On inauguration day I caught an article by the political correspondent Dr Louis Perron that reflected on the campaign that had brought Barack Obama to the Whitehouse.  I agree pretty much with all that he says, but as a marketer, I put a different slant on these things.

Firstly, I have to say that despite the hundreds of millions of dollars invested, the hundreds of thousands of people who have contributed and the miles he has travelled on the campaign trail I believe, and I am sure that he would agree, Barack Obama has achieved no more than a place on the starting grid. To quote the man himself “Greatness is never a gift, it must be earned”. As with the many organisations I come across, that believe it’s enough to make the right promise, and don’t really know and sometimes don’t care if, or how, they will deliver, the real job, that of delivering, remains to be done.  It is his and their achievements in this respect, that will ultimately determine greatness or failure.

Dr Perron is right.  The big difference between Obama’s campaign and the many that we have seen before in the US and elsewhere is that he had a plan.  I know that most candidates and pretty well every business would say that they have a plan, but all too often they don’t bear close scrutiny.  Dr Perron points out that within the Obama campaign there were clearly defined sub-campaigns each aimed at answering a specific question or issue that had been defined, by a process of exhaustive research and analysis, as hot topics.  He certainly had some awesome brainpower behind him and if for nothing else, this campaign will go down in history as that which made the greatest and most effective use of data and electronic media. 

 The smart thing about these sub-campaigns is that their messages combined to create or support (depending on your viewpoint) an overarching proposition or promise – the main campaign theme, achieving tremendous synergy in the process, simply because they were single-minded and delivered unerringly.  The relative strength of these supporting messages within the overall theme could be adjusted according to place and time, but they were always there. The campaign may have cost billions, but every cent has found a target and been accounted for and that’s what has made it a success.  Even the big bucks were squeezed.  Obama punched above even his weight and that’s half the integrated marketing story.

Any business, of any scale, can do the same .  No, scrub that … EVERY organisation MUST do the same.  There just isn’t a choice any longer.  The good news is that your organisation is probably wasting such a large proportion of its marketing investment that pretty well anything you do to improve your integration, will produce a result.  All you need is a plan.

The other half of integrated marketing is the part that few organisations recognise and even fewer place enough effort behind.  The facts are that most organisations will achieve a disproportionately high return on investment that is diverted from external to internal marketing.  Despite its neglect this is probably the most important element of any campaign because its what ensures that you deliver your promise.  Obama’s and your success will be a product of internal marketing that seamlessly takes the messages of the sub-campaigns and the overall promise inside your organisation, advising and educating your employees and getting them totally behind the promise and totally committed to playing their role in its delivery.  If the new President is as smart as his game-plan so far would suggest, we’ll see a level of consistency across all facets of his office and between every one of his team that hasn’t been seen before.  And that’s what will ensure he delivers.

The guys in your boardroom, just like Obama, can’t physically do everything themselves, so its vital that the doers, those who face customers or electorate, negotiate with suppliers, distributors and partners and those who create the products and services you provide and get them to the people who need them, are all as clear and committed as the directors are to delivering the promise.  Get that right and you too will earn greatness.

Michael Weaver
January 20, 2009

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