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Monday, January 19, 2009

Expectations of Obama

The new day everyone has been expecting has finally arrived. Personally, I suspect that even the most ardent Bush/Cheney supporters were, for the most part, ready to see them go. Enough was enough. But now we've got a new guy in the driver's seat. And there's a big branding lesson to be learned.

More than anything else, branding is about setting expectations. Contrary to what most gurus and pundits tell you, you never let the consumer set the expectations of your brand. You set them. That way, you can control what you can and cannot deliver. You control what you can and cannot promise. When you control expectations of your brand, people can't make up their own expectations of you. As a result, more people end up having their expectations of your brand fulfilled.

Of course, when you fail to articulate those expectations, things can go sideways.

Take race, for example. Many people felt that Obama's being half-black would prevent him from winning the presidency. As it turns out, it had no effect and that's a good thing. What's not a good thing is the public's misinterpreting Obama's political victory as the eradication of racism.

If anything, the racial victory here might signal the end of politically correct tokenism, which has plagued this country since the mid-twentieth century. The oddly placed black guy at the all-white country club and the carefully-cast wheelchair-bound athlete in the lifestyle montage are, hopefully, a thing of the past now that an American of African heritage has become the leader of the most powerful, freedom-loving nation on the planet.

Maybe now we can get by all the apologies and start working as the proverbial team. But I'm concerned that expectations have gone awry, there, too.

While Obama's message of inclusion has been generally well-received, the bad news is that it's been largely misread by the public as there's something in it for me, as opposed to none of you is going to escape the pain. And when people's individual expectations of inclusion don't match Obama's, boy are you going to hear about it.

Look, I'm a consultant. I know as well as anyone that when you're hired to fix a situation, the chances of success are pretty good, because there's nowhere else to go but up. But how well you eventually do depends on how good you are, along with how well you've set your clients' expectations so that they can tell how well you've done. Obama and Biden have a huge mess to clean up. I just hope America's expectations are in line with theirs.

Right now, everyone's feeling pretty good. The question is how well everyone feels after they wake up the morning after the Inaugural Ball.

1 Comments:

Blogger Angela Wilson, author said...

"While Obama's message of inclusion has been generally well-received, the bad news is that it's been largely misread by the public as there's something in it for me, as opposed to none of you is going to escape the pain. And when people's individual expectations of inclusion don't match Obama's, boy are you going to hear about it."

I could not agree more with this post. I will never forget the woman who was so excited about his win. She famously said she no longer had to pay her mortgage, her car, her credit cards... Obama would take care of it for her.

Doesn't work that way, but so many people FELT that way. Common sense went out the door while they were caught up in great speechs.

Thanks for this post!

2:38 PM  

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