Let me start by saying that this is not a blog about politics. There's plenty of those out there. But, I do want to talk about something this election has brought us, besides a new president. Perhaps most exciting about this election season is the unprecedented levels of participation by young voters. Having come up as part of the "who cares?" generation, I am personally and professionally excited by the engagement of vast numbers of millennials. On Huffington Post, Michael Hais and Harley Winograd make a fairly bold claim that:
"America's last civic generation, Millennials will lead a makeover of American politics. This realignment will make the Democratic Party the dominant force in U.S. politics and will turn the country away from the divisive social issues and gridlock of the past forty years to a win-win approach that confronts and actually resolves fundamental economic and foreign policy matters. Welcome to the Millennial Era."
As I said, this is not about politics, it’s about a trend. And it's fairly clear to me that political engagement, or at least interest, is the latest millennial trend to sweep the nation, much in the same way that "not giving a shit" was the trend when my generation came of age and "Tune In, Turn On, Drop Out" was the mantra of my parents' age group. Millions of young Americans are on board with this trend of engagement for the very first time - most likely due to a confluence of factors including a challenging economic and world political stage, the quick and facile spread of information online, and the candidates' handy use of all available media for fundraising and getting the message out.
But what’s the one thing we know about trends? They never last. More precisely, they never stay the same. The word "trend" itself connotes motion, and in reality a trend is not a physical thing the way it's often described, but rather a direction in which things move.
So, the question for us all is what's next? What is the next iteration of this trend? What will millions of kids do now that there's no longer an end game in sight to energize them? Surely, some have converted to lives of political engagement that will last throughout their days, but my guess is that's probably a smallish minority. Just as the hippies eventually cut their hair and got jobs, so will these youngsters move on from moveon.org.
More importantly, what will you do? Will you find a way to leverage all of this energy? Make your brand relevant to this trend while you've got people's attention? Become the new hero that brings the change that both candidates promised and America so clearly wanted? Or will you sit back and watch it all disperse and then wonder why nobody cares about your marketing messages?