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Obama Demographics: Lessons For Our Industry

This past week I finally had time to think about some of the implications of the recent presidential election. The election of Mr. Obama is both a historic milestone and comes at a time when the country is looking for steady leadership during difficult and challenging times. He ran on a policy platform that promised a “change” in our nation’s policies that would address the economic and national security issues that presently beset us.

But it was more than his policies and calm demeanor that swept him into office. President-elect Obama also understood, and embraced, emerging societal changes in ways that his opponent did not. Perhaps there is a lot that we in the consumer electronics industry can learn from his successful campaign.

The Obama candidacy understood and took action to benefit from the shifts in demographics that are making the electorate both more diverse and less traditional. He captivated and harnessed the potential of younger voters through innovative use of technologies that this new generation views as its own. Whether Facebook and MySpace social-network sites, or text messaging and viral videos on YouTube, his use of new technology clearly positioned him as the candidate of choice to a new generation of voters with diverse backgrounds.

According to the Sunday New York Times, the man who will truly be our first Internet president has been addicted to using a BlackBerry for years (although we are told he will no longer be able to use it once he becomes president) and has promised to be the first president to have a laptop on his desk in the Oval Office. His “fireside chats” won’t be just broadcast to radios, but will be retrieved on demand via the Internet. That alone tells us a lot about the sweeping changes in store for how the new administration will be run.

To stay relevant for this rising generation of consumers, and become better able to focus on their needs, our industry must also understand and embrace change. As the Obama campaign did, our industry needs to communicate with these new consumers and, most importantly, listen and learn from them.

My company, Panasonic, has taken a small step in this direction by establishing our Living in HD community. By empowering a diverse collection of households representing the many different demographic slices of the country with high-definition electronics, and challenging them to be as creative and adventurous as they wish, this collection of “families” is teaching us about how our products can improve their lives and how we can improve our products.