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The brand called Obama

From NBC's Lauren Appelbaum
In next month's Fast Company, Ellen McGirt examines the Obama campaign as an emerging successful business model. McGirt both investigates how Obama's campaign approach challenges both conventional political assumptions and conventional business assumptions and also challenges "any forward-looking business" to examine the campaign's successes "from marketing strategies and leadership styles to the future of the American workplace."

McGirt writes that Obama's ability to connect with and mobilize the 18 to 29 age group through new media and online social networks acts as a base for his success. On a personal level, the presidential hopeful uses a Web cam to keep in touch with his wife and daughters while on the road. And on the campaign level, he capitalizes both on his own Web site, which allows supporters to create their own content and interact with one another, and in external content including viral videos created by supporters such as Obama Girl (though she hasn't said she's voting for him necessarily) and the Black Eyed Peas' Will.i.am.

While several people McGirt interviewed pointed out the difficulty in controlling the message from so many external sources, McGirt also writes the Obama campaign oversees the content posted on its Web site and responds to posts on other sites. The overwhelming success of Obama's online strategies, with credit due to outside aid, shows in his ability to convert Web hits into donations.

The crux of the article points to Obama's ability to connect, and that "this movement is actually a conversation to which everyone is invited." When Hillary Clinton started her campaign, she told voters through a Web video and her stump speech that she wanted to start a conversation with them. McGirt's article, however, points out Obama has been more successful.

"Obama communicates that he loves people, and Clinton communicates that she loves policy," said Harvard Senior Associate Dean John Quelch said in the article.

Craig Newmark of Craigslist is quoted as stressing Obama's leadership style as a reason for his support. "I see him as a leader rather than a boss," Newmark said. He explains a leader as someone who inspires people to work on their own; a boss, conversely, orders people to work because that work is part of each person's contract.

McGirt ends her article with a warning to her readers, whether Obama wins the nomination or the presidency or neither. "There is no question that the brand of Obama -- what he represents to the next generation of Americans -- is important. A business that ignores this message does so at its own peril."

"The Brand Called Obama" will be published in Fast Company's April edition.