Former President Obama’s recent speaking tour criticizing President Trump and Republican policies will accomplish two aims.
First, it will motivate his Democratic base to vote for party candidates. Second, it will “fall short” in inspiring independents to vote for Democratic candidates in local congressional races — putting the “Blue Wave” in doubt.
Understanding a brand and its appeal to different target audiences are the keys to winning elections today. Obama’s appeal today simply may not be as broad as many Democratic strategists think.
Few will deny that the base and even others are drawn to his attractive style. This is Obama’s strength and why it’s smart for the former president to do his “tour thing.”
Where the strategy breaks down is in thinking that he has appeal to non-Democrats in 2018. Although broadly popular to all three parties in 2008, the Obama brand may have lost its magic. Today, a different style may be needed to address the needs that a slight majority of the country want to address — an economic optimism which Obama could not deliver no matter how hard he tries to convince us how much he did for the economy.
The salient reasons for this current ineffective speaking tour lie in marketing and branding — the constructs that got the charismatic Barack Obama elected twice. His team of marketing/branding wizards are no longer around to help tweak his impeccable presidential candidate image and make him seem as flawless as he once was.
Although effectual for his own personal brand, he was never quite able to transfer his charisma to other party candidates. Under the Obama presidency, Democrats lost 910 seats in state legislatures and 70 in the U.S. Congress. Clearly, the Obama Cool worked for him, but didn’t translate to the rest of the party.
The question is whether the majority of voters today want what President Obama is now selling. What comes to mind is whether President Obama is too 2008, when the country needed his brand of cool to get us through difficult economic times. Perhaps we wanted to be inspired by his dulcet speaking tones, to be taken away from the economic problems that we were all experiencing at the time. It was his brand — “Soother-In-Chief” — that would get us through a bad period. We needed for him to be there for us.
However, different times call for different brand types. Obama’s time may have come and gone, much like what happened to Winston Churchill after saving England during World War II, only to be defeated in the 1945 election that followed.
In 2018, however, a different strategy may be needed to win which engages the very important independent group. The bad news for Democrats is that the times, they are a changing. In the latest Gallup Poll, August 1, 2018, Republicans now lead Democrats with 28 percent and 27 percent respectively, (up for Republicans — from 26 percent; down for Democrats from 30 percent), and Independents with a whopping 43 percent (up from 41 percent). A dirty little fact that no one is talking about.
On top of it all, Obama’s weakness is the perception among non-Democrats that he did little to get the economy fired up; that he changed most voters' healthcare plans for the worse; and that he made agreements with foreign nations about which many are ambivalent. He simply was not perceived as a strong leader — cool and likable yes, but strong? Well you get the point. The issue becomes whether this brand type can attract independents to vote for Democrats, when the Obama brand harkens to a bygone era where communications excellence was the norm instead of economic optimism.
And if the former president wants to be effective, he is better advised to stay with his Democratic base so that he can help them, because it is always easier when you have marketing and branding in mind.
Dr. John Tantillo is a marketing and branding expert, known as The Marketing Doctor. JT utilizes his doctoral skills in applied research psychology to analyze the issues and personalities of the day utilizing his marketing and branding lens. This provides his readers with additional insight needed to understand the “new normal” in politics, news, and culture. Dr. Tantillo is the OpEd writer for Political Vanguard. He is the author of "People Buy Brands, Not Companies,” and the Udemy course "Go Brand Yourself!" You can follow him on Twitter @marketingdoctor and at Facebook.com/dr.johntantillo. To read more of his reports — Click Here Now.
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