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The 2 most important reasons why Barack Obama won Marketer of the Year. And why next year is yours.

Quick. Before you read any further, name the best marketer of the last year.

Nike, right? Or Apple? Or maybe Coors, Budweiser, Miller. Sure. One of those has to be the best.

Nope. Not this year.

According to Ad Age, Barack Obama is the marketer of the year. And Zappo’s came in 3rd, just behind Apple, but ahead of Nike and Coors. How is that possible? How is it a little-known freshman senator and a little-known online retailer – of shoes, no less – beat some of the largest brands in the world at marketing?

Here’s how:

  1. Embrace social networking. Both Obama and Zappos embraced Twitter, talking directly with customers all year long. And the senator’s campaign used loads of social networking tools, from LinkedIn and Facebook to a custom social platform to involve its audience. Even the United States Marines have gotten in on the act these days. And as one quote on Ad Age notes,

    “…I look at [Obama’s campaign] as something that we can all learn from as marketers… to be able to create a social network and do it in a way where it’s created the tools to let people get engaged very easily. It’s very easy for people to participate.”

    Which brings us to #2

  2. Put customers to work. Obama and Zappos have benefited from passionate customers. But lots of companies have passionate customers. Apple and Nike, for example. So how come they didn’t win? Because Nike and Apple demand control. Obama and Zappos gave their customers power to sing the brand’s praises. And got what they wanted. I Heart Zappos – which grew out of the company’s vaunted “…practice of pumping the budget it would spend on advertising into its customer service, leading to strong retention” is as strong a marketing pitch as you’ll hear.

    And Obama provided voters tools to link, share and spread the campaign’s message – something they didn’t do well early on. But they learned from the early missteps.

    Each marketer got its customers do much of the heavy lifting. And got out of the way while they did it.

The result? Both Obama and Zappos managed to find new ways to reach customers. Sure, Obama also used in-game advertising (and his massive spending made for a great joke about him buying ad space on the side of John McCain’s bus). But, none of these tactics are out of reach to small business. Buying targeted media is as simple as opening an account with Google or Yahoo. Social networks are even easier. And taking care of your customers is always in style.

Social networks. Targeted advertising. Word-of-mouth. Simple. Clear. Direct. When you can address customers easily, in the places they are, why wouldn’t you?

Tomorrow, Next week we’re going to take a look at the cheapest, easiest way to begin: blogging. Look forward to seeing you then.

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Tim Peter is the founder and president of Tim Peter & Associates. You can learn more about our company's strategy and digital marketing consulting services here or about Tim here.

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