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November 3, 2011

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Branding Obamessiah

Former Chicagoan and communications expert reveals the results of his research claiming Obama was intentionally branded as a messiah figure

Grand Rapids, Michigan, November 16, 2011

He came from humble beginnings and rose to recognition inexplicably and quietly. He gained prominence and fought against the established norm. He came as a savior to the world. He gathered his followers in masses, promising change and redemption. It’s a story we all know . . . but it is not the story of Jesus Christ that is told here—although the similarities are not accidental. This is the story of Barack Obama’s run for the presidency—a calculated and manipulative strategy to portray him as the messiah for the masses.

Chronicled in the new book, Branding Obamessiah: The Rise of an American Idol, by Mark Edward Taylor, this strategy was both brilliant and timely. For a nation looking for something new, Obama presented himself—through clever branding, social marketing, and strategic maneuvers—as the coming of a savior.

Taylor, who holds a PhD in Communications from Northwestern University and a ThM from Dallas Theological Seminary, does not assert that Obama was the first candidate to brand himself as “The One,” or use media to create an image. But through skilled marketing, powerful friends, and not-so-veiled religious undertones, Barack Obama’s campaign for the United States presidency was the epitome of a messianic charge on a public that seemed strangely willing to follow a leader that had no proven leadership. Taylor writes, “Obama’s political persona strategically intersected three worlds that had never before been so artfully combined on the American political scene—politics, advertising, and religion.”

And unlike previous candidates who railed against the “campaign machine,” or simply were treated as complex puppets by a host of political backroom masterminds, Barack Obama played a significant role in developing his persona and the strategy that maneuvered him through the murky waters of Illinois politics to the national stage. Obama and his team actually developed “The Plan”—a timeline of political positions and roles that would guide him to prominence. He learned to stay away from voting on controversial legislation. He befriended whoever would gain him recognition or power or cash flow. He became a chameleon to please the audience in front of him. And, most tellingly, he intentionally invoked religious-sounding speech when it became apparent that the country was looking for an everyman savior.

Taylor asserts that Obama instituted “The Sacred Six”—six elements needed in advertising and branding to make a product memorable and desirable, regardless of its necessity or value. Obama’s team worked hard to create the illusion of a man who possessed all the qualities necessary to brand himself as the inspired leader of the nation—a creation story, sacred words, sacred images, sacred rituals, true believers, and an ideal persona, a messiah. And Americans bought the ad campaign hook, line, and sinker. Obama was “untouchable”—he had no legislative history to really call into evidence, he represented something fresh and new, he had celebrity good looks and a model home life, and he assuaged white guilt while still seeming nonthreatening. He was the perfect package, and he knew it.

Branding Obamessiah reveals a behind the scenes look at the campaign from its beginning. With the new election nearing, Obama will now need to “resurrect” his 2008 messianic branding for a tough re-election campaign–can he do it?

Branding Obamessiah
The Rise of an American Idol
Mark Edward Taylor
Edenridge Press
Hardcover $28.00
Release: November 22, 2011

Coming in paperback (978193753918, $22) and on Kindle/Nook ($9.99)