The 'Authenticity' Tactic, Why Outsiders Are Increasingly Popular

This year’s presidential election has defied laws of modern political convention in the United States.

A self-proclaimed socialist is now running almost even with his “establishment” opponent in national polls on the Democratic side of the ticket. On the Republican side, a candidate has emerged who says things incredibly controversial on a regular basis, and apparently the more absurd the rhetoric the more fervent his support becomes.

The two candidates are of course: Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders and real-estate mogul Donald Trump.

Red, White & Blog spoke with Thomas Ordahl, chief strategy officer at Landor, to get an expert take on why the approaches espoused by Sanders and Trump have worked so well.

The overarching nonpartisan quality that both Sanders and Trump possess in droves is “authenticity.” According to Ordahl, this authenticity is directly related to a candidate acting or campaigning in unconventional and often unpopular ways, even against one’s own interest.



Trump is deeply unpopular with the majority of voting age Americans, partly due to his views on immigration and border security, but he has stuck to his guns. Sanders espouses a political philosophy (at least in name) that has been anathema to American politics for the better part of the last century to the present, or maybe until nine months ago.

“The two most successful candidates right now are not typical politicians,” explains Ordahl.

Ordahl notes that similar tactics are being used in the commercial space.

Retail chain REI announced that it would not open on Black Friday, one of the busiest days for shopping all year. This shows compassion and a strong sense of duty to their employees, instead of a single-minded focus on revenues and profits. Translated politically, this means representing the interests of one’s constituents, not a unique focus on winning elections.

Both Sanders and Trump have remained true to their core beliefs and policies, despite widespread criticism of both candidates’ approaches to this election, particularly from their own parties. (Sanders is an Independent, not a Democrat.)

The GOP is already anxious it will lose the support of the enormous pro-Trump movement, forcing some in the establishment to jump on the Trump bandwagon. Democrats may be less worried of Sanders supporters abandoning the party come November, but party’s progressive and traditional bases are far from being united.

Why are voters now looking for something different from the norm? There are many answers. Ordahl sees the advent of millennials as a major driver of the desire for something new in the political realm. Millennials are now the largest voting-age demographic group, having surpassed baby-boomers in 2015. They are actively changing the way politics is done in the United States.

Waning are the days of the safe and centrist head-of-state; both parties seem rabid for something new. Instead of the Beats of the 1950s or hippies of the mid-to-late Sixties, millennials can identify with numerous social groups. The suited-up banker, hipster musician, or tech enthusiast could most likely all be found on just one block in Bushwick.

Voters are looking for something personalized and closer to home in the politicians they support. We got extreme versions, this time around, but come 2020 and 2024? Who knows what kind of politician will be the Trump or Sanders next time.

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