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Why Barack Obama is Mobile Marketer of the Year

When Doubting Thomases parrot that tired old line of mobile marketing not being there yet, point but to the new leader of the free world: Barack Obama.

While other channels such as the Internet, email, events, print, telemarketing, outdoor, television, radio, public relations and door-to-door can take credit for propelling Mr. Obama to the American presidency, it is mobile that brought the candidate closer to the people.

This publication has run several articles highlighting Mr. Obama and his team's adept use of mobile marketing to reach out to the grassroots. Please type Obama in the search box to get full coverage of Mr. Obama's presidential campaign or read "A victory for Obama, a victory for mobile."

Team Obama set a stellar example for marketers by packaging their candidate as the change agent and then using the most personal and powerful medium of all -- mobile -- to get that message across.

Mr. Obama's campaign managers, agencies and mobile marketing specialists used a combination of SMS text messaging, mobile Web site, interactive voice response, mobile video and mobile banner ads to reach out to the millions of U.S. voters keen to engage with their candidate through the mobile phone.

Underpinning all of those marketing efforts were two simple mobile platforms: the 62262 (spells OBAMA) common short code and the or mobile Web sites.

While the candidate ultimately signs off on the marketing message and material, credit should go to the mobile marketing firms that made it possible for Mr. Obama to gain that grassroots-level, get-out-the-vote support needed to make him the 44th president of the United States.

Several firms worked with Team Obama on the mobile effort, also styled "Obama for America."

For example, Distributive Networks worked on the SMS effort to great effect, collaborating with SinglePoint for the creation, launch and management of interactive mobile campaigns.

Distributive Networks' text messaging and content management platform powered Obama Mobile.

The company's five goals were to seize control of the mobile channel, build the opt-in list aggressively, develop participant profiles, optimize message frequency and leverage mobile's unique strengths.

The mobile Web site at was built by iLoop Mobile, working wonders to increase Internet access to campaign and candidate information while on the go.

Team Obama worked with mobile ad network Quattro Wireless and its partners ChaCha and Boost Mobile to run geo-targeted mobile ad messages in several states. Quattro ran banner ads on Boost's wireless network as well as SMS ads on ChaCha's answering service.

For its part, CommerceTel offered interactive voice applications for voter-location as well as SMS opt-in and live voter assistance through click-to-call.

Not only was the messaging focused, but even the execution of the mobile marketing effort for this candidate of change was impeccable.

Medium is the message
What did Mr. Obama's mobile marketing handlers understand?

First, that engaging with voters through a mobile device that's on them or near them round-the-clock was paramount. Those who opted-in to messages from Mr. Obama have raised their hands and wanted to engage.

Second, the messages -- be they SMS text or video or interactive voice response or on the mobile Web site -- were focused, simple and inviting. Supporters felt they were connected and that the candidate spoke with them. It was personal.

Third, the messaging came across as authentic. At that point, it isn't marketing -- it's communicating. Mr. Obama wasn't afraid to ask for help through his text messaging.

Fourth, mobile was a strategy, and not a tactic. There was a long-term plan. This approach is what made his campaign a strong contender for the Mobile Marketer of the Year honor from the many entries received and also from this publication's own list of candidates.

Mr. Obama's mobile marketing team was sensitive to the time, place, appeal and device of the target audience. They used mobile as a targeted, mass medium.

Dropping an SMS message to rally attendance when Mr. Obama was in town, asking for get-out-the-vote assistance at the primaries and in the general election, request for donations, announcing Joe Biden's selection as running mate to an estimated 2.9 million opted-in list of eager supporters, a simple thank-you message of "We-did-it-together" on Election Night -- the candidate's campaign was flawless.

Take the thank-you SMS message sent just minutes after Mr. Obama was elected on Nov. 4 night:

"We just made history. All of this happened because you gave your time, talent and passion to this campaign. All of this happened because of you. Barack."

Fifth, the mobile campaign -- both content and imagery -- blended perfectly with Mr. Obama's multichannel efforts. His campaign proved that mobile gives legs to other channels as well.

Sixth, the mobile effort generated ROI -- the sine qua non of any marketing effort.

All the mobile vehicles used, including SMS, generated foot traffic at primaries and rallies, created a sense of community, raised funds for the campaign and eventually influenced the decision made in the ballot box on Election Day.

Finally, the overall mobile effort came across as genuine. Mr. Obama was one of those he was trying to reach: A BlackBerry addict. As Alan H. Meyer once said, "The best ad is a good product."

So the messaging wasn't trying to make up for what was missing in the candidate himself. Mr. Obama wanted change for this country, and he changed the style of campaigning to actively use a tool that was available to most presidential candidates for more than 10 years, at least the SMS option.

Hence, a mobile marketing campaign for Mr. Obama didn't seem like a stretch. He was of the time.

It would only be fitting if Mr. Obama's use of mobile didn't stop at the water's edge. Why not retain 62262 as the short code for the White House?

Cue: Burst into tears â?¦
So it is not with much surprise that Mobile Marketer names Barack Obama as Mobile Marketer of the Year for 2008.

Kudos also to Mr. Obama's campaign managers, ad agencies and particularly to his mobile marketing experts: Distributive Networks, iLoop Mobile, Quattro Wireless, ChaCha, Boost Mobile, CommerceTel and SinglePoint.

If these mobile marketing firms can help an underdog candidate reach out to millions of voters willing to take a risk on an unknown quantity, there is no reason why marketers can't use the channel to launch a new product or service or extend the life of an existing offering.

Mr. Obama is the new occupant of the White House not just because he's shrewd, but because he worked with the smartest tools and smartest people to connect to his target audience with a focused message. Yes, you can -- with mobile.