If you could picture the millennials’ ideal candidate, who would you imagine? Certainly, you wouldn’t picture an ornery 74-year-old man with grey, ruffled hair and glasses. Yet, here he is.
Bernie Sanders isn’t just ahead of the polls with millennials. He’s absolutely crushing them. In most polls, Sanders has a lead over all other candidates by more than 20 percent among this generation. So what’s causing so many millennials to “feel the Bern” with this hipster grandpa?
It’s his PR strategy.
Bernie Sanders knows what messages to send to his target public.
According to polls among those currently in college, 73 percent said “they think it will be very difficult or somewhat difficult for students in their class to find permanent jobs after graduation.” Only 25 percent have “trust in the federal government.” Less than 30 percent said they felt like they “have a say in what the government does.”
In other words, this generation wants someone who is anti-establishment. They want someone who appeals to their frustration of the government and understands their needs.
One political analyst, Cass R. Sunstein explained, “Sanders is the only serious candidate in memory to call for ‘a political revolution.’ He is not content with Obama’s word ‘change.’ He wants to ‘transform’ the U.S.”
His social media is targeted at millennials.
Bernie Sanders doesn’t have the most followers on social media (Donald Trump has the most with 14.1 million). However, according to a new study, he has the most active and engaged followers. Michael Lias, Senior Vice President of Social Strategy for Digitas Health, explains that it’s because of the Sanders’ campaign’s ability to create shareable content.
“The way that they use memes in that campaign is a way that people can actually use the content to represent themselves in social media,” explains Lias.
The Bernie Sanders’ campaign spends a lot of their budget on targeted social media advertising. They also aren’t afraid to try unique social media channels.
“From Jan. 20 to Feb. 1, the Sanders campaign reached more than 750,000 people on Facebook and Instagram. Over 85 percent of whom were in the millennial bracket,” Explains Nick Corasaniti of the New York Times. “At the center of this aggressive social campaign is a new ad unit only recently made available — Facebook Canvas. The Sanders campaign is the first political campaign to take advantage of its capabilities.”
Bernie Sanders creates an experience for his voters.
For millennials, it’s not enough to just hear an eloquent speech or read about a candidate online. They need an experience.
Social strategist, Hilary DuPont, explained the way brands are reaching this generation. “They reach millennials by creating beautiful real-world experiences for them to enjoy,” DuPont said. “Millennials may be obsessed with Instagram, but after all, they need something tangible to take photos of before filtering and sharing them.”
Bernie Sanders first uses the social media to attract his audience. Then he gives them the experience that they crave. For example, posting on Reddit, Bernie Sanders wrote,
“They say you don’t care.
They say you won’t caucus.
They say Bernie can’t win.
Prove them wrong.”
The anti-establishment battle cry worked for Sanders—especially in Iowa. Although he narrowly lost to Clinton in the Iowa caucus, he won big time with millennials.
Bernie Sanders may not be the charming presidential candidate, but he’s certainly the candidate appealing to millennials. He knows his audience, he’s engaging with millennials through social media and he’s giving them an experience to join.
It’s no wonder then why millennials are feeling the Bern.
Ashley Frost is an aspiring public relations professional with a zeal for writing and a passion for life. Although she is a dedicated student, she doesn’t spend all her time with her nose in her books. She is a political junky, Netflix enthusiast, loving wife, and the world’s proudest aunt. She loves PR and believes that words have power to change the world.