Saturday, November 8, 2008

Welcome to America 2.0

The subject of this post is the first thing I thought when I saw America 2.0 as I'm defining it is the analog of Web 2.0 -- a term that embodies the concept of two-way, interactive communications on the world wide web. In comparison/contrast, Web 1.0 is the label now used to describe the first wave of the Internet; back when you accessed pages for information, yet had very little ability to contribute. Similarly, President-elect Obama appears to be embodying the ethos of Web 2.0 with not just his campaign (which was widely renowned for its Web 2.0 approach), but his administration -- and therefore, our country.

I probably should not be as surprised as I am that Obama is bringing the same approach he used to power his campaign to his administration, but I am. I am oddly surprised that the idea of "change" -- which was the core brand of his campaign -- has been so quickly transferred into the governmental domain (I mean that figuratively and ".gov" literally). is a mash-up of a message and a government. I've never seen this before. For example, there is no "" or "" -- two messages that embody the Republican brand. To my knowledge, the Obama folks are already integrating their brand to a level like no other candidate has before -- they appear to be ready to re-brand the U.S. government.

I've been through brand evolution projects before in my corporate life, and it's a great initiative to embark upon if the right talent and resources are available. Brand evolutions can help re-introduce a brand with clarity, resonant design and messaging, and, critically, a contemporary value proposition.

A brand evolution could be exactly what our country needs right now, considering the state of affairs both domestically and externally. So, I am very curious and interested to see what the Obama folks have in mind: Is the Obama campaign/administration (are these one in the same now?) going to not just change things as they promised, but re-brand America domestically and to the world? not only is designed like a Web 2.0 property, but it has Web 2.0 as well: a blog, submission forms for jobs, visions, and general comments. The design and features of sends three distinct messages to American citizens:
  1. "Change" was not simply a convenient and effective campaign slogan -- it's systemic and fundamental to the Obama brand
  2. The idea of a blog to keep people updated on the status and situations surrounding the transition process provides a sense of transparency and inclusion
  3. The submission forms (jobs, vision, comments, etc.) send a message that citizens' ideas and resources are a respected and required component to modern governing
Cynics can easily claim that these are empty symbols: that the blog is merely a marketing tool, and nobody in Obamaland is going to actually read the submissions from citizens. Maybe. But in modern communications theory, merely introducing the opportunity to contribute has a psychic impact and affects how the brand is perceived. So, even if it is all empty promises and rhetoric, the very notion of providing these tools and communications sends a positive message in and of itself.

Now it's just a matter of time before we find out if this is America 2.0 in look-and-feel only, or if Obama is introducing America 2.0 as a fundamental shift in how we conduct our democracy in the 21st century.