Analysis & Opinion

Consumer Pulse: Millennials Rock the Elections

November 14, 2008 MullenLowe

The voice of the Millennial has been heard – as nearly 24 million young Americans went to the polls this election – an increase of more than 10% over 2004. This new generation of voters significantly influenced the outcome of the elections in favoring Barack Obama by a margin of more than two-to-one. This outcome speaks volumes to the success of the Obama campaign inconnecting with and energizing an audience that critics have previously referred to as “apathetic” and “unresponsive.” It sends a clear message to marketers that Millennials have arrived as a powerful consumer segment that can’t be overlooked.

Here’s what we can learn from why the Obama campaign was so successful in intercepting and engaging Millennials….

1. Always talk to, not at, young voters

Young voters don’t want to be preached to or “guilted” into voting. They’ve been marketed to their whole lives – and they appreciated that Obama kept it real by speaking openly and authentically about the issues that mattered most. His informal and optimistic tone went a long way in garnering their enthusiasm.

2. Think about an integrated, multichannel strategy

There’s no easy way to reach Millennials. Obama employed a social networking and a hi-tech tech guerrilla approach- including email blasts, My.BarackObama.com, Facebook and text messaging. The campaign also grew support by leveraging more traditional and lower-tech tactics like TV advertising, radio efforts, on-campus events, “dorm storms” and voter registration drives – effectively surrounding the lives of Millennials.

3. Be relevant, by tapping into pop culture

Celebrity endorsements have long been a part of campaigning, but the Obama campaign went beyond in infusing politics into pop culture. From in-game advertising to strategic partnerships with elite fashion designers, the Democratic effort not only created energy, but it also captured the imagination of Millennials – and garnered their attention in relevant ways and in unexpected places.

4. Stimulate co-creation

Brands are increasingly shaped by word-of-mouth and not just by the brand experience. The Obama campaign recognized this in creating a “community-site” called YouBama. Consumers responded by posting videos, designing t-shirts, creating street art, screensavers and other “unofficial” branded material. All these efforts reinforced the sense of commitment among younger voters – in making them feel part of the ticket – and connected to the candidate.

WHAT ARE THE MARKETING IMPLICATIONS FOR BRANDS?

  • Marketers who recognize that Millennials are no longer the future but the present can grow market share and gain a competitive brand advantage.
  • Millennials are not naïve. They’re savvy, but they’re open to a brand’s message as long as it takes into account their more personalized wants and needs – and speaks to them in an authentic manner.
  • Building a brand among Millennials involves more than starting a Facebook group – putting a video on YouTube – or buying air time on a cable network. It’s about maintaining a consistent and highly integrated message across multiple touchpoints.
  • Brands that succeed among Millennials will be those that communicate a sense of purpose, embrace shared values and foster a relationship.
  • Millennials are more likely to evangelize a brand they can buy into and fully participate with beyond consumption.