There are many brand marketing lessons to be learned from the historic election of Barack Obama, which have been covered by multiple marketing reporters and bloggers both pre-and-post election. For the purposes of this post, I’d like to expand the topic from the paradigm shift in the techniques of marketing to the evolution I believe is coming in the content of marketing.
This was not, on the whole, a black vs. white race. Thankfully it was never framed that way, though “the Bradley effect” was occasionally invoked by reporters and pundits worried that the certainty the data revealed wasn’t actually possible. As we all witnessed, the outcome, which crossed traditional demographic lines of age and ethnicity, proved the Obama effect to be far stronger than the Bradley effect. And the cultural ramifications are certain to reach far beyond the presidential election.
In this new reality, where multiculturalism is a source of pride, our President-elect himself a blend of two races, I can’t imagine that the faces of advertising will stay the same. I’m not suggesting that Abercrombie & Fitch is suddenly going to bust out with a self-conscious United Colors of Benetton style campaign where every ethnicity is carefully inserted to show a perfectly rainbowed coalition of eerily beautiful teenagers all on the verge of engaging in some hypersexualixed collegiate orgy (at least I hope they don’t). But the lines of what constitutes the look and behaviors of standard ethnicities will certainly become more blurred. The kind of cultural costuming that puts forth gangsta-lite hip-hop culture represented on one end of the scale with clean cut preppies sporting half buttoned jeans on the other, and very few digressions in between, simply won’t continue to resonate.
Additionally, look for brands to delve into social consciousness on a level that goes beyond pink packaging in October or simply swiping a credit card for a cause. As marketers are putting together their cause-marketing plans they’ll need to evolve their messages and platforms to speak to an audience who has seen first-hand the power of investing their time, energy and service to create real results.
For instance, The Members Project, pioneered by American Express, where consumers suggest and vote on where the credit card issuer will distribute millions in funding (this year it totaled $4.9mm) could evolve that strategy to include service days in cities around the world where people can contribute in a hands-on way to further support the dollars Amex donates, connecting their members face-to-face and increasing their impact exponentially. Those who participated in various initiatives could custom design their card with images from their project, making Amex the credit card services company where service, in all its forms, is a true differentiator.