How the 2008 and 2012 Presidential Campaigns Changed the Name of the Game

By: Kendra Van Pelt

Maybe you noticed the State of the Union address on Youtube this year. Or the fact that Barack Obama, the United States of America President, has a Twitter account. Wait a second – the highest ranking official, one of the most safely guarded individuals on the planet, the Commander in Chief, has a twitter account?! In the 2008 and 2012, Barack Obama changed the name of the game with his social media marketing campaign. As John F. Kennedy was the first president to use a television to broadcast, Obama was the first to use the Internet to its full potential. “Were it not for the Internet, Barack Obama would not be president. Were it not for the Internet, Barack Obama would not have been the nominee,” said Arianna Huffington, editor in chief of The Huffington Post.

The Presidential Election pulls in billions of dollars spent on advertisements across all media – $6 billion to be exact, during the 2012 campaign. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, it was the most expensive campaign race in history, shattering previous records. “Big Data” and “Social Data” will play a HUGE role in the upcoming 2016 Presidential Elections. 2008 saw the first steps into the newest, and now largest, marketing platform. Social media sites like Facebook and Twitter were two of the fastest growing companies at the time; while they catered to everyone, a younger generation was swarming them. And Barack Obama’s marketing team used that to their advantage like no competitor before them – targeting the young generation that were some of the primary users of Facebook and Twitter at the time. The 2012 campaign focused on numbers; campaigners were able to collect data like never before. Public opinion polls on each candidate. Digital behavioral tracking – noticed when you visited a Presidential candidates’s website once and all of the sudden, that candidate’s face followed you along the rest of your internet trail? That’s digital behavioral tracking. In 2016 digital behavior tracking is expected to become a hybrid of both social media and big data that will be sweeping the platforms.

Even now, after the presidential campaign is over and President Obama has a very secure seat, he is still changing the landscape of how future presidents will be expected to interact with their citizens. His staff manages very active Facebook, Instagram and Twitter accounts (although his Twitter account is actually managed by Organizing for Action, a non-profit that pushes the President’s agenda). The President has made appearances on Jimmy Fallon and Jimmy Kimmel – in his latest appearance, the President read “mean tweets” about himself. He’s been enlisting Youtube celebrities to promote his agenda and has proven he’s a sports nut by appearing on ESPN for the last few years to publicly explain his picks for Basketball’s March Madness. President Obama is integrating into public life like no president has done before.

And the need for aggressive and innovative marketing strategies has been seen. Obama’s Presidential Campaign and Presidency changed the politic landscape so much in regard to marketing and interaction with the public, future Presidential campaigners will not be able to go in any direction but forward. Hillary Clinton, one of the Democrat’s most prominent candidates, has recruited consumer marketing specialists to her team of political advisors. As she readies her second presidential campaign, their job is “to help imagine Hillary 5.0 — the rebranding of a first lady turned senator turned failed presidential candidate turned secretary of state turned likely 2016 Democratic presidential nominee”. The Coca-Coca Co. North American Marketing Chief Wendy Clark is one of the consumer specialists poised to join the Hillary 5.0 team. Clinton’s campaign will be just one example of how Presidential candidates are looking differently at the campaign plain in the coming year.

The outcome of the 2016 Presidential Elections will be decidedly dependent on each candidate’s marketing team. Aggressive techniques and innovative marketing strategies will make or break a campaign. The landscape of politics changed in 2008 and 2012 elections; the question that lies ahead is where will it go from there?


2 thoughts on “How the 2008 and 2012 Presidential Campaigns Changed the Name of the Game

  1. Chris Lantagne March 17, 2015 / 4:03 pm

    I think you would certainly see this continue in future elections. I feel like this is more of just changing with the times rather than Obama adopting an all-new way of reaching potential voters. Millennials are coming of age and really the only way to reach these people is using social media. I think in 2008 you saw McCain fail because he didn’t see this technological change as quickly as Obama did. Any candidate in the future would consider social media the “norm” now when it comes to reaching potential voters. Lastly, McCain is a total different generation than Obama (Silent Generation vs. Baby Boomer). As time passes, Presidents are going to be more “with it” when it comes to technology and new methods are going to arrive.


  2. McGee Hines April 26, 2015 / 8:58 pm

    To be in this rising technological generation it is incredible to see how each part of society slowly begins to incorporate themselves into the top social media platforms as well. It was a only a matter of time until such government officials and public political matters hit the tweeting, messaging, posting world. Now that this barrier has been broken with the 2012 Presidential campaign, it will be interesting to see just how much it will continue to prosper in the coming year. A lot will go into this to determine how much it really does effect the candidates, how it effects typical media coverage, and how social media users respond to this new user base coming in.


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