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Let’s say you’re a candidate for elective office, whether local, state or federal, during this political cycle. Suppose, further, that in your quest for public service, you plan to target the much-coveted demographic of 18-to-34-year-olds known as Millennials.
Well, that should be a breeze, right? They’re hooked on social media channels, often through smartphones and tablets. As all the experts know, the be-all and end-all tactic for reaching Millennials is through digital channels, correct?
Actually, no. So reveals new research about the issue from a study sponsored by the United States Postal Service (USPS) and the American Association of Political Consultants (AAPC). The key finding of the polling and focus group research is that young voters in fact pay close attention to direct mail and see it as relevant. Any communications strategy aimed at younger voters that focuses exclusively on digital channels is missing the opportunity available through direct mail.
This widespread misunderstanding about how Millennials perceive and use political direct mail is understandable. After all, social media has proven pivotal in bringing out Millennials to vote, most notably during the 2008 presidential campaign, when nearly two million voters under age 30 turned out. During the 2012 presidential election, the winning campaign deployed a digital strategy that’s often credited as instrumental in the successful bid to secure the White House for another four years.
But the USPS-AAPC research upends popular assumptions about how Millennials perceive the value of social media versus direct political mail. The truth is that direct mail is exerting more influence than previously believed. Political mail delivered to the mailbox spurs conversations, spreads into social media and, yes, even encourages Millennials to step into the polling booth and vote for a candidate.
This special attention toward young voters is well warranted. In the most competitive states this year, voters under age 30 are expected to represent an estimated 20 percent of the electorate. That’s why USPS and AAPC, in conducting this research, have also begun to educate each other about innovative approaches available for reaching Millennials through political mail.
Here are key data points about Millennials from the survey:
- 42 percent prefer direct mail political ads over online ads, with 38 percent favoring both equally (and the remaining 20 percent favoring online over mail).
- They’re more than twice as likely as non-Millennials to thoroughly read political mail (40 percent versus 18 percent).
- 78 percent discuss political mail with others, compared to 63 percent for non-Millennials.
- 66 percent are likely to research the candidate touted in political direct mail, with 54 percent visiting that candidate’s website.
- 82 percent find political mail “important” for state elections and 80 percent for local ones, more so than with national races (76 percent).
- 75 percent use political mail as a reminder to vote, compared to 58 percent of non-Millennials.
- 57 percent say political mail helps them make a decision how to vote, compared to 54 percent of non-Millennials.
Evidence is mounting on the powerful impact hard-copy mailing has on a Millennial audience, whether for politics or selling products. A Gallup Poll performed last year concluded that 36 percent of Millennials are eager to check their mailbox on a daily basis, and a 2014 USPS Household Diary Study found that 41 percent of 22-24 year-olds and 37 percent of 25-34 year-olds immediately read mail sent to their house.
The top must-dos for cracking the code on political mail directed at Millennial voters, then, are as follows:
- Keep text short, with simple words, sentences and paragraphs.
- Design materials that are graphically appealing, with large fonts, bold-face lettering, bullets and high-contrast colors.
- Present images of candidates in candid, real-life shots rather than in posed or staged scenarios.
- Clearly attribute quotes and third-party information to sources.
- Refer readers to websites and social media to deepen engagement.
- Leverage humor and pop-culture references to arouse curiosity.
- Issue an explicit call to action, such as inviting young voters to share information with family and friends.
So whatever candidate you’re fielding – whether liberal or conservative, Democrat or Republican, man or woman, young or old – a winning vote may be just a mailbox away.