We did it, Mr. President!
One flew behind the scenes of a political campaign that changed the rules of the game or how to design a president in less than 4 months.
As Barack Obama once said,
“Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. We are the change that we seek”.
Of course, there are many different kinds of change, good or bad, big or small, there are personal changes and huge social u-turns. Changing a president means changing history. Changing a president that challenges history means more than words can say. However, we are going to try and find the right ones and give you a glimpse behind the scenes of the most epic Romanian presidential campaign to date.
It always starts with a challenge. Or we just don’t do it. Only this time, it was a very big one. Argo was asked to develop the brand identity and visual communication system for Klaus Iohannis’ presidential electoral campaign. The first round of the elections was due to happen on the 2nd of November and we started with our research phase in the middle of August. The main competitor, prime minister Victor Ponta was way ahead of us, at least as far as notoriety was concerned and it was obvious that time was not on our side. But the rest of the campaign staff, a superb enthusiastic team of specialists was, and so was Mr. Iohannis. This gave us loads of courage and the shared belief that it can be done.
The targeted audiences were, obviously, all the Romanian citizens, no matter where in the world they might be, but the specific groups were at first those in the 17-35 years old segment. So we started by asking them a simple question: “what would the portrait of an ideal Romanian president look like? “. Much to our surprise (or maybe not), a vast majority of the answers we got were pointing towards the same place we had in mind ourselves: 25 years after the Romanian revolution of December 1989, the people were longing for change again. A totally new way of thinking, a brand new approach to politics, a different leadership for a new generation.
The good news was that Mr. Iohannis is exactly that kind of person. All the changes that the city of Sibiu has gone through during his 14 years of activity as a mayor speak about a very organized person with an extraordinary practical sense and an iron will. A doer.
Upon talking to him about past and future, during our starting phase, we understood that he was definitely the kind of person that Romanians were waiting for. The bad news? They seemed not to know it. 80% of them had no idea who Mr. Iohannis was! Unlike almost all Romanian political figures, Mr. Iohannis has never been about showing off and notoriety has never been one of his goals. So there we were, with less than two months left for introducing our candidate to the people.
We started by defining the brand values, the cornerstones of any efficient brand communication. Klaus Iohannis is a person that stands for integrity, performance, equidistance, justice and above all, truth. Core components of the brand we were about to create. We continued by picking up a meaningful blue (“How did you know it’s my favorite color?” we still remember Mr. K. asking upon one of our presentations) then setting up an entire color scheme and finally deciding on FF Meta as the official font, due to its high legibility. OK, we must confess that its western origin and initial use by the German Post, back in 1985 also mattered in the process. And so, a logo was born. A logo that spoke about it all.
The campaign concept was simple, precise and strong, just like our candidate, and the slogan that spoke about the things well done reflected it all from the very beginning. A straight-forward approach, meant to carefully use the scarce resources that we had and grow upon our audience in a healthy, organic manner. Not playing any of the usual games, constant innovation and always telling the truth were the main rules. Next step? The shooting. With our concepts in one hand and the newborn brand-book in the other, we met the beautiful people and photographers of the Greenmind team. In less than two hours a wonderful job was done and we had now all the ingredients for our visual journey.
While everybody involved in the campaign (both friends and foes) were focusing on conventional or even out of date media such as newspapers and television, our team decided to give social media its best shot. With 7 million Romanians being active on Facebook (followed by YouTube and Twitter) the channels of efficient communication were quite obvious to us. Unfortunately (or actually not) many people around us were looking at social media with disbelief. The moment the Bucharest team started working on it, the official Facebook profile was already 3 months old but counted as little as 13.000 likes. At the time, our main competitor’s profile counted well over 500.000 likes. The other statistics didn’t look great either. So we had no chance but working hard. And flawless, for the time was getting closer every day and there was no time for mistakes. New strategies were replacing the old ones on almost weekly bases, thousands of words and hundreds of visuals were letting the online world know the latest news on our candidate’s campaign but the whole team, in beautiful synergy, stuck to the initial phases of the plan.
Extremely long days and even longer nights of brainstorming followed. Merciless analysis of every single political campaign we could get our hands on has been a must-have starting point since everybody in the team was a virgin in this field. We only knew that you cannot change the future without learning from the past. And also that without a deep understanding of the present our efforts might be just as futile. Good ideas, bad ones, second thoughts, focus groups, color and photography tests, brilliant strategies we were embracing just to let go upon finding that someone has done it before becoming an everyday routine. Looking back, we still feel great pride upon counting all the times we had the courage to go back and rebuild everything almost from point 0. But Mr. K`s way of thinking and acting was always a great inspiration for us all as we were all turning into perfect (and perfectionist) gentlemen. He specifically asked from the very beginning for a totally new way of approaching the communication campaign. And obviously, for a job well done. This meant sticking to our brand values while constantly adapting to reality.
And so, we kept on innovating and on getting better and better at it, for innovation is simple: you just have to listen to the people and their free will is always going to show you the path. Little by little, we introduced our candidate to the Romanian audience, both the political man with an innovating vision and the determined and inspiring person that Klaus Iohannis actually is. A timeline starting with the mayor of Sibiu and aiming towards the image of the president of the whole country. Stage setups and huge prints also became part of our mission, but by that time the brand values were so very much part of our way of thinking and acting that not even extremely close deadlines could stop us.
The last two weeks, in between the first and the second round, when only two candidates were left in the game, were the ones, we were actually expecting. And although we saved our best ideas and most of the resources for those times, they proved to be the most difficult for the entire crew. Everything seemed to be against us, with all the friends starting to look upon us in disbelief and almost all of the other 12 candidates from the first round gathering around the prime minister because of the 10% deficit we had then. The score was indeed 40.01% to 30.54 % and the gap seemed to be impossible to cover.
And then the miracle we always hoped for happened and the online was the first to reflect that the Romanian people were no longer willing to accept the soap opera that has been going on in our politics for 25 years. That they had enough of cheap talk and were expecting actual things to happen when promised. That they were no longer willing to lay back and watch politicians do their charade while deciding the fate of everybody else according to their personal needs. The numbers of visitors and likes on our websites and social media pages started to explode, as thousands of people were gathering in meetings all over Romania. When one of our videos reached an astonishing 1,2 million views in less than 36 hours we knew that we were on the right path. And as thousands of people were posting on social media, hundreds of bloggers were supporting us and tens of groups were actively supporting us on Facebook, our page started reaching unbelievable quotes, as the engagement rate was growing. Over 14 million visitors and almost half a billion visits on our Facebook profile couldn’t have been wrong! Two days before the D day, the 16th of November, we finally surpassed our competitor, somewhere in the vicinity of 700.000 followers. But in that very last day alone, as the Romanian diaspora had trouble voting and yet, by every passing hour we were winning somewhere around the globe, an astonishing over 180.000 new likes reflected the final results a few hours ahead. Not only that Klaus Iohannis, the member of a religious and ethnic community became the president of Romania, but he did it by obtaining an obvious majority of the votes. The 10 percentage ahead this time belonged to us.
The following days the phenomenon was still growing, as the number of followers our page had first surpassed the Facebook pages of Coca Cola and McDonald’s Romania. And then, in less than 48 hours, Mr. Iohannis became the first European politician to reach the 1.000.000 likes milestone, turning our online community into the largest of its kind on the old continent!
It was then that we looked at each other, actually realized the scale of our accomplishment, took a deep breath and decided not to stop here. Our mission was accomplished, but every ending is a new beginning.
Almost one month passed. Our prodigy is coming close to 1.3 million followers by now, but we are no longer just a small enthusiastic team of people from three different cities, skilled in various fields such as strategy, branding, communication, graphic design or web development. We are People&People now. A group that Argo takes great pride into being a founder member. The integrated communication agency that is willing to keep on changing the game by dedicating its knowledge to social and community-oriented projects wherever in the world they might be. The agency that did it before and will do it again, simply by applying the designer mentality and approach on strategies, a process based on constant innovation. Simply because this is the way the world is spinning these days. And simply because we intend to be part of the change again.
Feel free to find out more about this unexpected twist of fate in Romania’s history and the digital revolution of November 2014 by following the links below:
- How Klaus Iohannis passed Coca-Cola and McDonald’s in less than 6 months
- Klaus Johannis breaks Facebook record becoming the first European politician to reach 1 million likes milestone!
- How Social Media Won the 2014 Romanian Presidential Elections for Klaus Iohannis?