Watching last night's results in the New Hampshire primaries, it was clear that two candidates had really energized their bases more than any others. A major part of their effectiveness was their ability to excite younger voters, on both sides of the spectrum, into a near frenzy. As a result, political pundits throughout the country are trying to understand this dynamic and its relation to the presidential race. But marketers...pay attention. Millennials are talking to you, too.
Vision over competence
Why are the most capable candidates not feeling the love? Every candidate on both sides of the aisle is preaching "experience-first" lost. How can this be? They are running for Manager-In-Chief, a position that demands experience, and the competence it produces. Meanwhile, Sanders and Trump, less experienced than some others, lay out bold, radical visions for the future that young people are whole-heartedly embracing. Millennials simply care less about whether a candidate can execute. Brand love and badge value rule.
Having fun matters
For younger voters, what killed Rubio in the recent debate was not his lack of experience, but the fact that it became clear that he was scripted, reciting lines rather than really getting into what he's doing on stage. Think about the various candidates. Does anyone really feel like Hillary ACTUALLY is enjoying herself on the stump? Or Cruz? Or Bush? Each of them is delivering canned lines, slogging, with no visible passion, for every vote. Now, contrast that with the two winning candidates. Trump and Sanders both walk up to the microphone and dive right in, often without scripts --and seem to be having the time of their lives every day.
Talked with, not to
Hillary gave a great concession speech, full of ideas and ideals that demonstrated how deeply this loss had resonated with her. Then came Bernie. They essentially agree on almost everything, but the fundamental difference comes down to two simple words: Hillary delivered a focused articulation of what "I" would do for the country, while Bernie talked about what "we" will do together. Just as in politics, Millennials want to feel like they're a part of the brands they gravitate to.
Confident enough to be themselves
This current generation is unprecedented in their willingness to accept people for who they are. For the candidates, this means embracing the very flaws and idiosyncrasies that would have doomed candidates in the past. Trump and Bernie are two of the most unlikely candidates to ever seriously run for President. Both play to their extreme characteristics rather than trying to hide them. For Millennials, this says authenticity, something brands should also take notice of.
Like every youthful generation, Millennials are very intolerant of the status quo, and they have not yet suffered the wounds and scars that make older people less inclined to believe that things can truly change. But, Millennials are armed with something no other generation had at a similar point in time--unlimited access to almost anything, or anyone, through social media, eCommerce and the Internet. With the power of these tools comes an unprecedented lack of patience for fatalism. When they see things that don't make sense, they look to solve them, or to go around them, rather than accepting them as "the way things are." Brands that fail to invest to deliver on the raised expectations and improved experiences Millennials seek will lose them to other brands that challenge the status quo.