In a Dead Heat for the Nomination, What Could Tip the Balance?: "Generational Communication"

Share Article

Positioning for the generational vote carried the Democrats into Super Tuesday, and will be even more critical moving forward

There was no Arsenio-type performance for Hillary, nor should there be.

New York, February 11, 2008 -- As the Democratic field moves into a neck-and-neck dead heat following Super Tuesday, the two leading candidates will find it increasingly important to maximize favorable primary turnout by focusing their messages squarely at the "hot buttons" of America's six living generations, especially the youngest voting generations, Generation X and Generation Y.

According to generational expert Ann A. Fishman, each generation has its own style of communication and preference for being communicated with - all of which must be factored into the strategies that guide the leading candidates, especially in a race in which every primary vote counts.

Consider the generational communication factors that made a difference with America's young generations on Super Tuesday:

For Generation Y, it's About "Personalized Empowerment"

On Super Tuesday, as previously, Barack Obama made the youth vote a priority. He not only made his message one of empowerment, hope and change, he also put it where young voters could find it: in promotions on college campuses; on radio and TV commercials aimed at college students; and in concerted efforts to get students to the polls. His website invites the visitor to log on and create a "My Barack Obama" page.

Says Fishman, "Obama is the first candidate to use age-appropriate communication tools to their fullest extent to empower the youth vote. "She concluded, "He will need to continue that strategy, and apply it even more forcefully, to win the hearts, minds - and votes - of Generation Y in the post-Super Tuesday contests."

A Clinton Counter Strategy: Speak to Gen Y's Issues Directly

When former President Bill Clinton went on the Arsenio Hall TV show in 1991, and wore sunglasses, played the saxophone and answered the famous question about boxers versus briefs on MTV, he was tapping into the whimsical proclivities of younger voters.
Today's Clinton candidate addresses young voters, not by trying to be "with it," but rather by dealing with the issues of their world. One of her key messages: affordable college to all who want it.

Says Fishman, "There was no Arsenio-type performance for Hillary, nor should there be." She continued, "On the night before Super Tuesday, Clinton offered an hour-long program on Hallmark TV, so that she could talk directly to core voters, young women in particular, about the part of her package they care about most: education and children's issues."

Where Obama scores Gen Y points by being inspiring and empowering, Clinton does so by speaking to their pocketbooks and the concerns of their daily lives.

To Connect with Gen Y: Word-of-mouth is Key

Gen Ys' private lives are very public. Their thoughts and deeds are known to more than just their group, as they spread themselves far and wide through Internet social networks like Facebook. Gen Y voters use such communication to spread the political word to their friends and everyone else.

"Generation Y uses word-of-mouth communication, both electronic and face-to-face, to convey and receive information," says Fishman.

Gen Y communication - via YouTube, Facebook and other generational favorites - is a powerful political tool for both candidates.

To Connect With Generation X - Be Substantive and Practical

"The cynicism and pragmatism of Generation X stand in direct contrast to Generation Y's optimism and sense of empowerment," says Fishman. "Lofty oratory, memorized talking points and self assured responses without specifics do not sit well with Gen X voters. For Generation X, substance beats style every time."

Being substantive is important because Generation X is often the "swing-vote" generation - and includes the NASCAR dads and Soccer Moms, whose votes have decided many elections, including the California race that drove Gray Davis from office and elected Arnold Schwarzennegar as Governor.

To garner Gen X votes, Obama and Clinton will need to tread thoughtfully. Xers seeks practical solutions, as well as "gravitas," to secure their votes.

For Gen X, Keep Communication Straightforward - and Pervasive

For Gen X, trustworthy blogs are a key factor. They use blogs as a source of practical dialogue and debate. As widely reported on networks covering the debates, less than a minute into each debate, Gen X visitors to blogs examine, question, and comment on every detail.

Fishman cites the following quotes about Obama: 1) "I'm not voting for the Orator of the United States. I'm looking for someone with more experience and more than a couple of years in the Senate." 2) "Obama has no executive experience, government or otherwise. He's never run an organization larger than his Senate staff."

Fishman concludes, "Generation X is sophisticated enough, and practical enough, to engage in online political discussion that can cause a blogger to reconsider a candidate. For a Gen Xer, candidates must demonstrate an ability to withstand the scrutiny of a different medium - the Blog."

Generation X ignores endorsements and rhetoric - They vote their own mind

According to Fishman, Gen Xers can be brash, politically incorrect and in-your-face, but they vote ...and are the only generation that consistently looks beyond "spin."

For that reason, endorsements don't carry a great deal of weight with Generation X, whose individualistic members rely on facts, past performance and "straight talk."

Fishman concludes, "Endorsements don't resonate well with Gen X: not from the Kennedys, not from Oprah, not from movie stars and, not from former candidates."

To WIN Generation X votes, candidates will need to present themselves in their own voice.

About the Generational Approach

Based on Fishman's research into the habits and values of America's six living generations - the G.I. Generation, the Silent Generation, Baby Boomers, Generation X, Generation Y and Generation 9/11, each generation brings a distinctive set of traits, habits and characteristics.

These are important keys to understanding political dynamics and voting patterns in elections.

About Ann Fishman and Generational Targeted-Marketing

More information on Ann Fishman's generational expertise can be found at Fishman's company, Generational-Targeted Marketing Corp. (GTM), specializes in marketing information that provides insight into consumer preferences, buying habits and trends affecting the American consumer.

As GTM's president, Fishman has served as a consultant to numerous corporations, government agencies and non-profit organizations and has presented her theories on generational issues to them. Fishman is a member of the Adjunct Faculty at New York University. For further information on GTM, call 1-504-813-7890.


Share article on social media or email:

View article via:

Pdf Print

Contact Author

Visit website