Euro RSCG PR's Marian Salzman is your North America ThinkTank commentator until the summer. She will be responding to events in the region on a weekly basis, offering a provocative view of the PR issues at stake. You can reach Marian at [email protected]
Perhaps it’s my choice of profession, but I can’t help and think about Obama and Osama as brands. In our worldview as marketers and PR professionals, when we talk about brands we think about the values brands represents. And the best brands today are not just product based- they are in service to consumers and resonate with them through “core values”. It’s no longer enough to just “be” a brand, it’s now important to stand for something.
And since many of us in marketing and PR are campaign managers for the brands we work with, it’s not difficult to think about Obama through this lens of branding. Back in the pre-election days, there was no stronger American brand than Barack Obama. But then, he got elected. And almost overnight, we lost a sense of what Obama the brand was, because of all of the opposition and polarization and inability to keep the connection with Americans alive. In the days and years that followed, Obama the brand became isolated and was perceived as emotionally detached, and as we know, no brand is an island. If I were to give him some advice moving forward, I would say his core values needs to expand to include “distinction”, as in, he needs to focus on his raw distinction that sets him apart from his opposition. He needs to change the conversation, and nowhere is that happening faster than with the news of Osama Bin Laden’s death.
In many ways, the killing of Osama was the most “presidential” thing he has done since taking office- and he campaigned on the premise that hunting him down and killing him would be one of his biggest priorities. By carrying through, he not only boosted his approval rating, which according to the Detroit Free Press is at it’s highest point in two years at 60%. And more than half of Americans now say he deserves to be re-elected, according to an Associated Press-GfK poll taken after Bin Laden’s death.
When you looked at that now game changing and historic photo of a tense Obama in the situation room during the operation, you suddenly remembered why we elected him- it’s an emotional image that brings back all of this “yes we can”, but with much more of a bad ass twist. And just like that, the dialogue began to shift, regardless of whether we can see the images of one dead terrorist with our own eyes. Because suddenly, we believe in Obama all over again. And when you think about it, his tenaciousness and inability to give up in his quest to find Bin Laden is one of our US’ core values as a nation brand.