Innovation. Ideas. Insight.

Barack Obama: DINU Brand

In DINU on April 21, 2008 at 5:51 am

As I think more about this concept of the Deeply Immersive Narrative Universe (DINU), I wondered if this was an idea that worked for things like science fiction stories (Star Wars) or video games (Halo) especially well, but maybe not for the vast majority of brands, properties and franchises. But the more I thought about it, the more I see it across a wide variety of brands.  I think presidential candidate Barack Obama is a great example of a brand that quickly developed a DINU with truly remarkable results.

The development of Obama’s DINU has worked because not only has he been consistent with his message, but his supporters have embellished and built upon the foundation in a way that has meshed incredibly well. But, first, let’s take a look at what was most people’s first exposure to Obama, his speech at the 2004 Democratic Convention:

So he’s established his universe: A dynamic speaker with an odd name who is going to change the way the game is played. He’s piqued your interest because he’s offering something uniquely different. But not so different that you can just dismiss him. So, now, you want to know more about him, dig deeper into this Universe. Just about this time his first book, Dreams of My Father is republished. More of the Universe is revealed, more foundation is set from which to build upon as we learn his backstory.

Fast forward to 2007 and now Barack Obama is running for president. As an anti-establishment candidate, he deftly embraces social media and the power of consumers who not only are sick of politics as usual, but are hungry to produce, not just consume.

First, we see Obama Girl:

Not perfectly on message for the Obama campaign, but it opens the doors. Now, things that were never associated with political campaigns are available. People have license to participate.

The media begins to provide threads to the narrative as well, as Andrew Sullivan pens a defining piece in The Atlantic:




Obama himself continues to build the DINU, as his second book, The Audacity of Hope starts to get traction. More parts of the Universe come into focus, and new territories open for exploration. As the primary season begins and Obama scores a suprising victory in Iowa, the narrative changes. The unknown, no-hoper, suddenly becomes a vessel for the hopes and dreams of many, and we go from Obama Girl to something entirely different:

Wait a second, now we have to reevaluate what we thought about consumer-generated campaign videos. and a host of Hollywood celebrities collaborate to produce a video of a quality that the campaign itself would be proud of, but the fact that it wasn’t created by the Obama campaign fits perfectly in his narrative. This campaign is about his supporters, not about him. Again, new territories are opened for the narrative.  Soon, remarkable campaign posters are created, again not by the campaign, but by artists like Shepard Fairey, the guy behind Obey Giant:










Or clever tweaks like this one:


Obama, Irish? Only in a DINU do people have the permission to do so (note – as some commenters noted, Obama may in fact have Irish blood through his mom. But still, you get the point). Somehow you want to believe that yeah, he is Irish (or Jewish, or Chinese…) because Obama has embraced the concept of consumer generation. Each time he does so, he gives persmission for someone else to build new parts of his DINU. How revolutionary is that for a political candidate? Where are the spin masters and handlers, managing his every word and image? How can they let this happen? Because they have accepted and embraced it as part of his narrative. This is so powerful and a big reason he is in the position that he is in right now. Yes, people bought in to him, but he bought in to them just as much, and in doing so he strengthened and grew his Deeply Immersive Narrative Universe. His story just sounds like a movie doesn’t it?

His speeches, their words and cadence just lend themselves to music. Music and politics have had an interesting history over the last two decades. You’ll recall Bill Clinton used a Fleetwood Mac song to symbolise his younger, hipper campaign when compared to George H. W. Bush. Now, Obama has re-invented the music connection and once again deepened the narrative with his ‘Dirt off your shoulder’ moment, a reference to a Jay-Z song. It took someone about a day to then put together this mash up.

Barack Obama has created a DINU not only delivering a consistent message across a variety of channels, but by laying the foundation for others to build upon it. In that way he is comparable to George Lucas, who built the Star Wars universe that has been so richly developed by others.


  1. Obama’s mother was descended from English immigrants, so it’s not completely unreasonable to believe that he may have a drop or two of Irish blood in him. Of course that doesn’t really disprove your point, and maybe my rationalizing of the idea actually shows that you’re right.

  2. […] Great post on Eyecube on branding and the development of a DINU (deeply immersive narrative universe).  Thought it was a good exercise to imagine how DINU might work for current and future clients.  In a world of constant content creation and sharing this will start to get traction.  Key paragraphs from post below.  The entire post is here. […]

  3. you do know that his mother was irish and both of his maternal grandparents were/are?

  4. Your chronology is messed up. Dreams from My Father was originally published in 1995 (it was re-published in 2004). The Audacity of Hope was published in 2006, not 2007.

  5. Howard – we know he is part Irish.

    “Tiny Irish Village Is Latest Place to Claim Obama as Its Own

    By Mary Jordan
    Washington Post Foreign Service
    Sunday, May 13, 2007; Page A14

    MONEYGALL, Ireland — Here they call him O’Bama.

    Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois, Democratic candidate for president, is the talk of this village because recently unearthed records indicate that he is a son of Moneygall.

    Stephen Neill, a local Anglican rector, said church documents he has found, along with census, immigration and other records tracked down by U.S. genealogists, appear to show that Obama’s great-great-great-grandfather, Fulmuth Kearney, was reared in Moneygall, then left for America in 1850, when he was 19.

    Megan Smolenyak, chief family historian for, an online repository of family history records, said that although no single “smoking gun” document was found, there are about 20 different records that when pieced together make her “absolutely certain” of Obama’s Moneygall roots.

    Kearney sailed to New York aboard the S.S. Marmion at a time when legions of Irish were leaving their famine-stricken island. The shoemaker’s son made a life in America, and his family line eventually produced Ann Durham, who was born in Kansas, according to The Web site has posted some of Obama’s records online.

  6. […] Un billet fascinant et très juste (en anglais) sur la façon innovatrice dont “la marque” Obama fut déployé. Plus qu’une simple campagne électorale. Nous sommes devant un phénomène de marketing parfaitement moulé à l’ère des résaux sociaux et de l’internet. La première campagne vraiment du 21e siècle […]

  7. Dreams from My Father was actually first published in 1995, long before Obama became well-known beyond Illinois. But it became a best-seller when it was reissued in 2004, after his electrifying speech to the Democratic national convention. It was not a “campaign” book, not a recitation of positions on issues and policy proposals, and certainly not “co-authored” by anyone else (like Hillary’s and those of many other politicians seeking higher office), but was a real effort to explain his heritage and his “fit” within American life to himself first of all, and only then to others. His introduction to the reissued book in 2004 tells the story of the book and in some ways brings it up to date.

  8. p.s. A recent article in the Madison County Record of Huntsville, Arkansas, traces the generations of Ann Dunham’s mother’s family in Arkansas, from the time right after the War of 1812 when her ancestor occupied land which was probably awarded to him for his participation in that war up to the time that the family moved to Kansas, where her mother met and married Stanley Dunham.

    The article lists the family names through all the generations and lists present names of families still living in this northwest Arkansas county who are related to Obama through his mother’s family.

    Like all of the eastern mountain regions, the Ozarks was settled largely by Scots-Irish people, and so the Irish connection is not far-fetched, as another reader notes above, although it is to the Protestant Irish, not the Irish of the green of the O’Bama shirt for Saint Patrick’s Day. The shirt (which I am wearing as I write) is a pleasant spontaneous variation on the campaign logo.

  9. Thanks for the corrections everyone, I appreciate your insight. I will edit appropriately.

  10. The Obama DINU is a bit less well, lame, than the Star Wars one. Not a whole lot, but enough!

  11. What a great post– as the cost of music and video production decreases and the ease of use of the Internet increases along with the frustration with the current political system and players, the table was set for such an explosion of personal statements coming together behind a unifying brand and the brand is Obama. I loved the “Yes We Can” video so much, I convinced a friend of my husband’s to learn and record a cover version that I could play on my iPod, just him and guitar that cost him just his time, which yesterday I added to the sidebar of my blog so readers can have it too as a download… just another way to connect. That’s why I found this post so uniquely relevant.

    Little Ms. Purple

  12. nutts

  13. This guy Obama has great ideas about marketing himself: he really takes on board the concept of personal branding and gets the ball rolling from media exposure to green T-shirts! Something to learn here towards grabbing your fifteen minutes of fame! 🙂

  14. […] voor een lezer die nog steeds een antwoord van mij te goed heeft op een vraag over dit thema… MP, hier een analyse van Obama en ‘DINU branding’… Blogged with the Flock Browser Posted in Obama | Leave a […]

  15. Brilliant Post!

    Many of these attributes are parts of his genetic DNA.

    Nature came first, then the marketing!

  16. Obama should have gone into creative marketing instead of politics. Most US citizens see clear through the mask. It won’t work.

  17. I don’t think he’s marketing; I think he’s saying what he believes.

  18. If he’s marketing, what politician isn’t? Obama has to market himself to a public that may not know him personally. I must say, though: this man does nothing by himself. He has a team of professionals and supporters that have groomed him accordingly, and are working to put him in the forefront. The president, while many believe to make every decision in America, is but the face of an entire body made up of people and their lines of thoughts. The “marketing” is a group effort, not some personal task of one individual.

  19. Eric,

    Don’t think of marketing as a negative, it doesn’t have to be. Part of the appeal of Obama’s brand is indeed that he says what he believes.

  20. Absolutely fabulous read. Your unique perspective certainly has a ring of truth to it.

  21. Truly inspiring blog post eyecube!

    I can only hope to produce something as interesting and well written.. How long have you been blogging for??

  22. Jason,

    Thanks for the kind words. While I’ve been involved in PR/Marketing for more than a decade, I started this blog at the beginning of the month.

  23. Hey Rick,

    Wow, that’s not long at all!

    I really digg this whole DINU concept. Did you create it? I’ve never read about it before in any business texts or on any marketing websites.

    I just explored the DINU idea on my blog and think that it’s the perfect way of summing up where the future of branding lies.

    You should write a book on DINU, I bet it would do very well ; )



  24. […] 12, 2008 by Rick I’ve written previously about Barack Obama and how he has created a Deeply Immersive Narrative Universe that has allowed […]

  25. […] 8, 2008 by Rick I’ve written in the past about Senator Barack Obama and how his story is a great example of a brand that has created a […]

  26. Love the black hair guy, obama:)
    -Paris Hilton

  27. The DINU concept is the best explanation I have read of the Obama-phenomenon. Congratulations on a great post.

    BUT: politics is “supposed” to be about issues; the direction we want the country to go in, not about personality and generalities.

    DISCUSS: IS DINU just an updated version what all good politicians do? Did Ronald Reagan do essentially the same thing in his day?

    Or is this a new and profoundly undemocratic trend, where “voters” are now “consumers of meaning”?

  28. Hello!
    Very Interesting post! Thank you for such interesting resource!
    PS: Sorry for my bad english, I’v just started to learn this language 😉
    See you!
    Your, Raiul Baztepo

  29. […] Barack Obama: DINU Brand […]

  30. […] = 'eyecube'; I’ve written in the past about Senator Barack Obama and how his story is a great example of a brand that has created a […]

  31. @masngarso88 1 unfollowed you between 5PM and 6PM. See who:

  32. When someone writes an paragraph he/she maintains the
    image of a user in his/her brain that how a user can know it.
    Thus that’s why this article is great. Thanks!

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