Americans Offer Advice for President Obama

ObamaNext month, Barack Obama will be sworn in to serve his second term as President of the United States. They say that a president’s first term is often focused on reelection while the second term is really where a president’s legacy is built. With that being said, I thought it might be interesting to take one last look at some of my learnings from the Invoke LIVE session I ran back in November where I asked respondents their feelings and expectations following Obama’s reelection.

To catch up, my last two posts are here – Effect on holiday spending – and here – Effect on 2013.

For this post, I want to focus on a specific open-ended question I asked at the end of the session. I simply asked my respondents if they had any advice for President Obama going forward. And, as we enter into his first year of his second term, I thought this a good time to offer up these suggestions.

Democrats and Independents focus on economy, while Republicans talk about spending

First off, of course there were some different pieces of advice coming from the three parties. Democrats and Independents are very much in synch when it comes to advice for the President. Both parties often focus on the economy and the job market when giving advice. Interestingly, Republicans are less focused on the economy/jobs and more focused on decreased spending, shrinking the deficit and lowering the national debt:

  • “Please, please get our economy rolling and please address “cost of living” expenses.  The average person is just not making enough money to keep up with the increasing cost to just get by.” (Democrat)
  • “Do what it takes to get jobs back into this country.  Tax the companies who outsource so that it is not so profitable for them to take American jobs to foreign countries. Get America working again.” (Independent)
  •  “Pay attention to our needs and do not go deeper in debt.” (Republican)

Listen, Collaborate, Connect

There is one central theme that carries throughout all three parties when offering advice. Democrats, Independents and Republicans all want Obama to listen to, collaborate with and connect with others:

  •  “Obama should listen to the people and make quick and positive change. Do something different.” (Democrat)
  • “Get away from his own agenda and start listening to the people who elected him.” (Independent)
  • Get as much help as much he can from people.” (Republican)
  •  “Focus on working with the Republicans and look for what they actually agree on.” (Democrat)
  •  “You’d better work with the Republicans and reign in spending, cut money from wasteful programs, trim the budget significantly, do away with ‘pet projects’.” (Republican)
  •  “You have to get these 2 sides to COMPROMISE!!” (Independent)

I find this common focus among the parties regarding listening and collaboration very interesting and want to look at some ways Obama can heed this advice – by connecting with the American people and working “across the aisle.”

Connecting with the American people

Of course, as an elected official, it seems obvious that Obama needs to listen to the American people. However, I started to think about this as a market researcher and what this would mean if I saw this same type of response towards a brand I was working with. I think this would signal a big disconnect between a brand and its consumers. And I would probably recommend this brand find ways of strengthening their relationship with their consumers.

I think about how some brands have been improving their relationships with their consumers and I keep coming back to one word – transparency. Transparency is all around us. As individuals, we are constantly letting others in through social media. And as consumers, we have seen brands such as Starbucks and Domino’s capitalize on this trend by offering us a direct line into their processes.

I think Roosevelt was a pioneer letting Americans in on the goings-on in Capitol Hill through his fireside chats. And while it is true Obama does deliver a weekly address on both and YouTube, it’s hardly well-known or publicized. I don’t even think he posts it on his Facebook page. Why not alert more to this address? Why not post it on Facebook? Or even advertise it on TV? Or going further, why not use political adspace for more than just attacks and offer up a 60-second “here’s what’s happening” spot outlining the key issues in his weekly address to keep Americans abreast of political goings-on outside of campaign season?

Working across the aisle

Not a huge shock this came up. Working “across the aisle” with members of both parties was a key issue on both sides during this last Presidential campaign. And it makes sense – true collaboration and innovation involves not only working with those who agree with you, but also working alongside those who challenge you.

Obama has a unique opportunity here. The fiscal cliff discussions have produced some powerful images of Democrats and Republicans sitting across from each other – even smiling at one another – and I think this has shown that both sides can work together when they need to (even if recent stories have pointed to some areas of disagreement.) In this era of partisan politics, more collaboration like this can not only help to build up images on both sides, but maybe it can even help to change the tone of future political discourse from “you’re wrong, I’m right” to “we are all in this together.”

Maybe. Slightly.

Good luck Mr. President,



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