On November 5, 2008, with the voting results in and snapshots of the newly elected 44th President of the United States emblazoned on front pages coast to coast, many Americans experienced a sense of pride not only for having witnessed history in the making but also for having played a personal role in a movement unlike any in American politics.
Heeding the mantra of "Yes, we can" and roused by the need for "change," these people used their own words, leveraged their personal networks of family and friends, and accomplished the unexpected, propelling a long-shot Senator out of the shadows and into a towering victory over an American war hero with more than 25 years of commendable political experience.
At the root of this lattice of active crusaders was the Obama for America campaign, a relatively lean team of dedicated staff who expertly wielded the new digital tools at their disposal to convert everyday supporters into zealous advocates and spokespeople for the campaign.
"The Obama campaign did naturally what every good marketer should do in this new economy. Rather than focusing on 'acquisition' as most marketers tend to do, the campaign had a three-pronged approach: acquisition, activation, advocacy," wrote Jalali Hartman, CEO and founder of Yovia.com. "The campaign was not successful simply because it got a lot of people out to vote. It was successful because it got a lot of people out getting others to vote."
The Obama for America campaign achieved that feat through its adherence to several game-changing strategies.
First, it molded campaign messaging around the people, not just the man, emphasizing both individual and community visions for change. "The campaign was less about policy, and more about 'Hope' and 'Change,' terms that people could, and did, interpret in their own personal ways," explained Hartman. "Most importantly, the campaign became as much about the individual power to make change as it was about Barack Obama becoming President.... Barack Obama's power came from encouraging people to make the story their own."
Next, it provided them with transparency and consistent, up-to-date information that helped to develop a bond of trust and gave people the power to make informed decisions, as well as convince others of their ideals. Furthermore, that information was disseminated across numerous platforms—including campaign Web sites, social-networking sites and popular file-sharing sites, as well as via email, text, and video—so that no matter a user's preference, that information was readily accessible.
The campaign also provided supporters with every opportunity to get involved, and candidly asked for it, whether that meant volunteering time, making monetary contributions, calling friends in battleground states, or simply sporting campaign T-shirts.