I was talking to one of my friends recently about marketing to millennials. She rolled her eyes. “It doesn’t make me feel reassured when somebody is directly marketing to me,” she told me. “It doesn’t feel good to know they are trying to ‘get’ me. It makes me feel like I’m being targeted.” This isn’t an uncommon sentiment among the people I’ve talked to about millennial/Gen Y-aimed marketing. 

I was reminded of this conversation with my friend a few weeks later during an ongoing text conversation. My two closest friends and I talk pretty much every day over this thing. Yesterday’s topic was the Democratic Debate and what we think of the different candidates (or in some cases, if we were even planning on watching it). One of my friends echoed a sentiment about Hillary Clinton that I’ve heard time and time again— she’s trying too hard to reach young people and the wool is not being pulled over our eyes. There was her doing the Nay Nay on Ellen, a laid back interview with Lena Dunham (talk about someone that everyone pictures when they hear ‘Gen Y’) and an appearance on SNL. Where am I going with this? People see what Hillary’s trying to do. It’s transparent that she’s targeting new and young voters.

Okay, woah there, Alia. That’s probably what you’re thinking right now. This is getting way too political of a blog post for working in advertising. Just hear me out here. I’m not trying to endorse anyone. Hold those horses of yours.

So where were we? Millennials. Hillary is all about millennials as a commodity voter. Got it. On the flip side, who is polling well with millennials? Bernie Sanders. He doesn’t exactly seem to have the makings of a candidate that would stand out to twenty-somethings— he’s old and he’s crotchety. Still, he’s polling insanely well with millennials. The issues that Sanders addresses resonate, sure. But his brand is catching like wildfire. His grassroots campaign was sparked by social media, drawing in the most social media use heavy generation.

Bernie is no nonsense, he is transparent with what he says and he sticks to his issues with no superfluous chatter about topics that are unimportant to his platform. That’s what is drawing in millennials. They trust Bernie because they pick up on his authenticity.

This isn’t a blog post about why I like Bernie Sanders as a millennial. It’s about how his authenticity is branding him. Clinton and Sanders have almost identical voting records and they both have a ton of experience in office (with Clinton brandishing some bigger titles.) The brand of the Bern vs the brand of Hillary is on and Bernie is winning with millennials.

I guess, a question that I want to prompt people in marketing to think about is— what can we learn from these politicians in terms of reaching millennials? Well, for one thing, I think it’s important to take on the Bernie approach here.

For instance, you need to keep things relevant. An article according to Entrepreneur (http://www.entrepreneur.com/article/246199) talks about millennials needing a company to be relevant to them. This means somehow building a community through your brand and showing that you are not only relevant, but you want to work with your customers/ members instead of against them.

We can find hints about branding and PR in everything— we don’t have to stick strictly to looking at companies that we admire or competitors. Look to the brands – and people – right under your nose to figure out who exactly you are trying to reach. You might be surprised how you reach them.