A Marketing Lesson From Washington: How Obama Captured the Young Invincibles

In the spirit of presidential debates, I wanted to present a little throwback here.

While it is unequivocally important, health care is not a sexy subject — a fact the Obama administration shrewdly took to heart during its nationwide campaign for Obamacare.

Getting the middle aged and elderly to talk about health care is always as easy as pie, but when it comes to sweatpant-sporting college students, the conversation is a little harder to spark. The health insurance industry labeled these 18 to 30 year olds as the “young invincibles” bracket. This is the demographic that refrains from signing up for health insurance guided by the risky assumption that, being young, they probably “won’t get sick”.

To the surprise of many however, when the deadline for Obamacare rolled around, statistics showed that 28% of those who had signed up for coverage belonged to that evasive category of young invincibles. In other words, the Obama team somehow had managed to infiltrate the stubborn youth of America and convince them to go online (or rather try a website other than Facebook) and sign up for a health care plan.

Capturing the attention of young invincibles in America was no doubt the result of a great variety of tactics and orchestration. But if we look at things from a marketing perspective, Obama’s viral video marketing endeavors were the brilliant cherry atop his health care campaign cake.

Indeed, businesses can learn a thing or two from the US president. Foremost among them, that in order to reach an audience, you have to talk to them in a language that they will understand.

By producing BuzzFeed videos and making humorous appearances on the late Colbert Report, Obama gave the youth of America a presentation they could appreciate via a medium they love. Considering this and judging from the stats collected, his efforts certainly achieved their desired ends.

“Remember the original healthcare.gov website?” reads a grim-faced Obama off Colbert’s teleprompter, “I think that’s where Disney got the idea for Frozen”. Making fun at the very health care plan he was promoting, Obama infused all of his video appearances with a dash of humor that kept his audience engaged, whilst giving them relevant information about a topic they would otherwise ignore.

This tactful balance between information and entertainment was also demonstrated in Obama’s BuzzFeed video. In a short clip the president is shown doing average-joe-things like taking selfies and and eating milk with cookies. At first glance, the message of the video seems to be that Obama is just like you and me, but really it’s a push for Obamacare as the president casually happens to mention key information while making faces in a dirty mirror.

There’s no question that the majority of views for this BuzzFeed video came from tech-savvy twenty-somethings who shared it with their social networks. Perfectly gaging the tone and temperature of the online community is something that the Obama team deserves major props for. They were able to really understand the young invincibles demographic, and speak to them in an effective, humorous and charming manner.

So if you’re a business owner looking to develop and utilize an online presence, go back and study the Obama health care approach, taking note of the subtleties with which the president promoted his game plan, then identify your own audience and appeal to them with words and tact that they’ll happily relate to. I personally have benefited a lot from studying it during designing plans and strategies for campaigns of our clients at iNexxus!