Posts Tagged ‘Obama’

No feeling. No winning.

December 10, 2012 2 comments

Now that the emotions around the US presidential elections are safely, pretty much, behind us I wanted to share my, relatively superficial, perspective on it, and what it can teach ‘commodity category’ marketers in many parts of the world.

One caveat : I am staying out of the politics and policies of the candidates involved because as we all know it’s barely trustworthy.

Let me start with this picture.

obamaIt is apparently the most retweeted picture in the history of well…tweeting.

What comes shining through is a feeling of ‘one of us’ but maybe better. Through his 5 years of high visibility politicking we have learnt about his daughters, his dog, his wife, his golf handicap etc. We are inundated with pictures such as the ones below.

image barack-obama-hug obama-eatingWhat is the feeling one has about the opposition candidate? Let’s look at his CV briefly. MBA from Harvard, CEO of Bain Consulting, Co-founded Bain Capital, Governor of Massachusetts, profitably led the Salt Lake Olympic Organising committee etc. Not shabby at all is it. I am pretty sure intellectually the two candidates would be on par. But what does one ‘feel’ about him? Nothing really. So everyone’s focused on what he says/said.

Rewind 20 years ago to this famous debate moment. Clinton v/s Bush Senior. Who did you want to win?

Even the Al Gore v/s Bush senior debates.. Al Gore was the intellectual giant but people felt for Bush. (simply speaking!!)

So if people like you, or at least have some sort of feeling for you, you’re more likely to win your debate, your argument, your battle.

Over the past few years I’ve been part of a few categories where the brand is a commodity. (Ironic statement that..brand is a commodity means it is not a brand in the first place, but let’s leave that debate aside for now). The ‘marketing’ strategy, without exception, in every market has been ‘let’s cut prices’. Or let’s shout our speeds and feeds. And then folks are surprised that though they spent a lot of money the consumer still doesn’t show brand love.

Many definitions of brand out there, but finally it comes down to the way the consumer feels about the ‘product’. It is hard to have feelings for someone/something that keeps talking about how cheap they are, or how fast they are.

Marketers could do worse than learn from Obama. Not his social media strategy or his debating skills or specifics like that. Learn to connect. Don’t worry about the perfect connect. Start somewhere. Then over time hone it, improve it, strengthen it.

No feeling. No winning.

In life, in politics, or in the market place.

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Obama v/s Narsimha

The other day I was chatting with an American friend of mine and inevitably the conversation turned to politics and I shared my perception that the President Obama seemed to be achieving precious little. He gives great speeches, seems to have tons of ideas, is in the thick of much but seemingly getting little done. The huge weight of expectations which he carries on his shoulders is certainly not helping. My friend who claimed to be very politically aware seemed to agree.

Later I was thinking of our chat and my mind wandered to an India Prime Minister of the 1990s, PV Narasimha Rao. He came with absolutely no expectations of even lasting a year of his term. He turned out to be one of India’s longest lasting PMs. He had extraordinarily poor communication skills and no one would call him a great looker. He got the job that no one wanted. India was in the throes of its worst financial crisis with the threat of defaulting just days away. Against this backdrop he pulled off India’s most stunning financial recovery and unleashed India’s growth.

Two very dissimilar men, with kind of seemingly similar challenges.

Of course it’s not even a year to Obama’s term so I am by no means suggesting that he has not succeeded.

Some learnings come to mind

1. Expectations : When the world has very high expectations of you, there is usually one possible outcome. Disappointment. Be it sport or politics it is the same. Irrespective of where you end, even if it is better than anyone else, people tend to remember that expectations were not met. So as a leader it is very important to manage expectations. Sometimes as leaders there is little you can do about the expectations people have. The challenge becomes one of managing expectations. After Federer lost the US Open he made light of it by saying he still had a great year because he won 2 Grand Slams and was in the finals of the other 2. That was a tone of a loser. Before the tournament, he talked about going for the win!

2. Clarity: Say what you are going to do and do it. Looking at the debate on health care there seems to be a lot of cross talk and what the reform is, is not very clear. Again I am an outsider and have no stakes so probably have not spent much time to read the fine print. I am reminded of a client who talked about his boss who once addressed a meeting of the sales staff with a cent in his hand and said ‘at the end of the year we need to add a cent in value to every share of this company’. Simple. Powerful. Clear. I am sure healthcare is extremely complex, but the common man needs it to be simplified so he/she can rally behind it.

3. Ownership:Chicago lost the Olympics bid. Who took the flack? Obama. The healthcare reform is in a mess. Who gets the flack? Obama. Palestine-Israel meeting in NY didn’t go too well. Who is responsible? Obama. Afghanistan war took a turn for the worse. Who needs to answer? Obama. Is it me or does it seem like we have a One man squad. Going back to Narasimha Rao. He picked Manmohan Singh. Told him to fix the economy. Got out of the way, and used his political skills to negotiate with the parties. Even Bush, while he got the laughs, seemingly had a strong team of people who were primarily responsible for parts of governing. Paulson for economy. Rice for State. Gates for defence. etc. Maybe Bush gave them, or didn’t directions, but when things didn’t work out or indeed when they did the parties responsible were clear.

3 things all great leaders need

1. Manage expectations well

2. Define clear outcomes

3. Get a team to own and execute


Brand Obama

Most of us suspected/knew that Obama’s was a carefully nurtured image. Be it the lining up for a burger, or Michelle on Sesame Street.

This article gives a bit of a closer view of how it is being managed efficiently by a core team.

Articles like this has to tarnish the brand a bit, when consumers/people/voters feel that what they are seeing is part of an elaborate soap opera, and not necessarily the truth.

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