Millennials Are All About Experience -- Election Proves Marketers Right

There are two things that have come out of the election other than the result, which leaves Theresa May negotiating with the Democratic Ulster Party (DUP) to hang on to power.

The first is that hard Brexit has surely been pushed off the agenda, and the second is that marketers were right all along, Millennials are looking for authenticity. They want to be engaged, not preached to. 

On the Brexit side, all you have to do is consider the fact that Theresa May's only hope of remaining in power is through a deal with a party that wants a soft border with the Republic of Ireland and for the UK to be kept in -- at the very least -- a free trade area with the EU.

On the Millennial side, take a look at some of the figures quoted by Marketing Week. They have been talking to experts, including the National Union of Students (NUS), who believe that three in four eligible voters ages 18 to 24 cast their ballot last week, and that two in three of those voted Labour. The reason? It appears to go beyond young people having a heart and voting for Labour compared to older people having had longer to think about politics and voting with their heads and for the Conservative Party.

As marketers have said for many years, you can't just phone it in with Millennials, and that's exactly what Theresa May was trying to do with the electorate. She ducked the leader debates, parked a bus flanked with supporters in airstrips and in the very rare times we did hear from her, it sounded like she was robotic and reading off an autocue. 

Contrast that with Jeremy Corbyn, who took every opportunity to be photographed with the type of hip hop and "grime" artists us Gen X people know nothing about but which truly resonate with the youth. 

OK -- so there was a very blatant bribe with students to eradicate university tuition fees so young people don't begin life in debt. It was clearly designed to get young people voting Labour, but it was also something that appealed to parents who face the prospect of paying for three children, in our case, at up to GBP9k per year. If one or two does a four-year course (quite likely with our eldest) then we could be looking at GBP100k worth of savings. So it's foolish to think this wasn't aimed solely at students but parents as well. It's also too dismissive of the youth to think this was the only issue they voted on. If it were that important, surely parents would have followed suit and Labour would be in power now.

No, the real lesson that we can be sure we learned from last week's result is to engage Millennials and they will respond. The huge surge of interest in the Conservative manifesto through Google searches in the last couple of hours before the polls closed showed that digital natives were out there seeing what was on offer. They already knew they were minded to vote Labour but probably wanted a bit of balance and then wonder why on earth fox hunting would be in there? Don't fox hunters vote Conservative anyway?

This was undoubtedly the election where social media came to the fore, but it's also the one that showed you can't just post your way to victory (clearly, neither side won). What you have to do is be experiential. Turn up at gigs to speak, press palms in the street, get snapped next to some grime artist nobody under 25 has heard of. 

Millennials and Gen Z have been stirred, make no mistake. My teenage kids were all chatting about the election and all voting Green, if they had the chance, for the four-day school and work week!

Something has been awakened and it's not just about social, it's about engagement both off and online. Marketers feel vindicated. They have been building vodka ice bars, handing out welcome packs on the first day of college and sponsoring themed tents at festivals for years knowing a simple truth. It might sound counterintuitive, but to appeal to the demographic that's hooked on social, you have to turn up too. You really can't just phone it in.

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