makes it clear that change is not one individual's responsibility; that it will only happen if everyone acts now instead of waiting around for someone to act for them. In contrast the assured, policy-led campaign from the Clinton camp shows a more traditional, autocratic approach to leadership. She put her vision for the future forward, and the only role other people can play is to listen to this vision. The adaptive leadership style of Obama makes people feel like he will work with them to make a plan together, a plan they must all follow through on.

The autocratic brand style of Clinton was born in the old, Industrial Age; where brand models were built on big companies making decisions about what to produce for passive audiences to consume. It was a top-down system, built on the broadcast (one-to-many) framework where barriers to entry were high and where trained professionals decided what was news and entertainment.

We have moved way beyond that Industrial Age, to an Age of Conversation14, there is no difference between producers and consumers. People do both. Consumers create and share media; 57 per cent of teenage internet users in the US claim to have made a creative contribution to the internet.15 On the internet, people can talk freely, debate and share their opinions with others.

Brand owners are aware a change in behaviour is needed; Greg Icenhower of Procter & Gamble recently said: "We've been voted the best marketer of the 20th century. But that's because we were the biggest shouters. In the 21st century, we want to be the best listeners."16

Strong brands have relationships with consumers. And relationships are built through good conversation. Brands that practise conversational marketing invite consumers to be part of an on-going dialogue and engage them, so they will be open and eager to hear what the brand says next.

The adaptive approach taken by Brand Obama is more suited to the world we live in today, as it allows an environment to exist where consumers are listened to and play an active role in the communications process.

The tail vs the head

Yes, we can all be a part of this

In 2004 Chris Anderson brought Long Tail theory to our attention, his belief being that the internet offers companies the opportunity to capture and monetise the attention of thousands of individual customers, instead of relying on a few large customers for revenue. He described long-tail businesses as those that that "treat consumers as individuals, offering mass customisation as an alternative to mass-market fare".17

Ever since the Long Tail came to public attention, analysts have debated what the Long Tail means for politics. One expert offered the opinion that the "head" in political terms is the polar-opposite positioning of the left and right, while the tail is the large mass of people whose political opinions sit somewhere else. This is a clear example of what Anderson was referring to when he said "everyone's tastes depart from the mainstream somewhere".18

"The Long Tail is not the political centre. It is not a third party waiting to form. It is not a coalition. It is not a 'silent majority' of either the right or left. It is simply every variety of political belief that does not fit within the two major parties ... The key point is that the size of the long tail, and its rapid growth, represents the most significant political phenomenon of our time."19

Over the past 12 months, Obama has used the long tail to build a powerful and profitable brand. In the early days of the campaign, his policy was inclusive enough to appeal to the mass of individuals who have no allegiance to the extremes of the left or the right, and his use of Long Tail theory has revolutionised the process of political fundraising, prompting Obama to regularly announce in speeches "This campaign has been funded by you".20

Historically, politicians have relied on a few large benefactors to get them into office. On the way there they speak about themselves and their policies in speeches. Obama has relied on a grass-roots funding movement and has always avoided focusing on himself as the sole instigator of change, preferring to include his audience and remind them of their role in bringing about the change they want to see in the world.

The Clinton campaign has been more traditional, focusing on larger donations, using her reputation to work the Washington circuit, hosting physical fundraisers, relying on powerful friends to influence as many people as they can to donate the maximum $2,300 each.

2007 figures show that 43 per cent of Clinton's donations came from people who gave the maximum $2,300 while, over the same period, 47 per cent of Obama's donations were for under $200.

The January 2008 fundraising figures for Obama show that this trend picked up momentum: 90 per cent of his online donations were $100 or less; 40 per cent were $25 or less. In addition, more than 10,000 people gave between $5 and $10 on the internet. In total, the $32 million raised came from 275,000 people who gave $100 or less.21

Obama didn't have to host a single fundraiser, as the majority of his funds were raised online. He has had more than 1.5 million individual donors at the time of writing, and since they have mostly donated small amounts, he has a list of 1.5 million people that he can ask for more money. On top of this, at each Obama rally, some attended by as many as 80,000 people, attendees have to supply an email address. By the time they get home, there is a message from Obama asking them for a contribution or referrals to friends that might like to contribute, as well as other suggestions on how the supporter can take action and play their part.22

The snippet below is from a recent email Obama sent to supporters. It captures the essence of his long-tail approach to politics; setting forth a vision that relies on people themselves to customise in order to make the change they want to see happen, and leads us into the next section, where we examine the contrasting philosophies both camps have on the level of control a brand needs to keep over communications.

"You've already changed the way campaigns are funded because you know that's the only way we can truly change how Washington works. And that's the path we will continue in this general election ... this campaign is in your hands in a way that no campaign has ever been before. Now is the time to act."23

Generative ideas vs managed ideas

Yes, you can remix this idea yourself

Brian Eno has predicted that generative music will become a popular genre in the 21st century. This is a genre that aims to help the composer lose control of the exact final sound of a track, the complete opposite effect to that of computer-generated music, with its perfectly managed patterns.24

"Ordinary music is like engineering, where everything is built according to a plan and it's the same every time you play it. Generative music is more like gardening, you plant a seed and it grows differently every time you plant it."25

The idea for generative music is that the composer would set general rules and parameters for a song, but the final version will sound different every time. Whether this will or won't be the next successful genre of music remains to be seen, but audiences are eager for this approach to the content that they consume to become the norm.

"Our audiences have already moved on - now they are consuming, creating, sharing and publishing. The consumer wants, not only to run the printing press, but to set the linotype as well."26 Reuters chief executive.

Brand Obama has taken a generative approach to brand communications from its launch, setting the tone for proceedings but often conceding final control of the execution to supporters. In this sense, Brand Obama has in essence become a franchise that people can reshape and remix as they please. That's why his user-generated content has been so successful, while Clinton has fought to keep control of her communications and subsequently suffered from a lack of authenticity.

The Obama campaign has embraced this culture and been rewarded with user-generated hits like Obama Girl and the Yes We Can music video by Will.i.am of the Black Eyed Peas (more than 30 million hits on YouTube between them). The Yes We Can music video is a brilliant piece of communication that the Obama team probably couldn't have produced better if they tried, but the Obama Girl videos caused some embarrassment for the candidate. The Obama team is willing to give consumers this freedom, though, as it understands that the positive impact of this approach far outweighs any negative consequences. Obama has gone as far as to let blogs exist on his site that criticise his policy, proving his willingness to concede control.

This is not an attitude shared by a lot of brands; you only have to look at Diageo's insistence that the racy amateur Guinness ad that proved a viral hit on YouTube get removed from the site to see that it is a difficult thing for brands to give up control.27 The Clinton camp wanted the best of both worlds - it wanted the buzz-worthy user-generated content, but it wanted to keep control over how it looked. The resulting effort was a flop; "Hillary's leaving the band" was a staged piece of content that users could see was not authentic instantly.

Yes we can, give people the tools to take action

Brand Obama has succeeded in stirring people's emotions, but this alone isn't always enough to get people involved. Brands need to empower people with the tools to shape the brand and take small actions in their own life. Obama has empowered people with all the tools they could need to add their own stamp to his vision. Barackobama.com provides constant updates, widgets and events to get people coming back while, over on social networking site mybarackobama.com, supporters can create their own blogs around issues, submit policy recommendations, set up their own campaign fundraising site, organise events and access a phone bank widget that provides call lists and phone scripts so people can canvas for Obama from their own home. While in the offline world supporters are rewarded for bringing home-made banners to events with official brand merchandise.

The differences between the Obama and Clinton websites are stark. Obama's website treats his supporters like members, and Clinton's approaches her supporters like they are customers. On barackobama.com people receive "points" for actions, like filling in a profile, donating money, making social network links and hosting events. Members of the site are ranked based on their points score, giving an incentive to participate more. The Clinton website assigns identification only so that the donations could be tracked, treating supporters like a frequent purchaser on an e-commerce site. These screenshots from the website tell the story of a welcoming community that invites people to get involved from Obama vs an online shopping experience from Clinton.

Setting up your own social network is a major undertaking for a brand, and there is a growing debate as to whether brands should use existing social networks or build their own. Appropriately, a healthy debate has been had on the topic in the Facebook Web Strategy Group forum, where one commentator pointed out that "the question for most major brands is not which to do, but how to do both".28

Brand Obama has figured out how to do both. Obama has used Facebook, where his page has more than a million friends, while also creating profiles on ethnic minority sites such as asianave.com and blackplanet.com, where the Obama profile has more than half a million friends.29

As the campaign moved into the general-election phase Brand Obama started to encourage different actions from its online community. When Clinton conceded the nomination race, the millions of supporters on Obama email lists were asked to rally Clinton supporters in a "Unite for Change" campaign. Meanwhile, aware that the general-election campaign was likely to see more character attacks on Brand Obama, the team decided to use the internet and collective intelligence to disprove these allegations. It set up the website fightthesmears.com, and its plan has worked, with the site disproving rumours, going so far as to find a copy of his birth certificate to prove that he was born in the US.

Empowered by technology, people have moved beyond the age of managed communications, where everything is engineered tightly and sounds the same every time you play it; the successful brands of the future will give up control and embrace the notion of generative communications.

But the mastermind behind Obama's social networking strategy, Chris Hughes, is at pains to remind us that "you can have all the best technology in the world, but if you don't have a community that wants to use it and are excited by it, then it has no purpose."30 This is a reminder to us that before we ask people to take action we must first tap into their emotions and make them feel compelled to take part.

Emotions vs rational messaging

Yes we can trust our feelings

"The American Promise - the idea that we are responsible for ourselves, but that we also rise or fall as one nation; the fundamental belief that I am my brother's keeper; I am my sister's keeper. That's the promise we need to keep, that's the change we need right now."

Barack Obama stirring emotions again - 28 August 2008, Denver.31

One of the most important lessons for brands and communications from the Obama/Clinton race is the emotional vs rational messaging story that has unfolded.

Clinton was largely emotionally low-key and built her campaign on policy ideas. On the other side, Brand Obama has been built on the emotional concept of "The American Promise", and the feeling of hope that the change needed can be achieved. Many observers, along with Clinton herself, have accused the Obama campaign of simply running on empty rhetoric, but, consistently, voters have gone for the emotional power of a candidate they identify with on an emotional level over one they understand on a rational level.

This is a topic that is highly topical in our industry, and of the utmost importance for the future of brands and communications.

Paul Feldwick recently argued that brands should aim for the heart not the head.32 In his argument, he used the example of PG tips as a brand that has primarily used emotional communications (with a little bit of rational product info) to build a strong brand that can command a price premium. It seems obvious, but it still seems to be perceived wisdom in the industry that the entertaining content in advertising is merely a vehicle for which rational messaging gets delivered to the alert mind of the consumer. This has a big impact on how most communications are developed.

The key message or proposition will be the most important thing to communicate, and emotions are just a tool to achieve cut-through. This seems to ignore the power of the unconscious mind to contribute to our decision making and assumes all decision making is rational. But we know for definite that "there can be as much value in the blink of an eye as in months of rational analysis".33

Brands live in our memories, conscious and unconscious; our memories are actually made up of a series of images and associations combined together to form "brand molecules" from a selection of memory "atoms".34 Associations are crucial for building brand molecules as they build connections in our brain that link together ideas and feelings.

Yes we can, use semiotics to create associations for brands

Semiotics is the science of studying what the signs and symbols (words, pictures, music, etc.) we use communicate about the brand to the consumer, taking into account the cultural context in which the brand exists.35

Brand Obama has been highly skilled at building associations through signs, symbols and general tone of voice. The Obama logo, red, white and blue, naturally, depicts the sun rising over a ploughed field; a new dawn for America, if you will. It forms neatly into the "O" for Obama, which has helped it become a shortcut to Brand Obama on all marketing devices. The logo has become an iconic device itself, delivering Obama's message of "Change we can believe in" at every touchpoint in the campaign. The Clinton brand, on the other hand, chose a logo and font that felt old- fashioned, stuffy and like it is shouting at you from every touchpoint. The Obama logo felt like a cutting-edge modern brand, while Clinton's logo felt like a stuffy old brand, leading to many Mac vs PC comparisons.

The font used throughout the campaign, Gotham, is also of significance. It projects the same characteristics that Obama himself does in person; confidence, elegance and a down-to-earth manner. The origins of the Gotham font show the depth of thinking behind its choice. Gotham's style emerged during a project that aimed to capture the lettering style of old New York buildings. This resulted in a font that helps the brand feel familiar, bold and friendly.

It would be remiss to forget that the language Obama uses in speeches and in written communication sets the exact right tone for the brand, especially with his repeated use of the word "we" as opposed to a focus on himself. The spirit of togetherness and empowerment that his language evokes carries through the rest of the campaign.

Perhaps the greatest symbolic feat the branding has achieved is the flexibility of the logo for different segments of the population, be they based on geography, race or age. The logo adapts seamlessly to each environment, showing that Obama is a candidate that is adaptable for everyone.

Yes we can, consider the importance of emotion in measuring effectiveness

One of the most startling factors in the Obama/Clinton race has been the inability of the polls to accurately predict the outcome of the voting, time and time again.

"The surveys seem unable to pick up a factor that proved decisive in South Carolina, Iowa and New Hampshire, the intensity of voter's feelings." The Guardian, February 2008.36

The emotions that Obama is stirring are simply far more positive than those of his rival. As a result, Obama has energised the Democratic Party, bringing in new younger voters and broken through the colour divide.37

The feelings have created momentum for Obama that has manifested itself in positive buzz/word of mouth. In the crucial first two months of 2008, search hits for Obama on Google have outstripped that of Clinton massively, having been on a par for the past year.38

However, during this period of the race there were still question marks as to rationally, what Obama stood for as a candidate. President Bush commented, "I certainly don't know what he believes in."39

This sentiment was echoed by many commentators, but the voting public was emotionally engaged with what he stood for, and that made him unbeatable. As one commentator pointed out, "How do you defeat hope?" Obama associated himself with hope and a better future, and that stirred the emotions of the voting public.

As Feldwick has pointed out, "A brand is simply a collection of perceptions in the mind of the consumer"40, so it is clear that Obama built himself a strong brand equity using emotional, not rational, communication.

Yes we can, learn from our mistakes

Before suggesting how this example might provide us with some learnings for the future of measurement, it is worthwhile to have a look at historical approaches to measurement in order to understand what we need to change.

Most advertising over the past 50 years has been created under the assumption that for communications to be effective they must communicate a clear message (benefit) about a product or service.

Creativity exists in this system simply to create attention, so that this clear message can be processed by the eager consumer. This is commonly known as the IP (information processing) model41 and guides how most work is created and evaluated.

This is a direct descendent of the hierarchy of effects models of communication processing that have been considered industry best practice since the 60s, and have been around since the turn of the 19th century. AIDA, followed by DAGMAR42 etc, kicked it all off, starting the myth that for advertising to be successful it must first grab your attention.

Further research by Starch and Gallop43 introduced the concepts of recognition and recall, but it was work by Gordon Brown in the 60s on claimed advertising recall and the Awareness Index that turned awareness into the powerful measure that it remains to be in many cases today. This legacy, and that of the single-minded proposition, "advertising is the art of getting a unique selling proposition into the heads of the most people"44, has been difficult to move away from for the industry despite new theories on how communications work in building brand equity.

Yes we can, process information without paying attention

"As market researchers we cannot do our job properly unless we understand the unconscious mind."45

The belief that advertising needs to create awareness in order to be successful is ingrained in marketing culture, but wrong. In today's hectic consumer environment, considered choice often gives way to intuitive choice to speed up decision making. Intuitive choice is driven by subconscious emotions as opposed to rational fact. This leaves us making decisions driven by emotion, without even knowing it.46

Heath references research by Damasio that confirms emotions can be added to our memory without our attentive memory processing them. This proves that attention isn't needed for advertising to work and paves the way for Heath's theory of LAP, low- attention processing. Heath uses the Standard Life example himself to prove effectiveness of LAP, but other cases are equally as relevant. The Tropicana47 "New York" campaign received an AI score of three but proved effective due to the emotional associations it sent to the subconscious.

Can we change habits of a lifetime?

There are several actions we can undertake on a practical level that could begin the process of change.

We can start by educating the industry on the topic of brand equity and evaluation. This topic is crucial to the future of our business, equally as much as the rise of digital communications.

Host workshops, invite people from all disciplines, and build case studies that they can take to their clients of famous emotional and effective work like Cadbury "gorilla" (it even sold chocolate, apparently48).

We can encourage regular use of neuroscience techniques such as EEG49 and the Emotion Tool50. It is time these devices became part of the every day evaluation mix instead of the staple of research papers.

Yes we can, suggest a new model of evaluation

Learning from Barack Obama, and equally Cadbury's "gorilla" we can suggest a new model of evaluation. In direct contrast to models such as ACE51, where affect must come before cognition, we would not include attention but rather start with emotion, much like Ambler's MAC model starts with memory.52

The observation from "gorilla" and Obama is that momentum (buzz) follows emotion, and subsequently action follows momentum.

Emotion - Momentum - Action (EMA).

Great campaigns can create happy memories, building brand equity without having to gain attention. These emotions create momentum for the brand which leads to action. It will become a continuous cycle as actions reinforce the emotion felt about a brand and create momentum. A successful brand will first grab emotions and then latterly keep empowering actions to retain momentum.

In day-to-day practice, we need to work with research companies such as Millward Brown to build new research tools that incorporate the emotional potential (EP) of a campaign as a key indicator. The EP of a campaign would indicate the potential power of a campaign to generate emotions in people, considering positive and negative reactions and potential brand associations.

The Awareness Index has been modified to measure the emotional attraction of a campaign, but emotional attraction and emotional potential are different measures. An EP index could be a useful tool for predicting future campaigns' success.

Yes we can, develop a new creative brief that recognises the importance of emotions and actions

The fact remains that information-processing models, all evolutions of the basic AIDA formula (attention, interest, desire, action), are built into client systems with titles such as ABC (attention, branding and communication). As a result most agencies' creative briefs centre on a core proposition with a set of rational support points to show why this is the most important message to communicate.

The brief should generate ideas that stir emotions and stimulate actions. New sections would include:

- What does the brand stand for? This section would outline, at its essence, what this brand believes in.

- Who are our audience? Instead of a flat pen portrait, this section should explain how they currently feel and how we want them to feel as a result of our ideas.

- What associations do we want to create for the brand in the mind of our audience? This section would outline the kind of symbols and language the brand should be associated with and why.

- What is the emotional potential of the brand? This is where the single-minded proposition would usually sit, but this is more about the emotional proposition of the brand.

- How do we want people to interact with our ideas? Here we would discuss the architecture of the campaign, and explain where and how people should engage with it.

- How do we want people to use our ideas? This section will encourage us to think about our ideas as the seed of which something greater can grow; it is here that we consider what actions we want from people.

A new brief should lead to emotional ideas that create big impacts in small worlds, but to be implemented properly interdisciplinary brand teams need to find a more effective way of working.

Yes we can, learn from Brand Obama's team structure

The team behind the Obama campaign has revolutionised how political campaigns are run. The structure, skill sets and behaviour of the team provide lessons for how multidisciplinary agency teams should approach working together in order to build successful brands in the future.

"The way great things happen is when people are willing to submerge their own egos and focus on a common task" - Barack Obama on building his team.53

The Obama team is renowned for a lack of the in-fighting that blighted the Clinton campaign. Clinton's team is said to have been undone by "in-fighting among know-it-all advisers and overbearing strategists who battled over budget and prestige".54 This is a familiar problem that hampers development of integrated communications plans in our industry today, as multidisciplinary teams fight turf battles over budgets and prestige.55

Many ad agency structures and models stem from the industrial age of branding, and slow build-branding models. This has left a hierarchical system in place which doesn't lend itself to cross-agency, multidisciplinary cohesion. This can also lead to slow working processes in a world that has sped up rapidly with the advance of technology. Survival of the fittest, to a great extent has become survival of the fastest.

Team Obama was built to marry the best skill sets and to enable fast decision making and speedy turnaround of ideas.

Barack Obama - The Client, shows the integral part the client should play in the interdisciplinary team, "he focuses, prods, pushes, makes decisions ... doesn't dwell on mistakes".

Pete Rouse - The Fixer (organiser). He is an experienced Washington operator who has the contacts to make things happen, organise partnerships and assemble teams.

David Axelrod - Strategist (creative leader). A former ad man, he is the campaign's wordsmith and has developed the brand's tone of voice and core philosophy, aiming to connect with the audience on a personal level.

David Plouffe - Strategist (data analyst), has used sophisticated, up-to-the minute, data sources to shape the campaign and keep momentum as they moved from state to state.

Julius Genachowski - Media Strategist, an internet evangelist who has helped build the grass-roots campaign that has empowered and connected supporters.

Chris Hughes - "Online Organising Guru". A founder of Facebook, Hughes has used his social-networking expertise to develop and execute a sophisticated online strategy.

Valerie Jarrett - Team Mediator. This is not her official title, but Jarrett plays a crucial role. She is there to "pierce the bubble of the campaign and push back on the strategists". She brings a calming influence to the team, keeps relationships smooth and helps get to quick decisions.

The interdisciplinary nature of the team is a familiar one to our industry; these varied sets of expertise are usually found in different agencies and are needed to create a modern campaign. What is not familiar is the role of "Team Mediator". Usually somebody on the team takes a lead, but this is not ideal as it is difficult for them to remain impartial and prevents them from focusing on their specific skill set.

To mediate is to "occupy an intermediate or middle position, or form a connecting link or stage between two other parties."56

The team mediator should be an independent, impartial person; their only vested interest is the health and success of the brand. They bring a skill set to the table like the other parties, sitting in the middle of the structure and empowering others to do what they are good at. The mediator resolves conflict, aids decision making and advises on budget issues, as they are the most impartial and should be in a position to advise on what is the best route based on the recommendations of team members.

"Collaboration is key to creating great brand experiences, but sometimes it's hard to get the chemistry right."57 - Adweek.

Collaboration isn't going to get any easier or simply work itself out as teams get bigger and campaigns get more and more complex. I believe an impartial team mediator would be a healthy investment for any marketing budget.

So, yes, we can change, yes, we can seize the future

"We need a president who can face the threats of the future, not keep grasping at the ideas of the past."58 Barack Obama.

We need brands and agencies that can embrace the opportunities of the future instead of grasping at the ideas of the past.

The changing media landscape has posed great challenges for brands and for the communications industry. The new landscape we live in also offers great opportunities, the chance to build brands that have a closer relationship with their audience than ever.

By embracing the same concepts that have propelled Brand Obama to massive success, we can create a new future for brands and communications agencies.


Beerbankroll.com is asking people to contribute $50 online in a community of beer lovers determined to set up their own brewery. It is seeking a minimum of 50,000 members, each of whom will contribute $50 in exchange for voting rights on ideas such as the company name, logo, product design, product mix, marketing plan, advertising and sponsorship. If the concept goes well, profits will be divided three ways: one part to members in the form of reward points redeemable for products from the Beer Bankroll store; one part back to the company; and one part to charity.

Source: springwise.com


The Dark Knight movie launched a viral marketing campaign in May 2007, using the long tail of its fan base to build grass-roots momentum for the film and create a buzz. The campaign used an ARG (alternative reality game) that used the theme of the film in order to stir the emotions of fans. They were invited to participate in a story, visiting a website that campaigned for the election of fictional character Harvey Dent. The campaign encouraged action from fans, asking them to earn what they wanted to see. Fans were sent on scavenger hunts to unlock clues, culminating in the exclusive preview of a trailer for the movie. Those who took part were rewarded with personal messages from the Joker. The game continued all the way until the film's release. Fans were asked to send in video submissions to show support for Harvey Dent and thousands of submissions were received from more than 70 countries. The campaign successfully used the long tail to turn fans into a media platform for the film.


Radiohead invites fans to remix video

When Radiohead launched the video for their single House of Cards it provided fans with the tools to remix and generate their own versions of the video. The video was made using structured light to create three-dimensional images, but anyone can download the data from Google and use basic video applications to create their own version. The band further facilitated this activity by hosting a group on YouTube where people could showcase their creations. Essentially, it has created an open-source video and invited its fans to contribute to it.

Source: The Guardian


1. Barack Obama speech, South Carolina primary, February 2008.

2. Russell Davies, "The tyranny of the big idea", http://russelldavies.typepad.com/planning/2006/06/the_tyranny_of_.html.[ QQ] 3. The Economist, "ProLogo - why brands are good for you".

4. Gary Duckworth, Understanding Brands.

5. Niall FitzGerald, "Life and death of the world's brands".

6. John Grant, The New Marketing Manifesto.

7. Quotation from Theodore Levitt, "Marketing myopia".

8. Adam Morgan, Eating The Big Fish. The author talks about this phenomenon and "That's Why" advertising, ads that navigated the world by their audience, holding up a mirror to their lives.

9. Quotation from Grant, The New Marketing Manifesto.

10. D Holt, What Becomes an Icon Most? (Harvard Business Review). In his tips on how to create an icon, the author suggests creating myths that lead culture.

11. Don Tapscott and Anthony D Williams, Wikinomics: How Mass Collaboration Changes Everything.

12. Fast Company magazine, "The Brand called Obama", 20 March 2008.

13. Quote from Fast Company article, "The Brand called Obama", 20 March 2008.

14. Rick Levine, Christopher Locke, Doc Searls & David Weinberger. The Cluetrain Manifesto.

15. "Media Consumption in a Wireless World", N-Vision Presentation, 2007.

16. Fast Company magazine, "Don't shout, listen".

17. The Long Tail, Chris Anderson.

18. The Long Tail, Chris Anderson.

19. Arnold Kling, "Incumbent politicians vs the long tail", found at http://www.techcentralstation.com.

20. Obama speech to supporters following Iowa primary.

21. The New York Times, "Obama outshines Clinton at raising funds", February 2008.

22. The Observer, "Barack Obama is master of new Facebook politics".

23. A section of an e-mail received by Obama supporters on 19 June 2008.

24. Q magazine, December 2007. The producer was interviewed as part of a piece looking forward to 2008.

25. Quote found in an interview with Brian Eno from In Motion Magazine, found at http://www.inmotionmagazine.com/eno1.html.

26. Contagious Engage Conference. Contagious uses a quote from Reuters' chief executive to illustrate the power of the consumer in today's world.

27. Brandrepublic.com, "Diageo demands group-sex Guinness viral is pulled from YouTube", 1 August 2008.

28. Facebook.com, the web strategy group, a discussion thread in the forum titled "Should brands join or build their own social network?" debates the merits of setting up your own network or using existing communities.

29, 30. The New York Times, "The Facebooker who befriended Obama'.

31. Barack Obama's Democratic Party Nomination speech.

32. Paul Feldwick, "Exploding the message myth".

33. Malcolm Gladwell, Blink.

34. John Grant, The Brand Innovation Manifesto.

35. Roderick White, "Semiotics Deciphered".

36. The Guardian, 28 January 2008, "Now Obama has momentum as race heads for long haul".

37. The Guardian, 28 January 2008, "Now Obama has momentum as race heads for long haul".

38. Google Trends.

39. http://www.thediplomatictimesreviewonline.com/2008/02/bush-i-dont- kno.html.

40. Paul Feldwick, What is Brand Equity, Anyway?

41. Robert Heath & Paul Feldwick, "50 years using the wrong model of TV advertising".

42. Colley, Defining Advertising Goals for Measured Advertising Results.

43. Robert Heath & Pam Hyder, "Measuring the hidden power of emotive advertising".

44. Rosser Reeves, Reality in Advertising.

45. Penn, Brain Science, That's Interesting, But What Do I Do About It?

46. Robert Heath & Pam Hyder, "Measuring the hidden power of emotive advertising".

47. IPA Effectiveness Paper, "How the Big Apple helped sell orange juice".

48.http://www.guardian.co.uk/business/2008/feb/20/cadburyschweppesbusine ss.fooddrinks.

49. Melissa Mullen and Thom Noble, "Neuroscience: a new means of advertising", Admap, March 2007.

50. de Lemos, "Measuring emotionally 'fuelled' marketing".

51. Franzen, Brands and Advertising.

52. Robert Heath & Pam Hyder, "Measuring the hidden power of emotive advertising".

53. "Obama's Brain Trust", Rolling Stone, 10 July, 2008.

54. "Obama's Brain Trust", Rolling Stone, 10 July, 2008.

55. John Grant, After Image, "The in-fighting seems, if anything, to be pulling some agencies and consultancies back from innovation, towards lowest common denominators."

56. Oxford English Dictionary.

57. Adweek, "Shops strive for a new formula".

58. Barack Obama, Democratic Convention speech, Denver, 28 August 2008.