How Can Obama and Romney Use Ringtones to Get Elected President in 2012?

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Filed under: Inspiration

How Can Obama and Romney Use Ringtones to Get Elected President in 2012?



There’s been a lot of excitement surrounding the use of mobile marketing in the upcoming 2012 presidential election. Apparently Obama did it really well in 2008, when he, like, totally sent a bunch text messages to people.


The new frontiers in political mobile marketing are geo-targeted mobile ads, mobile video, and mobile ecommerce. (If you think I’m missing any, please tell me in the comments.) Each of these tools has specific benefits: Geo-targeting allows for the delivery of highly relevant messaging, mobile video is great for engagement, and mobile ecommerce can facilitate extra fundraising through merchandise and donations. All of these functions have the potential to go a long way in supporting the efforts of the 2012 presidential candidates.

But as a copywriter, I’m interested in the big idea that these new technologies can leverage. So far, I haven’t seen any from the Obama or Romney camps.

It could be that, rather than stepping back to look at the larger picture, many marketers are investing time and money into the newest platforms, simply for the sake of being on the cutting-edge.

Ringtone Deaf

Remember how awesome it used to be to reveal a new ringtone every once in a while, just to get a reaction out of your friends, or complete strangers? Maybe you don’t have to, because you still do it. Ringtones might be annoying in a lot of contexts—the Senate floor, concerts, places of worship—but they do say something about who we are.

For example, the other day I was at the grocery store when I heard a Super Mario Bros. power-up sound emit from somewhere down the cereal aisle. It was an employee’s phone. Right then I knew that he was into classic video games in a big way.

If that scene had taken place ten years ago, Grocery Store Guy would have received a phone call, and his ringtone might have been the Super Mario Bros. underground theme. But he received a text, which is why a short burst of sound is all he needs.

There is no doubt that texting is getting more important. Its rise in popularity has beaten out phone calls for many people, especially younger ones. For them, the difference between a ringtone five to ten years ago and one today is its purpose. It used to be for phone calls; now it’s for texts.

There must be a way to leverage these text message ringtones, or text tones.

Right now, Obama’s pretty darn good Al Green impression is the only ringtone that’s available on the Obama 2012 campaign site. They give it away for free, and for good reason: The delirious cheers from the audience are louder than his voice. This clip makes for a terrible ringtone, whether for a text or call.

Romney has no ringtones on his site. Actually, from a search perspective, he has worse than nothing—negative search results. For the query “Romney ringtone,” the only links that pop up are news stories about a ringtone that Rick Perry made to criticize Romney during the Republican primary. The ringtone is a recording of Mitt Romney saying, “I like being able to fire people.” I’m only taking the Washington Post’s word for it, however, because the Perry page that once hosted the download has been disabled.

Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is

Imagine this: You’re standing in the check-out line at the grocery store. While gazing at the tabloids and wondering if you should toss something sweet in your cart (Dark chocolate’s good for you, right?), you hear a familiar message that sounds strangely out of place: I’m Barack Obama, and I approve this message.

“What the heck was that?” you wonder. You see a woman behind you in line pull out her phone. Slowly, it all comes together. Barack Obama just approved that lady’s text message.

This campaign could do two things: spread awareness and drive revenue.


  • Anyone within ten feet of one of these ringtones is going to hear it. People who hear it will likely talk about it and possibly get one for themselves—maybe for the opposing campaign (if available), but who cares? The one that does it first will have the advantage.


  • Mobile ecommerce platforms could make purchasing and downloading the ringtone seamless. For most Obama or Romney supporters who own a smart phone, 99 cents would be a small price to pay to show their support and give a small donation.

The other new tools of SMS marketing could be used, too. To help the campaign attract early momentum, geo-targeted texts could give away the ringtone for free. A mobile video could be distributed featuring Obama or Romney explaining that they approve the messages of all Americans. They believe in free speech, want every voice to be heard, yada yada yada, now download this ringtone.

Obama text tones and Romney text tones could be this election’s new political yard signs or bumper stickers. It’d be all-out partisanship in the streets, shopping malls, our workplaces, and dinner tables.

Maybe this isn’t such a great idea after all…

– James