Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Brand Obama: Lessons in Leadership from a CEO

Brand Obama: Lessons in Leadership for CEO’s
What lessons can a corporate CEO learn from the fastest growing brand in the world- Brand Obama? Brand Marketers like Coca-Cola and Pepsi-Cola fight for market share every day on grocery shelves. Avis tries harder than Hertz. Miller-Coors seeks to dominate Budweiser on any given day. Google came out of nowhere to be a $10B enterprise with literally no competitors. So how did a community organizer with a hard-to-pronounce name rise to power in record time? He had a great brand story.

As Airlift wrote in our blog post entitled; “What World Class Brands Do”, let’s take a look at the six drivers of World Class Brands and see how President Barack Obama achieved his dominant global brand position; The President of the United States.

Delight Customers (Voters)
The strategic leadership team for Obama got it right from the start. They had a clear strategy. Think about it, Brand Obama was an unknown name competing against one of the most prolific and successful names in government; The Clinton’s. Hilary Clinton had all the money, lived in the White House amidst global leaders and had been a career politician. The prize was hers to win. Yet, Team Obama had the winning campaign. They crafted a strategy that would delight American voters from all walks of life, all socio-economic levels, all races and all religions. The greatest weapon Obama had leading into the race was a clear vision; a vision for where he wanted to take America and how he wanted to do it. His ability to tell that optimistic story better than anyone else in the race was the secret to how he delighted voters. Combine this with his innovative approach to reaching new voters with new messages in new mediums made for a winning brand platform. He was the first President to use the Internet to generate excitement, share the right message and win over voters- via word of mouth fund raising. He won America’s heart with his ideas and passion for connecting with people, one voter at a time.

True Story:

An Independent voter who had never made an online campaign contribution went online and donated $50 to the Obama campaign. Within two minutes she received a thank-you for the contribution and an acknowledgement that someone in Ohio had matched her contribution as a way of also saying thank you. Two minutes after that, she received another e-mail from the campaign asking if she, too, would be willing to match the $50 contribution of a new donor, and whether her e-mail address could be shared so that the new donor could thank her for her match.(1)

Are you connecting with your customers by delighting them with your brand? You get the picture.

Flawless Execution
The Obama team was surgical about his race to the White House. They never lost sight of the end goal… to win the Presidency. He never rested. The team left no stone unturned. They used all mediums with targeted messages. He remained calm and diplomatic every day. Among the chaos of our nation Barack Obama was the calm in the storm. The team collectively did not miss a beat. When the chips seemed like they were down, the team re-charted their course with speed and grace to stay on point. There is a lesson in relentless focus here.

Remains Authentic
They say that leaders are born leaders. Obama is a great leader and a great orator. But when a brand tries to be something they are not, customers see right through it. Obama’s leadership is genuine. He truly believes in the people, cares about real stories; the struggles and triumphs. He seeks for America to get back on track with real change. You can not fake it. President Obama operates with the highest form of humility every day and that is who he really is. Do the people in your organization know who you are and how you think? Remaining authentic to who you and your company are is a sure- fire way for customers to find you in a highly competitive market.

Hires Great People
President Obama ran the campaign like he would run a global corporation. He put the “right people on the bus” for the job. (2) His resolve and confidence was the secret to finding the recruiting the best people. He knows what he knows and knows what he does not. He selected the best people for each job and will empower them to success. These jobs were not awarded because they did Obama a favor or were friends of a friend, but because they had a proven track record of leadership in the given area; policy, finance, security, operations, leadership and even in a social setting as exemplified by his selection of Desiree Rogers, a leading Chicago business woman, as his new Social Secretary. Hire great people and let them fly. It will be the secret to your success.

Gives Back
The very essence of a world-class brand is to give back with every transaction, every day. Obama does this as his political origins are rooted in the community. The day before President Obama was inaugurated, he was out in the DC community making surprise visits to schools, painting with children and talking to the American “People”. One might think he had other things to do to prepare for his historic day but even that he made time to give back. When a leader really believes in giving back, he does so every day. Are you?

Drives Economic Growth
Metrics are everything to a CEO. They matter for Obama as well. The metrics prove his brand story was a success. Just look at the numbers.

  • Record voter turn out among traditional and new voters

  • Record dollars were raised by the public

  • Record approval ratings were achieved

  • Record turn out in Washington for Inauguration.

President Barack Obama declared his vision and laid a foundation for his brand story during the Democratic Race in July of 2004. His riveting speech and well articulated story about the power of our great country set the tone for his administration; an administration that will be about about “we” and “us”.
“Now even as we speak, there are those who are preparing to divide us -- the spin- masters, the negative ad peddlers who embrace the politics of "anything goes." Well, I say to them tonight, there is not a liberal America and a conservative America -- there is the United States of America. There is not a Black America and a White America and Latino America and Asian America -- there’s the United States of America.”

His determination to get all of America focused on rebuilding our country will rally us in a way we have never seen. These ideals make up the most powerful brand story we could ever know. Jim Collins defines the highest form of leadership as Level 5. His idea research defines this as “someone who blends genuine personal humility with intense professional will.” The sheer will to help our nation, combined with his extreme humility will makes President Obama the perfect man for the job with the perfect brand story.

Today is an historic, remarkable day! Be exuberant when you think about running your company and building your brand. It is contagious.

Barack Obama’s story is the best brand story I have ever heard or seen, ever!

Contact Shelley Rosen at Airlift Ideas at
srosen@airliftideas.com or by calling 312.492.7772 Feel free add comments
(1) Ad Age: 2.27.08
(2) Jim Collins Good to Great

1 comment:

Lisa Mitchell said...

The consistency and passion of the Obama Story is further represented through the new White House site (http://www.whitehouse.gov/). Amazing.