Does the DA get Social Media?

da-logo obama-logo

You may ask “where were you?” when the Democratic Alliance (DA) launched their new logo late in 2008. Well the truth is that I  didn’t notice  it until yesterday. Then I noticed the “One Nation,  One Future” strap line which also reminded me of the Obama campaign, then DA leader Helen Zille appeared on Twitter and I thought there are too many coincidences.

I have shown both logo’s above and I am sure that you will agree that the similarities are too striking to be a coincidence, and if they are didn’t the DA or its designer notice what was happening in USA. Are the Democratic Alliance doing a copy paste of the Obama campaign and using it as their election strategy? Well I don’t know yet, it just seems to me that they may be. If this is what it is about then I think they may have missed the boat. Social media and social media tools are not ends in themselves. They are tools that can be used in marketing and building a brand and propagating an idea.

The biggest misconception that the casual observer may have of the Obama campaign was that it was merely the digital approach that did it. It really wasn’t. It started with a mobilisation of an idea, a belief that was then propagated through many channels to mobilise supporters both online and on the ground. It was the idea that was the most important aspect. The idea that The American nation was not as divided as it seems and that together we can make a difference. We are one nation “yes we can” You may watch the Yes We Can music video here.

I’ll watch the DA election campaign with a great deal of interest. Will the DA use the power of social media and mobile understanding its characteristics, or will it think that by using the technology and the medium that they will duplicate the Obama campaign?

Do they get social media?

Posted on February 17, 2009 at 7:47 am by Walter Pike · Permalink
In: Uncategorized · Tagged with: , , ,
  • LouisJvR

    Walter – first off, no, I don't think they 'get it' totally, but they are getting there and will definitely build on this come 2013 elections.

    It's a big ask to compare the DA's social media approach (well, even any SA organization/company for that matter) to that of the Obama strategy – a strategy which arguably have set the standard in leveraging social technologies.

    Fact is, most local social media “experts/gurus/specialists/strategist (:b) etc” – including me – are still learning and making the mistakes… all in an effort to fine-tune our trade and up the overall standard. This will translate to organization in SA – the DA being no exception.

    Still, I take your point – social media is a set of tool, of which are worthless without the appropriate planning and application.

    Thanks for the good read btw.

  • Anthony

    Hi Walter,
    I'm not sure whether the designers who worked on the DA's new logo drew inspiration from Obama's logo; but certainly, the DA didn't think, “Let's make our logo like Obama's”. In fact, it was only once the logo was signed off and production put in motion that someone pointed out the similarity.

    We're quite aware that Obama succeeded because he had a message that resonated with the American public, not because of the tools he used. However, the tools he used helped him to reach and activate more people. Similarly, the DA has a message that we believe will resonate with many South Africans, and we're using social media tools to help our message to reach more people.

    Having said that, I can think of worse things to be accused of than copying Obama. But it's not about the logo or the use of social media. It's about the fact that he transcended racial divisions and united voters behind his message of hope and change. The DA's mission is unashamedly to do the same thing in South Africa. We hope that the use of social media will help us along the way.

  • Walter Pike


    The Obama campaign was about a movement, it was about being sensitive to a sentiment and simultaneously mobilising people and propagating the idea.

    The point I am making is that you can copy the Obama campaign in every way except that and it wont work in anything like the same way

    A user/voter generated campaign.

    The question is does the DA understand that?

    I do however applaud the fact they have started the journey.

  • Bronwyn

    The Obama campign broke all records when it came to social media, and is the most successful web campaign in history. Political parties from around the world will be using Obama's campaign as a textbook to which to learn from. Yes, political environments and the use of the web differs from country to country, but using social media as another tool to promote your message and campaign is both cost-effective and less time-consuming then ordinary conventional methods of campaigning ie. going door to door.

    I think that the DA does realise that there is an estimated 4.5 million internet users in SA. However, I don't see why they should be criticised for trying to get the attention of those 4.5 million. I actually think it is pretty clever. Last year, internet usage in SA went up 12.5%. It is estimated that internet users will increase by 13 percent in 2009 and as much as 17.5 percent in 2010. Therefore, by the time the next national election comes around, the DA will have established a firm internet presence, and lots of experience in this regard.

    Just a note: The DA have always had a round logo with a sun -even before the internet made a presence here in SA under the DP. So you can't exactly say that a wave underneath is a carbon copy of the obama campaign.

    • Walter Pike

      Thanks for your comment.

      Many people are confused about social media and how it works. You refer to it as a promotions tool. It isn't, I am afraid that's thinking in the traditional advertising and marketing way. Social media is about influence and engagement not promotion.

      Thats what the Obama campaign was so brilliant at, and by the way the Obama campaign mobilised massive door to door.

      I would certainly not criticise the DA for engaging in the digital/online space – your estimate of people with internet access is vastly understated by the way.

      What I do criticise the DA for is engaging in a campaign in a way which they appear not to understand

      It is probable that they will classify this element of the campaign in the same way as you have in your post. If they do then I rest my case.

  • Pingback: DA reaction has me puzzled! | PiKE's Thinking ...()

  • Phillip

    You might be interested in viewing the Obama logo development process and interview with the designs. This page shows you the iterations of the logo and included on the page is a link to the interview with the head designer.

    • Walter Pike

      Thank you Phillip

  • NickHD

    Digital is still not getting the respect it deserves. As with the DA, little 'real' work has gone into the digital aspect of the campaign. More than any other party (though COPE is getting a big following via FaceBook), but still not enough. Their new Obama-esque website shows a further failed attempt. “Get it up, and forget about it” was the mission statement for the DA digital campaign so far as I can tell.

    • NickHD

      What are the DA's mobile digital solutions? With the worlds largest cellphone internet penetration, surely more has gone into it than a few “vote for me” sms'. Am I missing something?

    • LouisJvR

      @NickHD when you say “get it up, and forget about it” – do you have some concrete suggestions how they can improve their efforts?

      • NickHD

        A small dedicated team. Someone replying to twitter messages when applicable. Someone monitoring and evolving their social network presence. Little things like this would go a long way in my opinion.

        • LouisJvR

          Ok, Nick I take your point… but I do think the DA have applied their minds in doing this – case in point their social media guy Anthony Hazell responded to some of the blogosphere's comments here


  • Pingback: Global Voices Online » South Africa: The Democratic Alliance and Politics 2.0()

  • Pingback: South Africa: The Democratic Alliance and Politics 2.0 :: Elites TV()