Cool, calm,charismatic. And yet incredibly passionate. In his last seven years in office, Barack Obama's media presence has been nothing short of mesmerising.
But as all PR enthusiasts will know - it takes a talented team to help elect a leader.
As the November election become increasingly closer, we decided to take at look at 20 impressive visuals used by Obama's marketing team during his presidential career, and the thought process that went behind each.
1. Using Iconic Quotes
Obama is known for being a powerful communicator. By pairing strong quotes with related imagery, his team create quick, simple, iconic and highly shareable pieces of content perfect for social media.
2. Promoting "Share With a Friend" graphics
During his 2012 campaign, Obama's team released a series of illustrated accolades in a post named "Share With A Friend the Accomplishment that Means Most to You". This simple campaign encouraged mass amounts of social media sharing, allowing supporters to do the work of spreading the message through eye-catching graphics.
3. Leveraging Crowdsourcing: #DesignForObama
During the election, Obama encouraged supporters to create their own visuals in support of his campaign using the hashtag #designforobama. This crowdsourcing of materials helped get people more intensely and emotionally invested in the campaign, created stunning graphic results and ultimately gave supporters a direct, respected voice.
4. Humanizing Obama
Obama's team leveraged social media to humanize Obama by posting candid, emotional, heartfelt, funny, and endearing photographs of the president, creating an intimate look into the personality behind the presidency, transforming Obama from a 2D political figure into a human being anyone could empathize with. The above image, posted after Obama's 2008 win, was so successful at this that at one point it was the most retweeted image on all of Twitter.
5. Optimizing Opt-In Pages
No stranger to the power of good design and strategic splash pages, Obama's graphic, web, and marketing teams carefully curated a splash page to help raise his campaign over $60 million USD.
As Director of Analytics for the Obama 2008 campaign Dan Siroker notes, this successful web page was achieved through experimentation of different calls to action, button copy, imagery use, etc. So, the takeaway from this success? Split test your web forms, small tweaks can yield some huge results.
6. Appealing to Emotions
Emotions are pretty powerful things to leverage when the time calls for it, and Obama's marketing team know exactly when to do just that. By pairing a powerful quote and an emotional image of the president, Obama's team have created a powerful piece of content.
7. Utilising GIFs, Animations, and 3D visuals
WIth a campaign founded on progress and innovation, it makes sense that Obama's marketing strategy would make use of new, popular, and innovative technology. By delivering his messages through platforms such as GIFs, animations, and 360 visual videos, Obama's content stays fresh, engaging and interesting.
8. Understanding Social Platforms
White House Tumblr
If there's one thing no marketer wants, it's an out-of-touch social media campaign. But Obama's social media strategy has often actually been credited as a key building block for his campaign's success. By tailoring content to each platform/social media audience, Obama's content felt in touch, genuine, and engaging.
For example, as seen above, the Obama campaign set up a blog on microblogging site Tumblr, a teen-oriented platform, thus his approach was much more colloquial and personality-driven, and the 'handcrafted' visuals perfectly reflect that.
9. Using Visualised Data and Statistics
People often respond better to visual information than plain text, making visual content key for translating key messages to your audience. Obama's social media marketing is a perfect example of how simple graphics can turn data and figures into eye-catching, and highly shareable pieces of content.
10. Creating Ads that Work
Ads are a crucial part of any campaign when it comes to directing traffic to the right places, but ads aren't always easy to get right. By hiring designer Al Rotches, Obama's team unlocked a series of beautifully designed and interactive ads that "raised the click-through rate on image ads by 33% and donations from image ads rose by 20%".
11. Being the Voice of the People
Another success of Obama's social media marketers is their use of vox pop graphics. Visualised quotes and stories from people who have been helped by Obama's healthcare reform policies create simple but eye-catching assets, that also lend give a voice to the people, creating authentic and trustable 'reviews' of Obamacare.
12. Using Visual Repetition: The Obama O
Obama's marketing success is often attributed in part to the way design was interwoven into his campaign branding. Obama's 'rising sun' brand mark was a highly accredited design solution that as designer Scott Thomas notes, "Without using a single word... served as a stand-alone narrative of American hope and optimism".
13. Tailoring his Message to the Audience
Much of the success of the Obama logo goes into the way it is applied throughout various marketing assets. The application of the Obama O logo to various banners to appeal to different states/demographics/people was handled neatly and cleanly and as Armin of Under Consideration says "without pandering". This simple technique allowed consumers of the imagery to identify themselves within the banners/designs, creating an air of inclusiveness to the Obama campaign.
Making tailored tweaks to your logo can be difficult if you only own it in a PNG file. Consider giving your logo a facelift and making it more versatile by creating your logo as an editable design.
14. Using Punchy Copy
Copywriting is a key component of visual marketing, and Obama hit the nail on the head with a series of short, punchy, positive and effective taglines. A prime example is the 'Change' campaign. Americans were hungry for change, so Obama's visuals and campaigns focussed on that. By using the strong Gotham typeface and a strong design, the call to action of change created a powerful visual placard.
15. Giving Hope
We couldn't get through a list compiling Obama's top visuals without mentioning his "Hope" poster. This now iconic poster was a combination of an uplifting message, an obvious play on the red, white, and blue color scheme, and powerful graphic execution, making it a linchpin of the Obama campaign.
16. Leveraging Design: Powerful slogans meet powerful designs
Matching your designs to the weight and strength of your copy can help leave a lasting impression. Marked as "the key element" of Obama's 2011 campaign by head of design Josh Higgins, the single-word slogan of 'Forward' was a powerful asset with powerful visualisation.
As Maria Celina notes, "In its branding, the design team carefully tucks Obama's flagship symbol as the second letter, and adds a full-stop at the end to mark its strength."
17. Pulling from Imagery of the Past
A tactic that was used throughout Obama's presidential marketing was, as designer Scott Thomas explains, "[pulling] imagery from the past ... and using it to display how truly historic this campaign truly was."
By creating posters and deliverables reminiscent of the past, such as the poster pictured above, a clear play on the famous Uncle Sam posters, Obama was viewed more as a trustworthy fixture of American history rather than a blatantly new, unfamiliar face.
18. "Instant Vintage"
Table Salt Games
Another technique used by Obama's design and marketing teams to create a sense of timelessness and historicism was an aesthetic approach they dubbed 'instant vintage'. As Scott Thomas explained, this vintage-inspired aesthetic, color palette, and composition of posters such as the above Change example helped to "...convey a certain emotive quality that this was a historic time".
19. "We" not "He"
This is yet another example of this 'instant vintage' approach taken to design deliverables during campaigning. This piece however also exemplifies to focus Obama's team took on ensuring any copy focussed on "'we' not 'he'". This approach was made to ensure that "supporters could hold (up the designs) with pride and feel it was a direct statement from them".
20. A False Revolution
Another clever tactic employed by the team behind Obama was to create posters that subtly mimicked revolutionary imagery, such as the iconic pictures of Che Guevara or wartime posters. By using low angles, dramatic imagery, and powerful calls to action, the design of these posters subtly hinted to people that to elect Obama was to elect a revolution of change.
Over to you: What do you think about Barack Obama's marketing strategies?
There's no denying that Obama's campaigns will go down in history. As well as two successful terms, his team's careful attention to detail when crafting his deliverables, visuals, and social media presence was a definite linchpin to this success.
So, next time you need to sit down and craft some visuals, consider taking a leaf or two from Obama's book, you don't have to be running for president to create a highly impactful campaign.
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