What Marketers Can Learn About Messaging From Obama

I am a word junkie.  Having spent so much of my career as a copywriter, I am constantly reading and listening, watching to see what words connect with, inspire and cause people to take action.

President Obama is a master.   (Or at least his speechwriters are). 

There were two techniques he used yesterday that every marketer should be using in their brand communication:

  1. He personalized his message to each crowd
  2. He mixed male and female communication style

On Number One –

Obama spoke at 10 different balls.  I only caught about 4 of those addresses, but was struck by how he personalized his communication to each group, using that group's language and communication style, talking about what each group cared about most.

For example – In the Neighborhood Ball, he talked about the importance of neighbors, and community, and his community organizer days. 

In the Commander-In-Chief Ball – his whole demeanor changed as he joked with the troops on satellite, asking "Cubs or White Sox?"  When the Cubs fans spoke out, his off-the cuff comment was "this is terrible."    This joking/regular guy style, I have no doubt, was his way to try to connect with service men and women.

At the Youth Ball, he used language like "old school" when referring to this dancing style, and ended with "thank you guys" – a much more informal ending than some other balls.

The overall theme of responsibility and gratitude was consistent – but he personalized the message for each ball he attended. 

Marketers – take note of this man's power to persuade based on his ability to be consistent in his theme, but his ability to customize the message into each audience's language. 

On Number Two – 

On the campaign trail, I always felt like Obama had more of a female communication style, while Hillary Clinton had more of a male communication style. 

While Obama was using words like "We" and "believe" and had a very "collaborative" more female communication style – Hillary Clinton was pushing credibility and experience and her ability "Lead on day one" – much more of a male communication style.

In the inauguration speech, Obama used both.

Extensive use of the word "we" and "our" "together" and more consensus building words. Female communication style.

I stand here today humbled by the task before us, grateful for the trust you have bestowed, mindful of the sacrifices borne by our ancestors.Female communicatioin style – using words like "humbled" "grateful" "trust."

We will not apologize for our way of life, nor will we waver in its defense, and for those who seek to advance their aims by inducing terror and slaughtering innocents, we say to you now that our spirit is stronger and cannot be broken; you cannot outlast us, and we will defeat you.  – Male communication style– hierarchical using competitive words like "stronger" "outlast" "defeat"

And so to all other peoples and governments who are watching today, from the grandest capitals to the small village where my father was born: know that America is a friend of each nation and every man, woman, and child who seeks a future of peace and dignity.Female communication style– collaboration – non-hierarchical

To those leaders around the globe who seek to sow conflict, or blame their society's ills on the West – know that your people will judge you on what you can build, not what you destroy. To those who cling to power through corruption and deceit and the silencing of dissent, know that you are on the wrong side of history; but that we will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist.  Male communication style– separation from others – right vs. wrong, hierarchy.

Fore more on male vs. female communication style I highly recommend Deborah Tannen's You Just Don't Understand – Women and Men in Conversation.  Seriously – buy the book.  You'll thank me.

You can also check out:

Male Vs. Female Communication Styles

Male Vs. Female Communication Style and Project Management

Gender Based Communication Styles



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One Response to What Marketers Can Learn About Messaging From Obama

  1. AdWomen says:

    As you say, Obama personalized the speech to each crowd and knew very well how to talk to women. He also surrounded himself with women (his wife, his sister, actress…)and gave them a space at the Internet.

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