Friday 10 April 2009

What’s in a name? - Rebranding towards Obama

What everyone wants right now is an endorsement from the US president, writes Esther Addley in The Guardian’s edition yesterday.

The Obama brand is a phenomenon, with Obama being the first presidential candidate who was marketed like a high-end consumer brand. Now the president is in the race of maintaining this brand, keeping it new, different, and attractive.

To achieve this, the Obama team is using new business tools such as “crowdsourcing” (the outsourcing of a task to a large group of people or a community through an open call) – just as other big companies do, such as Nokia or Pfizer. The Obama brand has been likened to other "accessible" brands like Apple or Volkswagen, trying to look transparent and open.

The Obama brand has been quite a success so far – and also companies and brands associated with it have done fairly well. Marketing solutions company Prodo reported earlier in January that companies have already tried to integrate the popularity of the president into their marketing strategies. Prodo cite for example Pepsi’s new website design idea called “Refresh Everything”, which is coupled with a new slogan of “Yes You Can”, tapping into the significance of change and the overall assertive Obama message “Yes We Can”.

Fashion magazines have enthusiastically reported on Mrs Obama’s fashion choices – predicting and generating new trends with this. For example, US brand Talbots was excited about the publicity triggered by pictures of Mrs Obama dressed in a Talbots dress, recently featured in Essence magazine. Also J. Crew were pleased last year: after the Obama daughters had watched their father being sworn in dressed in J. Crew coats, the US American high-street brand’s website apparently crashed after the event was televised, with demand soaring.

While over in the UK for the G20 summit, Nestlé was delighted to see President Obama keeping “healthily hydrated with bottled water”, sipping from Nestlé’s UK water brand Buxton - and treating the brand to the ultimate free publicity that marketing teams usually only can dream of. The Telegraph reported that marketing company Burns Entertainment estimated the value of this (voluntary) endorsement at about £35 million.

It seems that only the car manufacturing sector tries to somewhat distance itself from the Obama brand these days. Despite the pressure from the Obama administration to accelerate turnaround, General Motors tries to stick to its master plan to have four brands in the US (global brands Chevy and Cadillac, and Buick and GMC - for US buyers who want “something in between”). And Ford tries to restructure in a way distinct from GM and Chrysler, not taking government bailout money to become “Obama Motors”.

More on the building of the Obama brand and the Audacity of Marketing here. For some thoughts on other celebrities who try to Brand It Like Beckham, offered by the BBC in 2004, click here. For branded Easter eggs, click here and here.

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