Brave April - A Young Spirit

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What kind of world is it that dear old Ed Miliband (you know, the bacon sandwich guy) can have a chat with Russell Brand and suddenly be treated like he’s the greatest politician at connecting with young people that the UK has ever seen?

Of course, it’s a world where politicians are categorically awful at making that kind of connection. No one will magically change that over night. Ed showed that a little effort can go a long way.

How (not) do to it?

Now, it’s not only politicians who lag behind. Celebrities, companies, brands – many are guilty of laziness, even if they are trying harder than most of Westminster (and Capitol Hill and the rest).

Look at Russell Brand. Apparently, he’s brilliant, young people love him, they listen to him…but he’s a 40-year old millionaire…and young people realise that. They point it out when you ask them. Listen to Adam, a young man interviewed by The Guardian:

“I don’t think politics is for him. He does come from a certain background, but he still has millions and I’m not sure he can think like someone who doesn’t.”

A recent ComRes study shows that a full 28% of 18-24 year olds think he’s out-of-touch and 30% think that celebrities should not get involved in politics (see Q15 of the linked study).

But 40% think more people like Brand should get involved in politics. Confused? Well, perhaps if we were to work through this further with young people we might find out exactly who they want talking politics and how. And perhaps if the people asking the questions were also young people that might get to the bottom of the issue more reliably.

Not just politicians

Many agencies and corporates can fall into a similar trap. Lots of middle aged, middle class men interpreting data on young people. It can be pretty hit and miss. We’re sure that any of you reading this could recall a few campaigns from both of that side of the fence very quickly.

Sometimes a young spirit can surprise you, can engage with young people in a way that makes the rest of us – however young we feel, aware we are, well-informed we are – look positively stuck-in-the-mud.

Perhaps some of us need to chuck the assumption that we can figure out young people just because “there is no bit of culture…we cannot colonise” that belongs to those younger than us? Appropriating youth culture is not the same as being young.

There’s a world of insight, about young people and beyond, outside of the focus group, survey and youth parliament. There’s an ability, to direct research and turn its results into eye-openingly innovative solutions, that is very much untapped.

We think that applies beyond the 16-24 age demographic, but that’s another story.

Just consider this: how many more young voters would Ed Miliband’s campaign have inspired to vote if it had been co-created by actual, non-politics-junkie young people?

Who wouldn’t want that?