The day of reckoning has finally arrived. Today, the much-lauded Barack Obama brand machine, which has been working around the clock to inspire and influence a global audience, will finally stand up and be counted. And so far, so good, with recent figures from CBS and the New York Times suggesting that 80 per cent of Americans feel positive about the next four years under the former Illinois senator. But while few would cast doubt on Obama’s personal sentiment during his stirring speeches, his success is by no means one solely of his own making.
Like all politicians, Obama has marketed himself to the max and earlier this week uniquely demonstrated the invaluable impact of a relatively new kind of branding. This technique uses music to represent a brand’s core beliefs and values – it’s about finding the sound of the brand. While we are all exposed to music in commercials on a regular basis, Sunday’s We Are One concert held at Washington DC’s Lincoln Memorial, was a first-class demonstration of the importance of music branding on a different scale. The event proved to those in attendance and indeed, the rest of the world, how sound can not only trigger strong emotions but target any number of different groups and simultaneously unite them.
To understand the sound of the brand ‘Obama,’ we need only look to the concert’s line-up. Even the least cynical of the new president’s fans would be hard pressed to dispute that the majority of these music artists had been handpicked to target all corners of US society – with some European inspiration thrown in for good measure.
The festivities kicked off with The Boss himself Bruce Springsteen, king of the rousing anthem and the face of America’s white working class. He led the proceedings with the post-9/11 missive and Grammy Award-winning hit The Rising accompanied by a gospel choir – the perfect tribute to the US’ gospel traditions and spiritualism.
Joining him was Pete Seeger, a veteran folk singer and political activist took to the stage, banjo in hand, proudly singing out This Land Is Your Land – originally a hit for another US folk legend, Woody Guthrie. Meanwhile, Stevie Wonder, the master of soul who appeals to music fans from all backgrounds but none more so than traditional black Americans, thrilled the crowd with a rendition of Higher Ground. Also invited to perform were Usher, will.i.am and Mary J Blige – themselves living out the American dream and inspiring a young black American generation who are today celebrating an occasion their parents and grandparents could once only have dreamt of.
Brand Obama even ensured it moved the hearts of its European market by inviting the legendary Irish band U2 to perform on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial -the same spot where Martin Luther King Jr made is famous ‘I Have a dream’ speech 46 years prior to President Obama’s Inaugural concert. They sang Pride (In The Name Of Love) – a song inspired by Martin Luther King Jr (coincidentally on a national American holiday in his memory); by a group that, through their own music production, have become almost synonymous with justice, humanity and hope. Beyonce’s powerful rendition of America the Beautiful provided a fitting finale to this impeccably branded and highly emotive celebration.
Team Obama’s decision to hold a concert, which brought together voters from every section of American society, represented everything the president stands for. Like the release of a new U2 album, the latest Harry Potter book or the arrival of Sony’s next PlayStation games consol, there are unimaginably high expectations for this new brand, which has changed the face of history before the White House starting pistol has even sounded. Sunday’s event served to capture the sound of the brand Obama, allowing US and indeed world citizens from any number of ethnic backgrounds and beliefs to stand side by side with a common understanding that they were, simultaneously, witnessing the end of an era and a new beginning.
Find out more about music in commercials and discovering the sound of the brand by visiting the SoundLounge website – soundlounge.co.uk