Best Practices

What Car Dealers Can Learn from Obama’s Campaign

Consider who Obama was going up against; a Veteran, a Maverick, the old trusty Ford that has been turning it’s wheels for a long time.

To me it resembles the dealer down the road that has been around for over 30 years, sorta doing the same thing over and over. They’re not a bad dealer, maybe family owned, their reputation is average to above but their customer base has slowly dwindled. Their marketing and lack of consistency no longer speaks to today’s consumer.

America has changed over the last 12 months. For the first time in our History we are about to have our first Black President. A true symbol of shift and adjustment across our land.

We have seen a shift in our business as well. This shift has been taking place for some time now. And of course with the economic status, we have seen a deeper change over the last 8-10 months.

As maybe a lesson for dealers (us); Is there anything we can learn from a Presidential Campaign that will mold into the history books.

1. Have a Clear and Simple Message.

Obama’s message was clear and precise. “Change”. He treasured the weakness of his opponent/s and voiced a message [slogan] that resonated with the majority. A simple message for simple Americans, a message that we all wanted to hear.

2. Keep Consistent

Obama was consistent with his message and process. He found his message early and stayed true to it, never letting off. There was no going back to the drawing board in a relentless search for the magic bullet.

3. Brand Yourself (like a rockstar)

Obama’s logo, slogan, understanding of social media and technology were considered flawless. Obama become a brand while also becoming an effective force across America. His brand and persona helped fuel his strategy.

4. Perfect your Marketing Mix

Obama and his campaign team was able to fully leverage every avenue of marketing. From traditional to online marketing, his consistent message was heard abroad. They had a true understanding of Web 2.0 and was able to touch, embrace and engage voters across America using social-media channels.

5. Build Raving Fans

Using the tools of Web 2.0, Obama was able to build a pure fan base across all 50 states. This empowered him to plant and mobilize raving fans in amongst the competition. He harnessed the power of today’s online social word of mouth, recognizing it’s impact of immenseness.

Dig deep into underlying characteristics that has fueled Obamas success. He was able to create a passionate audience by speaking, engaging and listening to the people. He had a process, a message that became apart of his “brand” and image.

What is your dealers message, what is your dealers brand, are you truly engaging with your customers?

I didn’t vote for Obama, but I have a full understanding why so many Americans did and now that he is going to be our President he has my full support (unless he effs it up of course).

Your thoughts..

Founder of DealerRefresh - 20+ Years of dealership Sales, Management, Training, Marketing and Leadership.
  • A
    Andrew Wright
  • November 6, 2008

Great post. I have been thinking about this all week. How did this guy go from being a community organizer to POTUS in 4 years? Everything you said in this post is true. His campaign was flawlessly executed. They had an incredible understanding of web 2.0 and social media. In fact, whoever ran that aspect of his campaign would make billions on Madison Avenue executing these types of campaigns for corporate America. The one thing Obama had that is not being mentioned (and probably should be investigated) is a TON of money. This guy was raising massive amounts of money which enabled him to invest in the people and resources necessary to execute on this front. Regardless, I am trying to learn from it. It was text book execution of web 2.0 advertising in the 21st century.
Chris Hughes has already made his gazillion via Facebook... :)

I guess we had a previous post about micro sites... and President Obama campaign is proof of effectiveness of Micro sites.,, etc...
  • A
    Audrey Knoth
  • November 7, 2008
Something else that dealers could learn from about the Obama campaign is that the brand experience can't end with the close. Around 1 a.m. on Wednesday, November 5, after Obama made his acceptance speech, volunteers working on his campaign received a text message from Obama thanking them for their hard work. Our company prez (we are a PR firm) has worked on many political campaigns and says you never hear from candidates after they win (or lose.) Does it sound eerily familiar ... like customers never hear from their salespeople after the sale?
Some other big (and probably more impacting) factors to Obama's appointment would be mainstream media in the tank for him along with's fund raising.

But your second to last paragraph caught my eye,

"What is your dealers message, what is your dealers brand, are you truly engaging with your customers?"

In my experience this is a big mountain for a lot of dealers and I am stunned at the challenge it presents dealers.

A message of good customer service is not enough for today's market. It's not unique and customers are numb to the promise. Dealers need to dig a bit under the surface to find their true UVP and make BIGGER promises.

This is a key obstacle today.

Another effective use of the things you suggest would be with Pickens Plan which is using Ning as its website and has built a truly "engaged" audience of nearly 1.5 million people in a few short months. Check it out - I follow Pickens b\c I support the cause and also to learn from their Web 2.0 marketing techniques.
  • J
  • November 7, 2008
Web 2/0 showed us the power of this marketing technique. I believe he wants to keep a open channel of communication thru his first term. If this happens and the people feel engaged in his process how effective would that energize a base for a second run. Masterful.
  • I
    Ian Statler
  • November 7, 2008
Jeff, love this post!!! One of your best "best practice" postings, if you ask me. You always pull out some great stuff.
Thanks Ian. It was a late night post. Wasn't sure how it would go over but it was a fun write.
Comparing stats on Obama's site and Mccain's site shows that Obama had double the visits and steady increase throughout the campaign.

Hmmm... guess we don't need to wait till they count Ohio's vote anymore just check the site stats.
Great post Jeff! I actually referenced your article in the Saturday morning sales meeting, it tied in quite nicely with a recent Toyota Signature meeting.

When will Obama be speaking to the DealerRefresh faithful? :)
  • P
  • November 9, 2008
The retail automobile business model has to change. It's a new age in the auto industry and the old school dealer's should have been closed long ago. The umbilical incentive/holdback money cord back to the factory has kept poorly operated dealers in business for way too long. It's time...

Good riddens!

"Analysts have said that U.S. carmakers need to cut U.S. dealerships -- particularly in crowded city markets -- in order to drive more sales through remaining stores and free up funds for advertising and new investment."
  • C
    Chris K
  • November 10, 2008
With a $400 million dollar advertising budget, I am sure "Joe's Car Dealership" could be as famous as "Obama".
  • R
    Rob D
  • November 13, 2008
Dang.....I am tired of that 'mainstream media' stuff. When it comes to politics, the hard core people that complain about that stuff mainly watch the news shows on the cable front, or blogs/sites on the net. That was a failed Republican argument, much like Hannity's swift boat type attacks. It focused on fear, and not on issues. It worked with Kerry, but not Obama, for the reasons you stated in your post.....he captured the new voters with a new political style......they do not agree with the 'Hannity' politics. Whether there is substance to back the marketing effort, we will find out :)

We have to change........if nobody sees that, they will not survive. The old school way has customers dying everyday, and new customers in the mix who would give up their TV in a heartbeat before they would give up their internet. It grows as each day passes. The ship has left the port....the question is if you are already checked-in, or you are going to be swimming hard after the boat.
Great article, Jeff! I don't even sell cars and learned something.
  • A
    Andrew Wright
  • November 24, 2008
<a href="" rel="nofollow">Jose Antonio Vargas</a> breaks down some monumental numbers.

13 million e-mail addresses.

$500 million raised online.

6.5 million donations from 3 million donors with an average donation of $80.

3.2 million Facebook friends (to John McCain's 600,000).

2 million profiles created.

One million participants in Obama's cell phone text messaging program -- this is less than the 6-8 million rumored but still massive.

400,000 volunteer blog posts written. 200,000 volunteer events created. 35,000 local and affinity groups created by supporters.

Three million volunteer phone calls made in the last four days of the election through the website without supporters having to step into a campaign headquarters.

The campaign had a full time chief technology officer in addition to a new media director. They had a full time analytics team whose job was to do nothing else but monitor site data.