Millenials want straight-shooting authenticity

Whether or not they view an organization as authentic may have greater value than if they like your product, service, or benefits.

Three circles. First circle says "Branding is what you are." Second circle says "Marketing is What you do." Third circle says "Selling is what you say." The three circles intersect and where they do is the word "authenticity"
“How do you truly #influence customers?” by Walter Lim, Flickr Creative Commons is licensed under CC BY 4.0

It’s no secret that Joe Biden is popular among Millenials and I’ve long-argued that the reason behind this is simple: Whether you love him or hate him, you know who he is (or think you do anyway) and that authenticity is something that the Millenials, those who grew  up in a world of questionable information and characters, are attracted to.

With this in mind, it’s not surprising that the Millenials are more supporting of Donald Trump than the Republican candidate closest to them in age and political stance, Marco Rubio.

According to USA Today:

What seems to be attracting younger people so far this campaign season are not policy positions or attack ads but “softer attributes” such as leadership, character, authenticity and celebrity, said John Della Volpe, director of polling at Harvard University’s Institute of Politics, which has done extensive research on the attitudes of young voters.

It helps to explain why someone from an older generation – like blunt-spoken, universally known businessman Donald Trump, 69, – often appeal to the younger set., he said.

And why Millenials tend to favor Bernie Sanders.

At the same time, Millenials don’t tend to vote, which means, popular with them or not, the current set of candidates may be better off appealing to a broader voter base, who don’t always favor blunt, straight-shooting talk.

But this may change it the future. And, this tells us a lot as marketers about how, if we are targeting to Millenials now, we may want to approach them. Whether or not they view an organization as authentic may have greater value than if they like your product, service, or benefits.

Don’t trust the crowd, it’s most likely hired/manipulated

The point of adding this to the film (in my opinion) is, “Look at the political corruption and manipulation! Isn’t it shocking?”

But the reality is, this is now happening regularly in the United States as well.

A large group of people rallying
“Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear” by Cliff, via Flickr Creative Commons is licensed under CC BY 2.0

During the documentary “The Act of Killing” about the horrors that took place in Indonesia, one of the subjects of the film decides to run for office. He goes around handing-out business cards and the people respond with renditions of “that’s it?” because they are so used to being bribed with more. They also make a point to talk about how the political rallies are filled with paid people. The point of adding this to the film (in my opinion) is, “Look at the political corruption and manipulation! Isn’t it shocking?”

But the reality is, this is now happening regularly in the United States as well.

  • Political campaigns hire fake crowds
  • The Pentagon has been paying sports teams for patriotism
  • Photography is regularly used to make crowds seem larger than they are
  • Colleges and other organizations utilize rent-a-crowds too
  • Television shows (I know this from personal experience) sort audience members to ensure the people sitting closest to the actors are diverse and meet the demographic they want to watch the show.
  • Some people argue that police may be using riot gear to make a crowd look more violent than it is.
  • A couple of years ago, I went to a talk by a U.S. Supreme Court Justice. Myself and two young men were escorted to the very front row. After we were seated, one of the young men looked at the crowd, mostly age 50+ and said to me something like “I don’t think we should be in the front row. I’d prefer some of these older folks get a better view.” I told him, while I agreed with him, we were seated there intentionally. They wanted us within camera shots to show that the younger generation was there, even if the reality was, there were only three of us out of 350.

Why is this happening?

For this, I turn to Social Norms Theory. People go along with what the social norm is, and crowds often signal social approval. Think about this as an illustration: You and a friend are walking to a concert. You’re positive you know the way to the concert. But you keep seeing tons of people, who also seem to be going to the concert walking the opposite way. What do you do? At the very least, you start to second-guess yourself. And, most likely, you will determine the crowd is most likely right, you’ve mistaken, and turn and follow them.

How do you combat this?

The best response is identification; whenever you see a crowd, just assume that it’s manipulated in some way. If it helps, do a quick mental exercise, using the examples above and others, to think through what possible ways the crowd could be manipulated to serve a purpose. This will keep you from thinking the crowd is the norm and falling into the subconscious social norms patterns of thinking the crowd is right.

5 million U.S. households without TV. My house is one of them.

A laptop sitting on a chair hooked up with an HDMI cable to live stream content.
Bye bye expensive TV service, hello HDMI cable. Photo from flickr: tawalker


USA Today  published an article about the 5 million U.S. households without TV. I’m very proud to say that my household is one of them. After interviewing more and more college students (my target audience) without TV, I decided to try it . It was a struggle at first because I was so used to relaxing in front of the TV, but now I can’t imagine having TV service.


Some notes on the lifestyle:

– I physically HAVE a TV, but if you turn it on, nothing happens. But, I can play DVD’s on it and hook up my HDMI cable to stream anything from my computer to my TV. Some of my friends have taken it even more to the extreme by removing their TV altogether.

– I find I read a lot more now, which is great!

– I can live stream pretty much anything I could want (presidential debates, etc.). The only time it failed me was my Thanksgiving tradition of making fun of the poor people freezing in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. The live stream wasn’t working.

– In the rare event that I want to watch a sporting event live, I go somewhere and watch it, which is no different from what I was doing before because I wouldn’t pay for ESPN.

– It doesn’t limit my capability to keep up with advertising trends since so much is also online now.  If someone mentions a particular commercial to me, I’ll bring it up on YouTube. If I see an ad campaign that intrigues me, I’ll go online to check-out their broadcast ads.

– My only costs now are my internet service and my $8 something a month for Netflix. I’ve heard rumors that cable companies are trying to figure out how to charge people like me for watching so much online, but I haven’t seen anything concrete yet other than faster speeds costing more.

– As the article points out, I’ve often thought about what I’ll do when I have kids. Although, I had two four-year olds running around my apartment this weekend and I found, in the absence of any toys, that Netflix’s Batman cartoons worked really well to keep them busy for a while.


A PR lesson from watching our political candidates: Think twice about people in the background

This morning, the front page of the Battle Creek Enquirer showed a picture of Presidential candidate, Mitt Romney, during a campaign stop in Albion, Michigan. The photo of Romney included several people standing behind him and one of those people, standing to his right, was a guy who was busy checking his phone. There are probably good reasons that he might have been looking at his phone and we all know a camera only catches an instance, but it still looks bad. The guy is cropped out of the photo on the online version of the story, but the other people who aren’t cropped out of the photo aren’t much better. They don’t look happy to be there at all.

The photo reminded me of a similar incident in 2010 when President Barack Obama was speaking at Kalamazoo Central High School’s commencement ceremony and there was a student that fell asleep behind him.

Having people stationed behind the candidates communicates a lot for them and usually it’s positive. It shows that they are with the people they are wanting to represent, it shows that they are out meeting people, it shows that people are supporting them, and it gives the ambiance of a large crowd in a single camera shot. But, the two instances should also sever as a PR lesson and precaution to communications professionals on the risks of asking people to stand with or behind someone giving a speech. It may or may deliver the effect that we are looking for.