Friday, January 22, 2010

the mixed signal of bourgeois brand management

WSJ | Summing up what she does for a living, Rogers says she plans events that “promote the Obama presidency” and make sure “the White House asset is reflective of who they [the Obamas] are.” In keeping with her corporate background and her Harvard M.B.A., Rogers uses words like “strategic plan” and “brand” when she describes how a constant string of lunches, parties and concerts can help her mission. “You have to think about it [the social secretary job], in my mind, almost like a business. Otherwise, you never get there. You get caught in linen hell and flower hell, list hell,” Rogers says as she reflects on the first series of high-profile events.

“We have the best brand on earth: the Obama brand,” Rogers says. “Our possibilities are endless.” Like all brands, the Obama brand has a “crown jewel,” she explains, and that crown jewel is the White House. Think of it like Unilever’s Dove, a consumer brand Rogers says she admires. Having started with a simple bar of soap, the utilitarian Dove brand now boasts such grooming products as shampoo, body wash and deodorant. In 2004, its “Campaign for Real Beauty” featuring plus-size and older models generated a flood of publicity, boosted sales and made the brand seem approachable and public-service-oriented. “You basically need to understand what your customers want and need,” Rogers says.

Brand Obama is a marketer’s dream, says Michael Sitrick, chairman of Sitrick and Company, a public-relations firm that specializes in handling sensitive situations and has worked with billionaire Ron Burkle and socialite Paris Hilton. Rogers and the rest of the Obama team have an idyllic American family to work with “straight out of a 1950s sitcom,” Sitrick says. They “really get it from a public-relations perspective.” Not since Jacqueline Kennedy redecorated the White House and used it as a showcase for arts and culture, which helped create the Camelot mystique, has a first family so captured popular fascination, first-lady historian Myra Gutin says. Dale hit the stacks and get's big dap for this one.