If you’ve been paying any attention to the 2016 US presidential race, chances are you’ve heard about Bernie Sanders, the 73-year old self-described “Democratic Socialist” candidate who could give Hillary a run for her money. Interestingly enough, one important audience has taken a particular liking to Bernie: millennials.
So how did Bernie build his brand to position himself as the candidate millennials find irresistible?
- He takes positions on the issues they support and care about the most.
Bernie has always supported marriage equality, always opposed income inequality, and says he wants to combat student loan debt—issues millennials feel strongly about.
True, that’s what political candidates do, but a similar strategy could work for your brand. According to Trend Watching’s 2015 trend report, 73 percent of millennials believe businesses should share a point of view about issues.
- He shows that he cares.
Before his run for president, Bernie served as mayor in Burlington, VT, and later as senator of Vermont. The track record he developed during this time for his “meticulous tending to constituents” created a personal brand at a local level that has since scaled up to the larger national audience of millennials.
He has said, “To be an Independent is to try to represent the needs of the vast majority of the people.”
To millennials, who feel they are entitled to have their opinions heard and heeded, that’s an irresistible sentiment. As a brand, show your audience you care by addressing consumer’s concerns and giving each individual due attention.
- He earns respect by acting with integrity.
Bernie opposes the use of smear tactics and negative political ads. He has said he believes in “serious debates on serious issues. I’ve known Hillary Clinton for 25 years. Maybe I shouldn’t say this. I like Hillary Clinton. I respect Hillary Clinton.”
For the millennial generation, so disillusioned with politics, this must be a refreshing dose of class and integrity. To create the same overall impression of your brand, simply do the right thing.
- He comes across as authentic and relatable.
Bernie has cast himself as the “anti-politician.” With his frizzy white hair and his Brooklyn accent, Bernie seems real. Heck, he even goes by his first name—just “Bernie.” He’s just one of the people.
Perfection is unattainable and unrealistic. Messaging that portrays the brand in an authentic, real way—not perfect—will better resonate with millennials.
- He’s proven his trustworthiness.
According to a poll of Democratic caucus-goers this July, 71 percent viewed Bernie as “honest and trustworthy.” He states his values in no uncertain terms: “There is something immoral when so few have so much and so many have so little.”
In turn, Bernie has followed through on those statements. He opted to take donations from small donors rather than superpacs, choosing not to be a beneficiary of corporate America’s agenda. Though this makes it more difficult for him to raise the kind of money Hillary has, he has earned something else of value: trust.
At any cost, including monetary, your brand must take extreme care not to break trust.
In the end, it all seems to come down to that last point—trust. To millennials, that is where true irresistibility lies. This is not something that happens overnight for a brand; it takes consistent articulation of values and visible adherence to those values. Millennials can’t resist a brand that understands them and that they can trust. Follow Bernie’s example, and your brand can become irresistible for millennials too.