by David Coletto
October 3, 2012
Justin Trudeau will become prime minister because young Canadians, or the Millennials, who never vote, will vote for him.
Before you all reach for the barf bags, let me explain why that just might be true and why conservatives should be worried. I spend a lot of my day thinking about how companies and organizations can better engage with young Canadians, especially my generation, the Millennials.
The Millennials are those 15- to 30-year-olds who all have college or university degrees and are stuck working at Starbucks, not Tim Hortons. We’re those kids who live with our parents until we are in our late 20s and don’t want a job we don’t love. We’re also those kids who aren’t voting.
Sarcasm aside, the Millennial Generation represents one-quarter of the Canadian population. We were raised by baby boomers. Our parents loved us, sheltered us and gave us everything we wanted. We are who we are because of our parents. But politics in Canada over the next 25 years will be a clash between baby boomers and Millennials. And Justin Trudeau’s entry could only intensify that.
Here’s why he’s a real threat: First, unlike other Canadian politicians, Trudeau understands social media. While his 155,000 Twitter followers are well below that of Prime Minister Stephen Harper (248,000), he uses Twitter like a Millennial.
He posts pictures, shares stories and recommends things to his network. He doesn’t use his Twitter account like an alternative press release platform. He gives his followers brief and rare access to his private life which builds trust — an attribute missing in politics today.
Second, he is youthful. Youthfulness may signal inexperience to older generations. To us, it’s natural. Remember, Millennials have been told our whole lives we can be anything we want to be. Prime minister? Absolutely! Trudeau’s ambition is normal to most of us.
Third, he’s a celebrity. If you asked most Canadians to describe Justin Trudeau before Tuesday’s announcement, I don’t think most would call him a politician. Many would reference his speech at his father’s funeral or his celebrity status. And because Trudeau has been meeting with high school students across Canada for years, he’s a celebrity many of us have met.
To motivate Millennials, Trudeau will need to:
Be genuine and authentic. Millennials can sniff out a fake in seconds. Tell us what he will do for us. Too many politicians like to “talk” about young people but few offer policies of any meaning. There is nothing worse than when I hear a politician say something like, “How do we get young people working again?” That question is not directed at us. It’s directed at our parents and we know it.
Don’t play the game. Politicians are being held hostage by baby boomers. They can’t tell us the truth because they risk provoking boomer rage at the ballot box. Use your social network to engage with us, to learn from us, and crowd-source your policy for Canada.
Unlike any politician in Canada before him, he has the ability to reach out and engage an entirely new generation of Canadians who have never really engaged in politics before.
Can Trudeau do it?
We’ll see, but he’s probably got the best shot.