Election 2016: Appealing to the BASE

Posted by: Jessica Cornick, PhD
  • November 1, 2016

election-2016-blog-455x290-lrw-greenPew Research recently argued that 2016 is a critical election year because Millennials outnumber Baby Boomers for the first time with 126 million eligible Millennial voters compared to 98 million Boomers and prior generations. Given the relative size of both the Millennial and Baby Boomer generations, and their ability to influence the outcome of the election, candidates have been working hard to tailor messages specifically for each group to garner support on election day. Seeing this branding strategy, some news sources like USA Today and Five Thirty Eight have also attempted to pinpoint the greatest driver of voting behavior for each generation with the assumption that each generation is seeking something different in a candidate. That assumption is plain wrong.

I would argue that as humans, we all have the same fundamental needs; marketers (yes, that is what candidates are) should focus their messaging to address how their brand or product fulfills these fundamental needs for consumers. Here at LRW, we measure brand and product fulfillment of four core needs: Belonging, Appeal, Security and Exploration (BASE). If we use the lens of these core needs to look at the top issues for Millennials and Baby Boomers, we see evidence that although the generations seem different, they both want the same things.

In 2016, top issues for Millennials include student loan debt, the environment, and job creation, while Baby Boomers are focused on tax rates and being financially secure in retirement. While on the surface these needs seem different, these concerns reflect the deeper fundamental human need to feel Secure.  The need for Security extends across generational and demographic boundaries and is represented with an S in the BASE framework. The American Psychological Association has found that uncertainty that accompanies many elections, especially one as divisive as this, induces stress making Security-oriented messaging from candidates even more pressing. We can also see how Belonging to a party or a particular constituency drives voting behavior as evidenced by straight ticket voting, the importance of endorsements by other politicians, family and even celebrities, along with the rise of special interest groups.

When using a needs-based lens, differences between generations (and other demographics) suddenly don’t seem like such large differences after all. Candidates (and companies) can deliver more persuasive messaging by understanding the BASE needs of their constituencies (and consumers) and determine how their campaign or brand can address those needs.

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