When Barack Obama announced his choice for vice president on mobile, the real payoff may come during the next few months — one text message at a time.
Obama’s campaign plans to break the news of the Democratic candidate’s vice presidential pick to people who have signed up to receive e-mails and text messages from the campaign. It should give Obama’s team access to tens of thousands of cell phone numbers that could be used to mobilize voters under 30 on Election Day.
“What Obama is creating is this army of individuals, these grass-roots activists, who are out there trying to change the world in 160 characters or less,” said David All, a Republican strategist who specializes in technology.
Obama’s electronic outreach is the most prominent example of a larger movement by members of Congress and political campaigns to present their message and connect with voters through text messaging on cell phones, social networks such as MySpace and Facebook, and the microblogging site Twitter.
Baby boomers and Gen Xers declared mass marketing dead long ago. We live in a world of fragmented media surrounded by cynical consumers who can spot and block an ad message from a mile away. But what Gen Xers and boomers may not realize is that the unabashed embrace of select brands by millennials, from technology to beverages to fashion, has made this decade a true golden era of marketing for those who know what they’re doing. And when it comes to marketing, the Barack Obama campaign knows what it’s doing.
Mr. Obama’s brand management, unprecedented in presidential politics, shows pitch-perfect understanding of the keys to appealing to the youngest voters.
Perhaps inevitably, among the first apps introduced for Apple’s new iPhone — the latest success from another millennial mass marketer — was an Obama “Countdown to Change” calendar that ticks off the seconds until Election Day.
So what’s the appeal to the under-30 set? True, the youth vote traditionally skews Democratic, but the difference this year is that Mr. Obama has actually motivated turnout. His success, it seems, is a result of both product and the branding behind it. The qualities he projects — a cool, smooth aura, the communal values of hope and unity, his teeming crowds and his campaign’s seamless graphics — are the essence of appealing to millennials.
“Millennials want someone smart, funny and with a slight edge,” observes Allison Mooney, who tracks youth trends for Fleishman-Hillard’s Next Great Thing. Mr. Obama’s occasional prickly moments, as when he dismissed Mr. McCain’s recent ad comparing him to Paris Hilton — “Is this the best you can do?” — shows them he gets it. “Obama’s kind of mellow. He doesn’t have polarizing views.”