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A Valuable Marketing Lesson You Can Learn from President Obama

President Obama - Marketing

President Obama is a brilliant marketer.

Whether or not you agree with his policies, he knows what he’s doing when it comes to marketing and PR. That much is for sure.

Here’s an example: Have you ever noticed that he tends to comment on all of the latest big news stories? Whether it be to discuss his bracket for March Madness or to make a comment about a trending story like Michael Sam being the first openly gay player in the NFL, he’s very adept at inserting himself into the social conversation. Very adept.

If you haven’t noticed this before, you’ll definitely notice now.

This also happens to be a marketing lesson your business can learn. Much like Obama finds ways to insert himself into the social conversation by drafting off the latest news, you too can draft off the latest news story. Here’s how to do it.

Step 1: Pay attention to the latest stories

The first thing to do is to start paying attention to the latest stories. What people and topics seem to come up over and over again.

A few weeks ago the top stories were:

  1. The Ebola virus outbreak in Africa
  2. Lebron James signing with the Cavs
  3. Johnny Manziel starting his first season with the Browns
  4. President Obama and his administration
  5. The conflict in Ukraine
  6. The fighting between Gaza and Israel

Paying attention to headlines like this is what lead to the idea for this article, along with a Medium essay that shared the most read articles per click were about President Obama.

Most Reads Per Click

Based on the President’s overall popularity, the relevance for our readers, and the fact that articles about the President get the most reads per click, we decided to write this article.

Step 2: Consider what stories to comment on

Next, consider which stories you could write about or incorporate into a marketing campaign. Not all of them will be a good fit for your company, for example, so you shouldn’t just comment on something just because it’s popular.

The conflicts in the Ukraine and Israel are good examples. Since those topics are highly polarizing (especially the Israeli/Gaza conflict), it’s better not to comment on them. Actually, as a rule of them, it’s usually best for businesses to avoid political topics.

But that doesn’t mean you can’t find a way to comment on something politically related like President Obama. As long as the way you talk about it isn’t political (like this post, for example), then you should be ok.


In the same way that this article leverages President Obama’s popularity, another article could be written that talks about marketing lessons that can be learned from Johnny Manziel or Lebron James. There’s always a short window for commenting on news stories, but if you write something or create a campaign while one of these stories is still hot, you’ll get a good response.

Another example would be for a non-profit to draft off of the current Ebola virus outbreak. Not that non-profits should take advantage of an outbreak, but since it’s such a big story and is top of mind for most people, an organization that offers treatment for Ebola or medical treatment in Africa could take advantage of the story to raise funds for a good cause with ads like, “Donate today to help treat Ebola victims in Africa.” People will be much more likely to contribute to something like this since it’s trending and something they’re already thinking about.

Why It Works

This technique works for a few reasons.

The first, as has been previously mentioned, is that people pay attention to things they’re already thinking about. If they’re hearing about Lebron James coming back to Ohio every day in the news and then they see a sign for “Celebrate Lebron James coming back to Ohio with a Large two-topping pizza for $9.99,” it will catch their attention.

The second is that the topic is popular for a reason. Why? Because people are interested in it. News sources talk about Johnny Manziel a lot because fans want to know what he’s doing. They’re just plain interested in Johnny Manziel or Lebron James or President Obama. So if a story is big in the news, it’s probably popular because the general population is interested in it.

Thus, if you find a way to draft off of a popular news story, then you’ll find a way leverage something a large percentage of people want to hear more about.

Ways to Identify Trends

There are a few ways to identify trends.

The first one is to pay attention to the news yourself, like we’ve mentioned before.

Another way is to use a tool like Google Trends that identifies which topics are trending at the moment based on Google search results. The chart on the page shows which stories are trending now (as seen below).

Google Trends - Trending Now

You can use Google Trends to identify what’s popular now and what has been popular in order to consider how to draft off of the latest news stories.

Taking Advantage of This Lesson

To take advantage of this lesson, remember to pay attention to President Obama and do what he does by finding ways to insert yourself into the current conversation either with ads that match a popular sentiment or blog posts that capitalize on a current trend.

Do you know of any other good examples or tools or have anything else to add? Leave a comment to let us know.

Photo Credit: BeckyF, Creative Commons


Joe Putnam Headshot
Joe Putnam is the blog editor at iSpionage. You can keep up with him on Twitter at @josephputnam.