Lessons in Brand Management from Barack Obama

Note: This is not a political post, nor is it a political endorsement.

Wednesday morning. Just about twenty-four hours have passed since Barack Obama addressed the nation on the issue of race and his relationship to firebrand pastor, Rev. Jeremiah Wright. If you’re American, you’ve probably heard the speech by now, or at least heard excerpts. Even if you’re not American, given the high profile nature of this political campaign, you’re probably more than aware of the circumstances surrounding the Wright-Obama relationship.

In summary, Wright is the spiritual mentor and long time pastor for Obama, and has been the catalyst for tremendous questions surrounding Obama’s ability to be a uniter, and the life principles that drive his decisions. As the spiritual advisor to Obama, multitudes of sermons denouncing the United States and white people has created significant controversy and question about Obama’s ability to be qualified for Presidential office.

Watching the reactions of pundits, bloggers and listening to radio call ins, it’s apparent that the field is split as to whether Obama knocked the speech out of the park and put aside the concerns of critics, or if he didn’t do enough and that “true bigoted colors” shown through.

Regardless about how you feel about his success, I personally feel like he painted a beautiful picture of how to manage brand. Listening to critics, it’s apparent to me that those who didn’t think he did enough feel that way because they want politicians to play a political game. Obama has to say just the right thing. He has to do just the right thing. And if he doesn’t, he’s not fit to be President.

I’m of the mindset that politics is not what we need in politics. As I’ve said many times before, brand is about authenticity and trust. Relationship is built on authenticity and trust. I’d have more distrust of Obama if he came out and threw his spiritual advisor under the bus, because his spiritual advisor is part of who he is! Whether he threw Wright under the bus in public or not, Wright would still be a significant part of who Obama is! And that cannot be denied or covered by politics. Faking it will always cause distrust.

A difficult part of blogging, particularly professional and corporate blogging, is the balance between what makes sense in terms of transparency and what could ultimately be detrimental to your company or personal brand. The beautiful thing about Twitter is that the flow of real time conversation allows people to put themselves on display. We see folks for who they are, if you’re like me (and I’m guessing most of you are), we like people and trust them more for it. That’s brand. It’s trust. It’s relationship.

At the end of the day, I don’t know how much the Obama speech helped or hurt him in the polls. We’ll have to wait and see. I don’t know if that makes him electable or not. Time will tell. The transparency of a man who is under fire regarding a very sensitive socio-relational issue in America, makes him more electable, in my opinion, than any politically charged and correct speech he might have otherwise made yesterday.

Again, this is not a political endorsement, but it plays well to the things we deal with daily.

Aaron Brazell

Aaron Brazell is a Baltimore, MD-based WordPress developer, a co-founder at WP Engine, WordPress core contributor and author. He wrote the book WordPress Bible and has been publishing on the web since 2000. You can follow him on Twitter, on his personal blog and view his photography at The Aperture Filter.

8 thoughts on “Lessons in Brand Management from Barack Obama

  1. WEll said, Aaron! The consistency of Obama, and his insistence on maintaining the high road, does well for branding. As you point, regardless of one’s politics, or lack thereof, much can be learned from this gentleman.

  2. Great observations. This is my very first blogg entry. I couldn’t have chosen a better one to read.

  3. I wholeheartedly agree – his “realness” is something that I greatly appreciate. This guy shows that on issues that aren’t easy, he maintains his character.

    He isn’t crying tears of sympathy at one moment and yelling at debate correspondents the next. Oops.

  4. Aaron

    Great post :)

    Branding priciples apply to personal branding the same way that they apply to Laundry Detergent. Obama has done a great job of creating clear personal equity and maintaining consistency in communications. As you point out, this has helped him to generate trust with Americans and the perception (who actually knows the reality) of transparency.

    I also love your point about removing the politics – lets focus on the issues.

  5. I was on the fence before, but have been swayed. This speech, or life-lesson, may be viewed in the future as monumental and world-changing, all of the elements are there. I just wish I knew how the speech was created, did this flow from his brain to his hand or was is drafted by his organization, part of the groups politi-speak. If it truely was from his mind and heart alone, then we have something truely amazing happening here, a man with a foot in both worlds with the ability to bring us closer together, the hallmark of a true leader. He reminds me of Frederick Douglas a hundred years ago, another bi-racial man who advised presidents for 50 years, a man who could not become an elected leader for the same reasons that Baracks speech addressed.

  6. another thing,
    You wonder how much the speech will help or hurt him in the polls.
    It seems to me that not many people actually heard it in full, so I don’t think it will effect the polls much, unless the established press actually puts it’s reaction out there in quantity and in a good light. I really haven’t heard that much about it, especially considering the speeches level of enlightenment.

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