What Millennials Are Looking For In Presidential Candidates

What Millennials Are Looking For In Presidential Candidates

NH Primary I never thought I'd use Ted Cruz and Taylor Swift as examples in my online marketing course I teach at Bentley, but last night it happened.

After discussing the difference between smart and stupid brand management online, I thought it would be an interesting side topic to discuss the upcoming election.

This will be the first election with no incumbent for all of the students and at most only the second election that they've been able to vote in.

I set the ground rules that I didn't want to discuss any candidate or party specifically, but rather focus on what any candidate needs to do in order to reach younger voters and get them to show up and vote for them on election day.

There was a variety of discussion, but the clear advice they'd have for any presidential candidate was:

  1. Clearly say what you will do in office rather than blindly talking about issues. They want to hear as many details as possible and not empty campaign promises.
  2. Be a real person by showing your human side. Show that you are not just another politician who only cares about getting elected.
  3. Embrace pop culture and be part of it. Doing interviews with anyone outside of mainstream media will get their attention. Appearances on late night shows and web-based programs get their attention.
  4. They are use to seeing the day-to-day moments of people they care about. They'd love to see yours and not through the eyes of your PR Manager, but through yours. Consider setting up a SnapChat account along with other social media accounts and then actually use them for more than only promotion.
  5. Don't just go to the typical campaign spots, but visit college campuses, sporting events and other more casual situations where they can interact with you.

I was also happy to hear that none of them are fans of attack ads.

Universally these were a turn off for them and they'd much rather hear the positive side of why you'd be the right candidate rather than you saying why the other person isn't.

They want you to embrace social media and all the technology that goes with it. They are not watching campaign ads on television and they certainly are not paying attention to lawn signs.

The biggest surprise for me was how important endorsements are from celebrities and influencers.

In one case a student honestly told the class that "Whoever Lebron James backs, I'm going to vote for." He was serious because he trusts that a celebrity like Lebron would not publicly back a candidate lightly.

The class believed that any smart candidate would focus more on lining up big name endorsements from a variety of influencers to make their reach as broad as possible.

Perhaps the most fascinating discussion for me was when I asked them what specific issues they'd be casting their vote based on.

They responded (in no particular order):

  • Educational costs
  • Jobs
  • Social Issues
  • Inequality in all forms

No talk of war, security or budget. They want to hear how candidates are going to address the issues that are in their immediate future.

Sadly, all agreed that they don't think the candidates are going to pay enough attention to their demographic as much as they should. Many feel as if their vote doesn't matter.

So, to every presidential candidate that decides to run this time don't forget about young voters and embrace the world they live in which is online and real.

They don't want another bunch of hollow promises and fund raising stump speeches. They want real women and men who they can relate to, see that they are going to do a good job and then they'll cast their vote for you.

Good luck in 2016!