President Obama: Re-Branded. Re-Positioned. Re-Elected?

In an election cycle that seems to have gone on for years already, we cleared one more hurdle with the completion of the Democratic Party Convention. 

The much anticipated speech by Barack Obama touched on many issues best left for political pundits to analyze. What was striking from a PR perspective, though, was it was a classic case study in re-branding.

The Obama of 2008 was branded as a game-changer. His campaign focused on the theme of “hope,” which was a luxury he enjoyed while being the new kid on the block. Going up against John McCain, a candidate with far more political experience, Obama positioned himself as an alternative to the status quo, one with a fresh perspective on leadership.

For his efforts, Obama not only won the big prize of becoming the president of the United States, he was also honored as Advertising Age’s Marketer of the Year.

Fast-forward four years.

The Barack Obama who spoke at the 2012 convention was now branded as a little older, a lot wiser and far more seasoned. He has also tempered his optimism with a heavy dose of reality.

"America, I never said this journey would be easy, and I won't promise that now,” he said. “Yes, our path is harder, but it leads to a better place. Yes, our road is longer, but we travel it together. We won't turn back. We leave no one behind.”

Re-branding himself as the incumbent, Obama has been able to use many of the branding tools of a company that holds the first-to-market advantage:

  • He warned about the dangers of switching horses in the middle of the race. ("Now I won't pretend the path I'm offering is quick or easy… You elected me to tell you the truth. And the truth is, it will take more than a few years for us to solve challenges that have built up over decades”).

  • He played the same “experience” card McCain had played four years earlier by emphasizing Mitt Romney’s lack of foreign policy experience.

  • As the incumbent, he can count on the “bird in hand” factor. People know what they are getting with Obama and can only guess what a Romney presidency will look like. Think of Facebook versus Google+.

While we won’t know until the election if President Obama’s re-branding will be successful, some of the most successful re-branding/re-positioning efforts of the year will be honored at the Platinum PR Awards on September 14 at the Grand Hyatt Hotel in New York City.

Here’s the list of finalists in the Re-Branding/Re-Positioning Platinum PR Awards ­­­category:

  • ComBlu-- Repositioning an Iconic Brand: Encyclopaedia Britannica

  • Cone Communications – Fiber One Great Taste Campaign

  • General Motors Corp. with Weber Shandwick - Closing the Perception Gap: Compelling Content Helps Drive More Consumers to GM's Revamped Vehicles

  • Grow Marketing - Dockers “Are You an Alpha Fan?”

  • Intuit - Establishing Intuit as an Innovative Growth Company

  • Newlink Communications – Barrick: Turning a Complex Crisis into Gold in the Dominican Republic

Find out what other top PR campaigns will be honored on September 14. 

Follow Jon Gelberg: @jon_gelberg