The 2016 presidential election cycle has already been going on for what feels like two thousand and sixteen years, but scarcely a moment has been spent with the lens and microphone on one of America's most important demographics, young Hispanics.
A recent Pew Poll found that Millennials make up nearly half of all Latino eligible voters. Since the last presidential election, over 3 million Hispanics reached the voting age. In addition, over a million foreign-born Hispanics became naturalized citizens and will be able to vote this year.
The entire 2016 election will boil down to which party does a better job courting Hispanics, and whether turnout of Millennials "trumps" previous years.
It's very easy for candidates to develop a "Hispanic Outreach" strategy in the form of a PowerPoint presentation shown to canvassers. It's easy to translate posters and signs into Spanish and plaster them all over Florida and Nevada. The bare minimum may be enough to eek out a win this November, but any candidate that figures out how to mobilize Hispanics to vote in higher numbers is poised to win in a landslide.
Before we look at what works, let's take a second to see what not to do. In December, Hillary's campaign came out with a much-maligned article entitled, "7 things Hillary Clinton has in common with your Abuela (Grandma)." Predictably, the hashtag #NotMyAbuela began trending across Twitter.
Millennials are extremely cynical. Even when candidates make honest attempts to discuss issues of importance to Hispanics, like bringing up immigration reform during a debate, they are lambasted by claims of "Hispandering."
Our 2016 candidates would do well to learn lessons from marketers on how best to engage young Hispanics without resorting to broken Spanish and embarrassing attempts at pandering.
Hispanic Millennials are not first generation immigrants. They are largely bilingual Americans who are assimilated into contemporary American society but still value the emotional connection to their heritage.
One of the most fascinating case studies in recent years was Taco Bell's "Live Más" campaign. The genius behind Taco Bell's slogan is that it managed to connect with Latinos but not at the expense of other Americans. The use of Spanish is neither meant to pander to Hispanics, nor is it designed to disinvite "White" America from connecting with the brand. Doritos Locos tacos are a similarly brilliant fusion- there is nothing more mainstream than Doritos, yet the name also invites Latinos to feel excited about the product in a genuine way. America's demographics are not-so-subtly shifting, requiring brands to throw out a wider net.
Inclusivity is the name of the game for Hispanic outreach in 2016. None of the candidates possess natural ties with the Hispanic community, except for perhaps Marco Rubio. The language and messaging that Bernie Sanders or Hillary Clinton gives to Fusion's Jorge Ramos should be the same message they are saying on MSNBC or CNN.
I said earlier that Millennials are cynical, but isn't that just another word for savvy? When candidates start talking about #BlackLivesMatter and pooling together African-American endorsements because the upcoming primary is in South Carolina, they see through that.
With the Nevada caucuses, talking points were swapped out with conversations over immigration and paths to citizenship.
Bouncing back and forth and shifting your language to appease various groups may be politics 101, but it's not the right fit for millennials and America's changing demographics.
Candidates don't necessarily need two distinct communication strategies (one for Hispanics and one for "everyone else"). They only need one. Millennials of diverse backgrounds are not waiting for you to start speaking in Spanish to get their attention. They are already listening, but they want your stump speeches to sound like you're talking to diverse America, not a crowd in a diner in New Hampshire.