Posted by Cognito on Thu, Apr 03 2014

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President Obama, the Hangover dude, and Financial Marketing

Photo for President Obama, the Hangover dude, and Financial Marketing

When the March 31 deadline passed for individuals to sign up for private health coverage through state and federal insurance exchanges, the White House announced victory, citing more than 7 million enrollees and surpassing revised estimates. While there is debate around the validity of that number and what it actually means for the success of the Affordable Care Act, there are valuable lessons the financial industry can draw from the media blitz.

1.     Know your targets & go where they are

Supporters of the Affordable Care Act knew that the initiative required an influx of young and mostly healthy Americans to keep costs in check. The administration deployed an aggressive approach targeting these young individuals.

The highest profile tactic was President Obama’s appearance on Funny or Die’s spoof talk show Between Two Ferns with Zach Galifianakis. The segment, where the President plays along with Galifianakis’ barbs and ultimately directs viewers to visit, quickly went viral with more than 20 million views. It got the media and public talking – and generated attention for Obamacare.

2.     Leverage third party supporters

To further convey his message, President Obama tapped his impressive Rolodex for endorsements. This included basketball superstars LeBron James, Magic Johnson and Alonzo Mourning appearing in ads during March Madness. The campaign also delivered a bit of sentimentality with a #YourMomCares initiative featuring the mothers of Jonah Hill, Alicia Keys, Adam Levine and Jennifer Lopez extolling the necessity of health insurance to keep mothers sleeping well at night.

While even the best financial technology vendor is unlikely to have LeBron James on speed dial, there is still opportunity to leverage the A-listers of one’s own industry. This can include delivering press releases and case studies with referenceable high-profile clients, engaging with influential analysts and other industry thought leaders to offer further color on a topical trend, partnering with influential media outlets on surveys and panel discussions and more.  

3.     Adopt a multi-layered approach

A hallmark of the overarching campaign is a comprehensive integration across various mediums. By leveraging the appropriate paid, earned, owned and social media channels, no one can accuse President Obama and his team of waiting for potential enrollees to come to them.

Well aware that even the U.S. government can’t boil the ocean, the campaign implemented a 25-city “layered” plan, targeting dense populations of the uninsured with media interviews from administration officials and enrollment fairs by outside groups.

The administration smartly refused to put all their eggs in one basket. While many marketing departments would envy the estimated $52 million budget dedicated to paid media alone, we still saw the President saddled up next to one of the stars of the Hangover trilogy, among other places as well.  

4.     Don’t be afraid to take chances

Speaking of the Between Two Ferns appearance, no doubt that it was a risk. The critics came out fast and furiously to debate just how “Presidential” such an appearance was. Saturday Night Live even got in on the action with some interesting ideas on what the president could consider next. That’s the real brilliance though. It was designed to court controversy and it did. The segment garnered media coverage, then the controversy attracted attention, then the piece didn’t take long to go viral, which then earned even more media coverage for its “virality.”

In the end, even the President’s adversaries were drawing attention to the Affordable Care Act deadline. Marketing departments are wise to take notice, be bold and try a new approach when the right idea comes along.  

5.     Humanize the brand

We often encourage clients to attach a face to the brand. Behind companies are the people that run them. President Obama is all-in when it comes to The initiative is commonly referred to as OBAMACARE! If the President can do it, even the most press-averse financial sector CEOs can step outside their comfort zones.

President Obama feels strongly enough in what he’s trying to accomplish that he’s been willing to fully put himself out there. Success or not, promises to be a significant part of his legacy. With that in mind, the president certainly hasn’t taken any chances in risking that the public is unaware.

Many of these concepts are far from new. President Obama’s Between Two Ferns appearance came more than 20 years after presidential hopeful Bill Clinton and his sax delivered “Heartbreak Hotel” on The Arsenio Hall Show, but that’s another post.     


Bill Clinton, Financial Communications, Financial Services, Financial Technology, Hashtags, Marketing, Media Relations, Obama,
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