4 Content Marketing Lessons From The Obama Campaign


What does it take to win an the US Presidential election? You know the deal, a charismatic leader who has a vision for the middle and lower class, rallies support from celebrities and has the ability to identify and embrace ideas that will truly move a country forward….but what goes into the content strategy that will tell this story?

Well, I may be Canadian but I followed the 2012 US Presidential Campaign quite closely. Specifically, for the entertainment but also for the unique approach taken by Team Obama in regards to content marketing. I’ve been obsessed with content from the first time I started a Fantasy Football blog and making enough to pay for my tuition because of it. Luckily for me, I was able to land a job doing what I love after running my own agency so I’ve heard a lot of great advice about what it takes to achieve what I call content excellence.

Here are the five ways team Obama used content during that campaign that ensured he would win the internet and the election:

1. Inspired Campaign & Supporter Content

Content Excellence is achieved when a brand creates and delivers great content but also inspires consumers to do the same. The combination of both parties sharing content with a consistent and clear message allows for the message to reach far beyond the brands actual reach. It allows the power of small networks and communities to also feel a part of the story and empowers them to tell it.

In this case, consumers were supporters of Obama and over the course of the campaign the amount of content they created was unbelievable. Whether it was the distribution of a video that showed Mitt Romney singing Gangnam Style or the creation of various parody tumblr & twitter accounts; the content never stopped. While I don’t have the exact numbers, I’m willing to bet that during this campaign there were more memes developed than any previous election:

Memes - Content Marketing Obama Campaign

Why were memes so popular during this campaign? Two reasons. The first reason is simply the fact that memes have grown beyond the forums and conversations of Reddit and into a mainstream phenomena. The second reason is that Team Obama and Obama himself have continued to embrace memes and reference them when ever they have a chance. Team Obama clearly understands the power of a meme.

2. Embraced Consistent Reactive Storytelling

Reactive Storytelling is the intentional integration of a top of mind story or idea with a compelling marketing message that your audiences finds relevant and compelling. In politics, the utilization of a top of mind story as it relates to your campaign or your opponents is a guarantee to ensure relevance. The key is to ensure that the message you deliver is done in a clever or compelling way.

The amount of sound bites and opportunities to react to your opponents statements are endless during political campaigns. Between the debates, speeches and policy decisions; the number of opportunities to react to key sound bites or unique situations can present a marketing team with an abundance of unique content.

An example of reactive storytelling during the Obama campaign include what followed after the infamous Clint Eastwood speech during the Republican Convention. When Clint Eastwood decided he was going to have a conversation with an invisible Barack Obama who was sitting on a chair next to him – The president responded:

Obama Tweet - Seat's Taken

And in doing so, the internet went wild.  Twitter spokeswoman Rachael Horwitz expressed that @BarackObama’s ‘This seat’s taken’ Tweet was the most RTed of the Republican National Convention. Furthermore, Horwitz said that it was at the time, Obama’s second-most-retweeted message of all time, the top tweet being Obama’s message in May announcing his revised position on gay marriage.

Another great example of reactive storytelling from the Obama campaign team was their ability to develop a video responding to Mitt Romneys plans to cut funding to PBS. The Obama team recognized the connection many people around the country had with PBS and specifically Sesame Street and launched this video:

3. Hosting an “Ask Me Anything” on Reddit

Politicians have asked voters to submit and email questions about their interests for years. This concept is nothing new.

What is new is when you identify a new way of two way conversation with voters and utilize it to engage in meaningful dialogue. The decision to use Reditt and host an AMA (ask me anything) for President Obama was a very smart call. When the word got out and it became a trending topic twitter and the amount of traffic to Reddit crashed the site, the call went from smart to brilliant.

4. Sparked Smart Celebrity Endorsements

There are tons of A-list celebrities who absolutely love Obama. This was one of the key advantages he had over Mitt Romney who also had celebs in his corner but mainly a few odd ducks or old guys with little mainstream relevance.

Back in 2008, Sara Silverman stood out with one of the greatest celebrity endorsements of all time with the Great Schlep. This year she bounced back with videos that were able to pick up right where she left off with nothing but hilarity and awesomeness. Whether it was a response to Donald Trumps claim that Obama should show his Report Card to a video all about giving everyone have a chance to vote, she once again turned heads and captured the attention of media and voters around the country.

It didn’t end with Sara Silverman though. Whether it was Sophia Bush poking fun at Mitt Romney through their Halloween costume:

Or the delivery of a hilarious video from the likes of Chris Rock, College Humour or Samuel L Jackson. The video content created during this campaign was undeniably one of the most entertaining forms of content delivered throughout the campaign.


Many agree that 2008 was the year the USA elected it’s first social media president. The 2012 campaign was simply an evolution of that where he went from focusing on community excellence to focusing on content excellence. The amount of conversations about the campaign and the various forms of content created throughout it was consistent and undeniable.

After watching the campaign closely and monitoring the way the team delivered their content it was obvious that they understood the importance of content in the overarching approach. Many businesses, organizations and even politicians should look at this campaign and understand the importance of content. Content is the foundation of the internet right now so ignoring it is an easy way to find failure.

To Obamas team, I can summarize your efforts in two words. Not Bad.

 For more insights around their campaign check out the following Case Study on Obamas Content Marketing campaign.