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Marketing Lessons from Obama’s Re-Election Campaign


Jim Messina, a speaker at the marcus evans CMO Summit 2013, on what President Obama’s re-election campaign can teach Chief Marketing Officers.

Interview with: Jim Messina, White House Deputy Chief of Staff for Operations, 2012 Campaign Manager for President Obama


President Obama’s re-election campaign has valuable lessons for Chief Marketing Officers (CMOs) of consumer-facing companies, says Jim Messina, White House Deputy Chief of Staff for Operations, 2012 Campaign Manager for President Obama.

Obama’s 2012 political campaign was unprecedented on many different levels, as it revolutionised the way technology was used. Its two-pronged focus on data and digital marketing made success possible, Messina adds.

Messina is a speaker at the marcus evans CMO Summit 2013 in the Gold Coast, Queensland, Australia, 12 - 14 August.

How did you approach digital marketing in President Obama’s re-election campaign? Why and how was the campaign a success?

When we started the campaign, we decided to completely revolutionise the way technology had previously been used in a political campaign. In the four years since his first campaign, Facebook had expanded, Twitter had become a predominant form of communication and the effectiveness of TV ads had significantly diminished.

We wanted technology to do a very simple, yet almost impossible thing - to develop a personal connection with every voter. We married digital marketing with an unprecedented focus on data to target individual voters, and it was very successful. We broke support and voter turnout records.

How did you merge politics and technology? What advice or lessons could you share with CMOs?

One thing we learned is that the validation of people’s friends and family is very important, so one of our ambitious goals was to use President Obama’s supporters as ambassadors to their family, friends and neighbours. The digital world allowed us to do that. We built an innovative programme where supporters’ Facebook contacts were matched with our data. We shared information on which of their contacts were supporting the President and with one click they were able to reach out to their friends. In the last 96 hours of the campaign, 6.6 million people reached out to their friends, and 70-80 per cent of those ended up supporting the President.

These technologies have consumer applications too. Companies want more information on their target audience and how best to reach out to them.

What changes should CMOs embrace?

Young consumers are changing their habits almost yearly. Five years ago it was Facebook, then Twitter and now Instagram. They communicate via text more than by email. Many more people own smart phones today, so even though it is harder to programme content for them, marketers must meet people where they are.

Companies have to figure out the behaviour patterns of their target audience, and how to have relevant discussions with people. They should be platform neutral, talking to folks on multiple social media sites. We had departments dealing with each website individually.

What about the actual message that is communicated? What is effective?

Messages have to be very targeted and easy to understand, but the single most important thing is genuineness. Typical political spin does not work. People can sniff them out. Everyone is also busier today, so will see a lot less of these messages. Marketers must narrowcast directly to customers.

Any final words of advice?

Do not confuse tactics with the overall strategy. Use data to find your market and use the tools you have in front of you more efficiently. Understand your message and have people understand it in a very clear and definable way. People have so many other choices today.

Contact: Sarin Kouyoumdjian-Gurunlian, Press Manager, marcus evans, Summits Division

Tel: + 357 22 849 313

About the CMO Summit 2013

This unique forum will take place at the RACV Royal Pines Resort, Gold Coast, Queensland, Australia, 12 - 14 August 2013. Offering much more than any conference, exhibition or trade show, this exclusive meeting will bring together esteemed marketing professionals and solution providers to a highly focused and interactive networking event. The Summit includes presentations on mastering the art of communication, inspecting data and usage patterns, navigating social media channels, and scouting for top talent.

For more information please send an email to or visit the event website at

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The Marketing Network – marcus evans Summits group delivers peer-to-peer information on strategic matters, professional trends and breakthrough innovations.




Please note that the Summit is a closed business event and the number of participants strictly limited.

About marcus evans Summits

marcus evans Summits are high level business forums for the world’s leading decision-makers to meet, learn and discuss strategies and solutions. Held at exclusive locations around the world, these events provide attendees with a unique opportunity to individually tailor their schedules of keynote presentations, case studies, roundtables and one-to-one business meetings. For more information, please visit

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