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Barack Obama - clicks with voters?
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  Barack Obama
Barack Obama
clicks with voters?
by Jennifer Gidman
February 25, 2008

And then there were three: McCain, Hillary, and Barack. While John McCain has safely locked up the Republican Party's presidential candidate nomination, the Democrats are still involved in a battle between two tenacious hopefuls who refuse to back down: Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama.

The brand that Obama’s camp is trying to sell isn’t difficult to nail down: He’s a Washington interloper with fresh ideas (a trait that has become his liability as well as his main selling point). He’s user-friendly and approachable—the type of guy you could discuss critical issues with at a black-tie gala one evening, and mix a guacamole dip with at a Super Bowl bash the next.

Obama also personifies the cutting-edge and tech-savvy candidate, with a deep understanding of how to maximize today’s multimedia to communicate with his core demographic. Here is where the Barack Obama website comes into play, extending his brand to countless Internet political junkies who can surf to their hearts’ content about where he actually stands on the issues.

The site’s welcome mat features Barack, his wife, and two children, sitting arm-in-arm under a slogan that reads "Change We Can Believe In." This page doesn’t come without strings; before you’re taken to the home page, you’re faced down by the obligatory “fill-in-your-email-and-zipcode-here-so-we-can-bombard-you-with-propaganda” signup screen. (This, of course, is a common tactic employed by his competitors throughout the quest for the Democratic, and Republican, nomination.)

The real branding and reaching out begins on the home page, which offers a countdown to the campaign's goal of "One Million People Who Own This Campaign," a "State of the Race" map, "Make a Difference" and "Next Up" sections, and six drop-down menus: Learn, Issues, Media, Action, People, and States. There is even a BarackTV section that features video clips from his speeches. Otherwise, the home page is dedicated to breaking news, speaking engagements, and a detailed map of the US, broken down state-by-state, encouraging visitors to click on "Where do you live" so they can become more involved in local, grassroots politiking for Obama.

Barack Obama The Get Involved area highlights a place to donate, volunteer, and register to vote. You can even sign up for "Camp Obama," a two-day training session that will indoctrinate you into the Obama family and help you organize your own community to support Barack. I even received my very own dinner invitation from the unseen Obama Webmastercontingent, of course, on my making a small donation and being one of the three average citizens selected to attend. Devotees can also download icons and logos to support the Obama mission (though organizers probably could have come up with something a little more exciting than an “I’m Caucusing for Barack Obama” site widget).

Of course, Obama’s biggest challenge (besides his junior-politician status) has been trying to convince the American populace that he isn’t all sparkle and no substance. His site would be prime real estate to really push his perspective on important issues, but while the main nav bar links to an extensive section that contains detailed blueprints for everything from improving our schools to protecting our borders, Obama’s team doesn’t capitalize on this online opportunity to really put the issues front and center. A political website, like a political campaign, must be organized, informational, and motivational. Barack's website offers all three of these components, but it remains to be seen if the necessary balance is struck to most effectively promote the message, issues, and constituents that comprise the Obama brand.

To comparison shop, check out Hillary Clinton's website and John McCain's website as well. Also, for a comprehensive look at the 2008 nominee hopefuls and their brands, visit a study of the 2008 presidential candidates as consumer brands created by two South Carolina firms, Chernoff Newman and Market Search. In this self-proclaimed intellectual exercise, the firms ask such questions as: Are political candidates knowingly and proactively setting forth to build their brand? And are the public’s perceptions of candidates in sync with the attributes candidates are espousing in their advertising, press releases, and appearances?

And, of course, don't forget to vote.


Jennifer Gidman lives and works in New York.

*Due to the constantly changing environment of websites, some reviews may no longer reflect the current website for this brand.
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