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Corporations Want Obama's Winning Formula (businessweek.com)
54 points by imjared on Nov 21, 2012 | hide | past | favorite | 52 comments

Step one: be one of only two options on the marketplace.

Bonus Step 2: make everything you promise non-binding, so you never really have to follow through with anything your marketing said in order to make the sale.

What the heck does that have to do with the article?

Well how can you draw marketing analogies from something, when your business faces a completely different marketing environment?

For example, what business gets free press 24-7 for months?

I'm guessing you didn't read the article. The people who are being hired are those who did analytics and social media for the campaign.

It's true I gave some what of an ad hominem attack.

But lets apply the social media marketing analogy to Pepsi.

Does Pepsi have an active social media audience that is feverishly reading their tweets and is very open to promoting them to their friends the same way Obama does?

I doubt it.

I pulled some more quotes from the article:

> “Politics is a direct-response business,” Goff says. “People do things if you ask them to do it, and for the most part don’t do it if you don’t ask.”

And then talking about using their facebook page over direct phone calls:

> "5 million voters were contacted this way (via Facebook)"

How many people are going to openly receive direct-marketing messages from a corporation like Pepsi about their products via Facebook?

TLDR: The tools sound the same but political marketing is VERY different than business marketing. The type of audience you are reaching and their engagement is everything.

These are valid points. For a megacorp, a lot of what OFA did just won't work.

A political campaign is able to build a very personal connection, and not just with the candidate. There was a mention in another article that fundraising emails 'signed' by campaign manager Jim Messina did very well. People built that connection with another person, an individual.

Some companies might be able to pull that off. If Elon Musk had a consumer company that needed that kind of marketing he'd be able to do it. Jobs could have, and in a way he did. It would be very difficult for Pepsi to pull it off. Not impossible, I can imagine it being done, but it's very unlikely.

I wonder if at some point in the future there's demand for a C level exec with populist charisma in the megacorps. Maybe.

> I wonder if at some point in the future there's demand for a C level exec with populist charisma in the megacorps.

Interesting point. It's true corporations tend to hire celebs strictly from promotional pieces. But it's easy to see past the phoniness of the message because you know they were hired to say it.

But if that person was an executive who worked directly in the business it would definitely add credibility.

> I wonder if at some point in the future there's demand for a C level exec with populist charisma in the megacorps.

Well, there was this company called Apple ...

I will not be the first to think it or even post it, but in the end they weren't the reason he won. He has never faced a truly critical press. If anything far too many in the media are still enamored with him and he also has one fall back which is even being exploited today in regards to other members of his administration, race.

Simply put, he cannot be criticized without risk of those who do so being branded bigots or racist and that inhibits many from who can be unbiased but critical from speaking out because fear is a great was to stop people before they move.

Yes he had good people working his campaign, but they didn't really have that hard of a job cut out for them. This guy is part cult in his appeal and had a small portion of the vote automatically locked in. He didn't have to win over as many voters as the other guy, and again the GOP ran their Kerry / Gore / Dole / Mondale. Politicians who are easily defined by others because they cannot define themselves face an uphill battle.

Sorry, but I completely disagree. Did you read any of the extremely critical articles over the last few years, even in the mainstream so-called "liberal" press. Obama was strongly criticized over his policies and actions. One example - the drone program. He was and is roundly castigated about this.

I really don't agree with your "cult appeal" statement either. The people I know who support Obama are smart and well-informed, and made a conscious decision that he was and is the best choice for the country. You may not agree, but please don't fall into the trap of dismissing his appeal to many people.

"Politicians who are easily defined by others..."

Oh, come on man. Romney couldn't even define himself for more than a few months at a time, if that. That was part of the problem. He had been on both sides of some of the key "litmus test" issues. Rightly or wrongly, the current narrative likes it when politicians don't change their minds about hot-button issues (like medical care, abortion, etc.)

"Simply put, he cannot be criticized without risk of those who do so being branded bigots or racist"

If you can't speak without making people feel uncomfortable or appealing to certain dogwhistles ( http://www.thenation.com/article/170841/exclusive-lee-atwate... ), that isn't Obama's fault.

"He has never faced a truly critical press."

His centrist policies haven't, certainly. His liberal policies have been attacked and rolled back consistently to match the media narratives.

"For example, what business gets free press 24-7 for months?"

There may be PR, but the media is making a KILLING off these campaigns.


What business would want to hire anyone associated with one of the most anti-business administrations in a long time?

"one of the most anti-business administrations in a long time"

Simple, it wasn't and isn't. It's very pro-big business.

As with the Republicans, you privatize profits, socialize losses. Nobody shakes that system up, they just say that "the other guy" is to blame.

This sounds extremely similar to the Mitt Romney formula.

Step 3: erode enough support from the other option to make up for your own eroded support.

Step 0: Spend $3.6 trillion dollars on $2.3 trillion in revenue.


"5 Ways The Obama Campaign Was Run Like A Lean Startup"


1. They measured every single thing.

2. They used A/B testing.

3. They used behavioral targeting to increase engagement.

4. They streamlined the checkout process.

5. Their marketing was nontraditional.


Its interesting that theres another thread right now about how being unwavering on political issues. Isn't A/B testing about as far from that as you could possibly get?

If you are trying to get elected at the national level and you are A/B tesing, isn't wavering exactly what you are doing? Isn't it it essentially well-targeted and opportunistic populism? Isn't this very, very bad?

(this comment isnt aimed at pella, more aimed at the idea of politicians a/b testing)

> Isn't A/B testing about as far from that as you could possibly get?

No, A/B testing doesn't mean flip flopping on the message. You'd want to test various campaigns delivering the same message different ways to see which one converts better. Maybe one set of words gets more donations while another gets more volunteers while another barely gets anything.

I don't think that's how it works, but I'm loving the image of the following:

We need to <%= state.color == 'red' ? "bomb" : "negotiate with" %> Iran.

Since when is giving people what they want, in a democracy, "very, very bad?"

How is it different from directly buying votes?

The same way advertising a product is different from giving it away.

My thought upon seeing the title is that this is a huge business opportunity for Optimizely that they should take advantage of.

I thought Obama's IT formula came from the corporate marketing world, but was adapted to use in a political campaign. I've been hearing about sorting people into "cohorts" using statistical correlations for over a decade, and yet when I first heard about it, it was already decades old and originally based on pre-internet data from dead-tree media like magazine subscriptions and even so it was already very scary in terms of what they could tell about you.

I thought the same thing. As someone in marketing I was thinking if corporations are not doing this stuff already you are well behind the game. The thing to note with the Obama campaign is not the strategy but more how well they executed it.

Well, there's that, but most corporations don't really get IT right, IT is a cost center that should be held at arm's length. Obama's IT formula came from Google and Facebook, where IT is front and center.

This article reminded me blog post on Coding Horror back from 2007 called "Falling into the pit of success". This is exactly what Obama has created for his staff: "a pit of success". His staff had to merely just fall into it.


This is interesting, and a good read, but I'd suggest that being elected in an election that's nothing more than one gigantic mutual smear campaign is less like succeeding and more like helping someone else fail.

Winning, to me at least, implies that you have done something and that the result of your actions placed you above your competition. These guys didn't compete at anything aside from who could generate the most bad publicity for the "opponent."

That just doesn't strike me as the kind of action deserving of words like "success" or "winner."

Not being an American and thus never having heard either candidate speak on "issues", this image gallery perfectly illustrates what makes Obama a successful politician.


He's just so ... human. I don't know whose fault that is, but it's a winning touch imho.

You must have loved Bush, then. George W. Bush looked like a great guy the get a beer with. He seemed to love to joke around. So much to the point that he was visibly awkward when he had to act completely serious, imho.

Actually ... no, he looked like a guy who would be incredibly annoying to have a beer with.

At least Obama feels like he could hold his own in a conversation.

I disagree. Video clips when he's not giving speeches show a man that was truly comfortable in his own skin. Depending on the subject, I think Bush would be fun to talk to in private. It might not come across to non-Americans, but he had a folksy demeanor that was appealing to my parents' generation.

Was he a good president? No, he was absolutely horrible. Probably one of the worst presidents in a long time. I think in part because he was so "folksy". He couldn't seem to relate to any of the professional, high class subordinates and world leaders that constantly surrounded him.

But one-on-one, in a non-serious discussion, I think he would be fun to talk to. Intellectually stimulating, no, but fun, yes. He doesn't give off the intellectual vibe that Obama does. But he does seem to enjoy having a good time.

This might be an issue of demographic then. I like talking to somewhat intellectual people who appeal to current 20-somethings.

25yo male here, much rather hang out with Bush than Obama.

37yo male here. Both Obama or Bush would be fun to hang around, for different reasons. Would love to see them in a bar together. Bush wasn't a great president, but he definitely had the charisma for it. Romney never had that, this is why I knew in my gut he couldn't win.

Wasn't Bush a recovered alcoholic? Probably not a good idea to have a beer with him regardless.

There's a theory that the most charismatic candidate for president usually wins. Looking back over history it's pretty hard to argue with that.

Thats a valid theory, but only going back to the dawn of TV/Radio. Before that politicians actually had to have some content in their messages.

for example, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lincoln%E2%80%93Douglas_debates

The format for each debate was: one candidate spoke for 60 minutes, then the other candidate spoke for 90 minutes, and then the first candidate was allowed a 30-minute "rejoinder." The candidates alternated speaking first. As the incumbent, Douglas spoke first in four of the debates.

Those were 3 hour debates. Now all a politician has to do is look good holding a football.

(this is basically paraphrasing Neil Postman's work from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amusing_Ourselves_to_Death)

There's a good book on this subject from 1985, where the author explores how the requirement in politics is no longer real action/results it's entertainment.

Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business


Well I mean it's a joke today... the fiscal cliff wasn't mentioned in any of the debates.

I think that is a bit of an ad hoc fallace.

Sure, because Obama won we declare him the most charismatic candidate. Had he lost, people would say the oposite, declaring him 'professorial' 'aloof' or 'elitist' (all criticisms directed at Obama at times in the media) and point out his lackluster performance in the first debate as evidence of a lack of charisma.

Perception of charisma is also heavily influenced by our personal biases. I'm sure that we perceive candidates we like as being more charismatic. I bet a majority of Democrats would say Obama is charismatic and a majority of Republican would disagree.

That isn't true. Obama was the more charismatic candidate before we knew he would won. Romney always really came off as disconnected and aloof. I don't think a majority of republicans would agree otherwise, they just hated Obama and only had to make due with Romney, not many of them were happy with that!

Bush and Clinton were charismatic in ways that both sides of the aisle could easily acknowledge. Charisma is a pre-req to being president, and is not conveyed on victory.

If Gore would have won in 2000, that would have been very interesting, since he really wasn't at the level of Bush on likability, he would have been the least charismatic president since...Johnson, Nixon, or the way Carter actually turned out.

Carter had a very folksy friendly persona in '76. Very upbeat. Johnson had his own way of being charismatic, and he only beat Goldwater. Nixon wasn't as charmless as his reputation would have you believe, and he had Humphrey and McGovern as opponents, so it's all relative.

Bush Sr. is the weakest point of the theory. He's pretty flat however you look at him. But Dukakis wasn't exactly Marlon Brando or anything. I don't think the theory could have won either way with those two.

"Bush Sr. is the weakest point of the theory. He's pretty flat however you look at him."

Words tossed around when he started his campaign were "efette", "wimp", and "unmanly". Obvious slurs, but he had a lot of public perception to get over.

"Had he lost, people would say the oposite, declaring him 'professorial' 'aloof' or 'elitist'"

People in the media have been saying that regardless of his performance.

You could compile a similarly "human" set of pictures of any other candidate. Surprise, they're all "humans".

Actually, Mitt Romney and Al Gore (and Bob Dole to a lesser extent) were accused of being very wooden. Comedians frequently joked that they were robots.

Sad as it may sound, the quality of our politicians is so low that seeming human would be an upgrade for many of them.

I'm waiting for the non-biased responses here on HN...

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