BOTH IN THE US and South Africa, a generation that has grown up immersed in mobile phones, the internet, social media and other digital technologies had given up on politics.
More aware of the truth due to increased engagement with information, this generation had lost trust and interest in politics, viewing it as corrupt, and ridden with false promises and hidden truths. The same can be said about advertising and marketing.
Barack Obama realised that if he was going to have a realistic chance of becoming president, he was going to have to address this situation and find a way to mobilise this 'lost' generation.
He implemented a completely new way of campaigning, marketing, mobilising, branding, and engaging. He succeeded in using digital marketing and media to its greatest potential. He used mobile phone and e-mail for dialogue with millions of opt-in subscribers. Free ring tones and applications were developed. By cutting down spam and building up a large list of opt-in subscribers, a successful link of engagement was set up with the people.
He proved the powers of social media by strategically incorporating points of contact with his groups on Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, YouTube and even succeeded in sponsoring the billboards and music in a virtual Xbox racing game.
On YouTube a number of celebrities recorded a music video on Obama, which was disseminated on YouTube, Facebook and across the internet-drawing views by millions of people. His Facebook and MySpace pages alone drew tens of millions of fans.
He implemented a method of fund-raising based on the micro financing principle. Using his direct link to followers, he requested small increments of donations, which resulted in over four million donors helping fund what is called the largest amount ever raised by a political candidate. The results speak for themselves.
The recent US election and the future of South African politics have many lessons and revelations. Firstly, it is important to realise the presence of change when it is clearly arriving and where it can potentially take us. Secondly, digital media is here to stay, and its welcome has been clearly heard.
About the author: Benon Czornij is technical director and founder of HelloComputer
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