Obama for President Wasn’t a Campaign, It Was a Business

The political blogosphere is buzzing about Obama campaign manager David Plouffe’s interview. Soren Dayton argues the lessons of the Obama campaign were “budgeting, technology, field, and media,” while Patrick Ruffini finds that the important lesson is that “Obama ran a better kind of offline campaign.” Although it is quite true that these are some critical lessons, as a business nerd and student at Carnegie Mellon’s Tepper School of Business, I think there’s a massive lesson that pundits are missing: Obama for President wasn’t run like a traditional campaign, but instead like a huge corporation. I don’t believe that any campaign on this level was ever able to accomplish this with nearly the same success as Plouffe and company.

Plouffe makes this unmistakenably clear throughout his interview:

There are business analogies. One is, we’re a startup, we had to go from zero to 60 in a matter of weeks. Our company, if we were successful, would only last two years at the most. … We had over 5,000 employees… And we were an organization about accountability. Down to the entry-level staffer, we measured their job performance based on metrics.

What specific trends that the most successful modern corporations employ were echoed by the Obama campaign?

  1. “Know your customer.” I’ve probably heard this from my entrepreneurship advisor a thousand times now, but only because it is perhaps the single most important phrase in business. Obama’s campaign really knew its customers – just look at the way it outreached to young voters.
  2. A consistent message and high-impact branding. These two go hand in hand. Take Apple, a highly successful company even despite the recession, for example: they have a simple but highly memorable logo, effective messaging (i.e. “Get a Mac” ads), and a well-designed and innovative website. Barack Obama’s branding and messaging was as good as any corporation.
  3. Job performance measurement and personal accountability. Think quarterly or annual reviews at your place of work. As quoted earlier, Plouffe confirms the importance of this in the Obama campaign: “Down to the entry-level staffer, we measured their job performance based on metrics.”
  4. Fiscal accountability. Successful corporations have very specific budgets, and virtually all spending is highly scrutinized. Plouffe notes that, “People on the campaign could not make more than a certain amount—$12,000 a month… If you were a deputy you got paid X, if you were an assistant, you got paid Y… From a fiscal management standpoint, Obama was very clear that he did not want to end up with a debt in the primary or the general, so we just planned accordingly. We didn’t spend beyond our means.” (emphasis added)
  5. A willingness to take significant financial risks and depart with the norm to be on the cutting-edge. This sentiment was echoed by the Obama campaign at many levels. Team Obama got the idea of peer production, which is quickly becoming the premiere business model of leading corporations like IBM, Boeing, BMW, and Goldcorp. In addition, as Patrick and Soren point out, Obama invested the campaign’s resources in a very unique way – remember the advertisements the campaign ran on an Xbox 360 racing game?
  6. A corporate infrastructure. Since when does a political campaign have both a Chief Technology Officer (CTO) and a new media director – let alone a Chief [Anything] Officer?

In business, constant innovation is crucial. Fall behind and your competitors will likely crush you. Find a decisive edge and you stand to profit immensely. Plouffe’s comments and the results of the election demonstrate that business and politics are actually two very similar animals.

Crossposted at NextGenGOP.

5
Your rating: None Average: 5 (1 vote)

Comments

Selling gimmicks over leadership

Once again, another Karl Rove wannabe is selling the idea that election time gimmicks and the proper election strategy can make up for the failure of Repubicans to actually be conservative and to actually lead while in office.

Obama's victory has more to due with the incomptence and stupdity of the Bush ADministration and that McCain has unfit to be president.  Of course, an election running against a brain dead Republican Party will look like geniuses.  But the Demorats would have won even with a poorly run campaign and without the election gimmicks.

When you have a good product to sell, the marketing people will always look like geniuses. 

Until the Republicans develop the ability to delivery a competent product, no amount of campaign gimmicks will help them win.

Hi... that was great stuff..

Hi... that was great stuff.. I really like reading on this subject. Could you tell me more on that... I love to explore

Business Discounts

I don't have any words to appreciate this post

I don't have any words to appreciate this post.....I am really impressed ....the person who created this post surely knew the subject well..thanks for sharing this with us.

Affirmations

You should express appreciation to MSNBCabcCBSnbc etc..

After all,  A Business needs advertisers that express wonderful opinions of the Product that the MEDIA is marketing for the Business. 

FOX doesn't fit the "o" Business Model.   Thank God for BIG audiences watching FOX.

Change

What do the American people want? Change. What was Obama's theme in the primaries, when he was the underdog by miles? Change. What was his theme in the general election? Change. In the minds of the electorate, what does he represent? Change.

That is very good campaigning.

Organization was required

Any large operation, and running for a national office IS a large operation, requires organization and planning.  And yes - the Obama campaign did have organization and planning.  So, you imply that there was something nefarious with the Obama campaign structure because it (gasp) was organized, benefited from planning, and worked?

Given the results of the past 7+ years, where organization was questionable, planning non-existent, and outright failure, I suppose anybody who still believes Bush&Co were anything but good for the country might find that threatening.

something nefarious

I don't think anything nefarious was implied. On the contrary, this is about learning from and adopting the effective ideas from the Obama campaign structure.

Thanks catach

catach, I don't even need to say anything else - your explanation perfectly sums up the purpose of my blog post.  Thanks.

Obama did not have any real ideas

The only thing that can be learned from the Obama Administraiton is that after eight years of an incompetent, stupid, and bad administraiton that many people will work very hard to vote it and everything associate with it out of office.  It is easy to have volunteers and raise money when so many people are upset at the incumbent and the other candidate looks even more incomptent that the incumbent.

If you want to use performance as a basis for staying in politics, then everyone who ever worked in the Bush Adminstration needs to be out of politics forever,  Everyone who worked on the McCain campaign should never work in politics again.

Until the Republicans get rid of everyone who thought a $5 trilliondollar deficit, open borders, and the Department of Homeland security were good ideas, there is no hope for conservative poltics in the U.S.

I am little curious to know

I am little curious to know more about it......

Business Opportunities UK

While better ideas would be useful...

this sort of analysis does help hugely.  Basically, Obama ran his campaign like a well-managed, youth-targeted Silicon Valley company.  Which isn't surprising - he had a lot of Silicon Valley types on his staff.

The sad thing is that Silicon Valley was once very Republican-friendly territory, but Valley types are allergic to social-cons and churchy politics (they're as likely as not to be atheists, Hindus or Muslims as any flavor of Christian) so they've shifted to the Dems.  Here is where you can especially see how walking away from libertarian-minded, socially liberal, fiscally conservative voters has hurt the Republican brand.*

*I don't say "we've" since I'm one of the rare holdouts in the Valley who doesn't worship His Obamaness.  While I'm no social-con, I'm not quite as scared or put off by them as most Valley types.

BC04 was just as good and won in a much tougher environment.

Leave message alone and just objectively look at the business structure of a campaign. BC04 as good if not better than OB08. First President to EVER be re-elected when right track/wrong track was upside down. Outspent by at least 100 million and a war going on.

Obama's primary campaign was well done and took smart risks to innovate. His post primary campaign won in an enviroment that was...well, it would have taken a complete idiot to blow that.

Chris Faulkner

Good Points

Chris,

You raise an excellent point.  BC04 was a phenomenal campaign, and without a question it won in a tougher environment.  But as for the points I identified in my post, Bush-Cheney certainly did not have the branding or message of Obama, nor did it innovate in the way that Obama did.

BC04 was an extremely well-run campaign, but Obama for President was an exceptional business.  That's the difference.

Thanks for commething.

- Aaron

Well, his campaign was quite

Well, his campaign was quite interesting and technical

Distance Learning Courses | Life Experience Diploma 

Outspent by at least 100

Outspent by at least 100 million and a war going on. It is easy to have volunteers and raise money when so many people are upset at the incumbent and the other candidate looks even more incomptent that the incumbent.

accredited online engineering degree | accredited online degree 

Obama's victory has more to

Obama's victory has more to due with the incomptence and stupdity of the Bush ADministration and that McCain has unfit to be president.  Of course, an election running against a brain dead Republican Party will look like geniuses.  But the Demorats would have won even with a poorly run campaign and without the election gimmicks.

 

 

classified ads |job listings |adjustable beds

I see a few very good issues

I see a few very good issues raised here. Usually, I'm not awfully keen on blogs. but, at times all of us have to take notice. Worthy of note, for which I thank you.

Pest Control Fairfax

"The Politics of Information"

"The Politics of Information" is an essay collection in five parts covering a broad panoply of discourses, practices, and institutional change that can be garnered under the rubric of "materialist informatics." The editors, Marc Bousquet and Katherine Wills, have brought together a strong and authoritative collection of essays in the context of this synthesizing, yet at the same time diversifying concept. Recalling that Donna Haraway's cyborg was never meant to be a wired, blissed-out bunny, Bousquet and Wills recover the political dimension in socialist-feminist thought. "The Politics of Information" brings class back into cultural studies, considers the Web as crucial to the expanding "informatics of domination," and recovers the cyborg as a key figure for an entire world of labor and lifeways.

California Lawsuit

Interesting post that got me

Interesting post that got me thinking. I really like reading on this subject...

Trade Show Displays | Green Trade Shows Displays