Friday, March 04, 2016
By now you already know that I write a lot about issues tangential to branding, although most of the time, the topics on which I opine here are borne more from some glancing tangent having to do with brand strategy. Branding is about human behavior and the circumstances around them. Those who believe branding is about products or companies are way off base: Branding is all about people.
At the time of this writing, the United States is undergoing a presidential election unlike any in recent memory. And I don't use the phrase "recent memory" any too lightly here. The issues, candidates and voting blocs are strangely unfamiliar. To be succinct, this is not your traditional presidential election.
One of the characteristics I've observed about this election is that the opinions expressed by its most ardent participants seem to be derived from two primary sources:
1. Facebook memes
2. Comedy Central comedians
I know, it sounds odd to me, too. Because we live under the illusory existence of the "informed voter," which I assure you is about as real as the "informed consumer," neither of which has a good chance of being discovered any time before someone hauls in Bigfoot. We're somehow laboring under the outdated notion that people are still motivated to investigate, compare, challenge and discuss before they render their carefully-thought decisions. That process left the building ages ago.
In today's search-engine society, more people are inclined to push a button and expect an answer in a millisecond. Good for Google. Maybe not so good for you. Here's why:
It occurs to me that the internet (the popular usage of it) is now roughly 20 years old. That means anyone under the age of, say, 30, has pretty much spent his conscious life pointing and clicking. He's never known anything other than instant answers presented to him, rather than his own motivations to access alternate viewpoints on any given topic.
But it gets worse.
Those same Millennials also have spent their conscious years (any time after the age of 10, if I'm generous) never knowing any other political or economic environment than the last four years of George W. Bush and the last eight years of Barack Obama. Put it all together and the math produces the answer to why so many younger people embrace the likes of Bernie Sanders and eschew the man called Trump:
They simply haven't experienced what life was like before times got tough.
In what could be called Millennial Amnesia, those under 30 would have no memory of stable jobs, a thriving middle class, a strong defense, traditional notions of character or affordable lifestyles. They may have been breathing, but all that stuff vanished before they blew out the candles on their tenth birthday cakes, in an age when pimples are more important than politics. When you backdate them from their thirtieth birthdays, that means anyone born after 1990 or so -- people who are now eligible to vote -- make their decisions based on what they've grown up with and what they see on Facebook and Comedy Central. They never bother to investigate further, because they've never been taught to do so.
They dismiss the experiences of those senior to them because they never lived those experiences firsthand.
This would mean that an entire generation has grown up believing that a weak economy, unstable jobs, unaffordable lifestyles and the loss of traditional notions and character are normal, because to them, it really is. Even scarier is that they accept the current situations as normal and have no notion of why or how they'd remedy them.
I call it Millennial Amnesia. But maybe there's a better term. After all, you can't really forget what you never really knew.