With the American elections racing to a conclusion, and the stakes seemingly higher than ever, several high-profile celebrities try to reach the younger generations. Young people are historically a notoriously absent demographic at the voting booths. Fewer than half of Americans 18 to 29 voted in the 2016 presidential election — a gap of more than 15 points compared with the overall turnout. Even though the statistics in America are shocking, similar results are found in almost every country, thus creating a challenge for political parties worldwide; how do we involve younger generations in politics?
Last week we experienced a creative attempt to generate political involvement of the young. Congresswomen Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (AOC) and Ilhan Omar joined up with some streamers on Twitch to play the recently popular game ‘Among us’, while simultaneously urging the gathered online crowd to go out and vote in the upcoming election. The debut stream came in as the 5th best viewed individual stream ever (roughly 439.000 viewers), according to Dexerto. To put this in perspective, when Donald Trump and Joe Biden streamed campaign events on Twitch, total views peaked at around 6.000 and 17.000, respectively.
But these attempts do not remain limited to politicians. Last Sunday pop phenomenon Billie Eilish performed an online visually immersive live show around a strong political message. The show was assisted by giant LED screens and introduced by a lot of other celebrities telling the audience to vote. One of the themes of the night was the destruction of the planet, showcasing videos of climate disaster in action and wrapping up with the text: ‘NO MUSIC ON A DEAD PLANET’. During the show she urges her fans multiple times to please go out and vote for this election: “I voted last week. It was very fun, very exciting,” the singer said about voting in her first presidential election at 18. “It is so important for you to vote, especially if you’re young, because we’re the ones with futures … Unless we don’t vote and we all die!”. Even though the effect of her efforts are as of yet hard to quantify. It seems very plausible that with an Instagram reach of 68+ million, it will have a significant effect on a part of the youth demographic.
Over the last years many brands have also found out that it is getting increasingly difficult to reach younger generations effectively. This is why it is important for brands to notice when people find creative ways to reach the youth and try to learn from this. Here we share two strategies we can learn to more effectively reach the youth.
- Engage in their platforms. This might sound like a given but can make an enormous difference. Trump and Biden, who are undeniably (at least politically) higher profile figures, do not manage to get even a fraction of AOC’s viewer count. The big difference, AOC actually engages with the platform in the way it is supposed to according to its users. She collaborated with some famous streamers on the platform and tried out a popular video game, blending in most of all. The emphasis was on having some lighthearted fun, with some serious calls to vote between the authentic interaction. The presidential candidates never outgrew the status of visitors on the platform. Their goal is to get something from the platform and its users, offering very little in return. This comes off as an inauthentic interaction and as a result generates very little attention.
- Place yourself in their shoes. This live show was not the first societal statement Billie Eilish made. She is generally known to wear oversized baggy clothes and recently published a short film addressing body shaming. This time her message regarded the environment and the limited time we have remaining to act. She was not afraid to pick a side and adamantly told her audience to vote Trump out in the upcoming election. With young generations more likely to suffer the consequences of the climate crisis, it has become a significant source of worries for these young generations. A recent Amnesty International survey conducted in 22 countries found that the most important issue facing the world is climate change, according to young people. Pollution is marked second, followed by terrorism.Young people often feel unheard on these issues with the opinions between generations differing significantly. For example, in the Netherlands, 52% of 18-24 year olds think the country should try to lead the charge regarding climate policy, compared to only 16% of people 65 years and older. Billie Eilish is raising an issue that hits home with the younger generation, and simultaneously tells them how they can counter it.
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