Are Millennial Marketers More Analytical?


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I had an interesting conversation this week with a vendor of marketing measurement systems on the question of why more marketers won’t buy his type of software. After all, surveys often show that marketers and CEOs alike rate better measurement as a high priority. Yet actual measurement techniques don’t improve much from year to year: to cite the most recent report to cross my desk, the 2014 State of Marketing Measurement Survey Report from Ifbyphone found that 45% of marketers are measuring Return on Investment in 2014 vs. 40% in 2013 -- a gain that is probably within the survey's margin of error.  Other, simpler measures are more common and growing more quickly, but that’s exactly the point: marketers don’t invest in meaningful performance measures like ROI.

My vendor friend’s suspicion was that marketers don’t buy better measurement because, whatever they say in surveys, they really don’t want to be measured. My own opinion, based on comments from marketers over the years, is they don’t have time to put advanced measurement systems in place.

Of course, time is a matter of prioritization, so this really means that marketers think the time spent on an advanced measurement project will produce less value than if that time were spent on something else.  In other words, marketers don’t invest in advanced measurement because they don’t think the resulting information will drive enough improvement in their marketing results.  That's not an unreasonable belief: much ROI information is in fact interesting but not actionable and, therefore, adds no business value.  Further evidence: the advanced measurement techniques that have been widely adopted, like marketing mix models and multi-touch attribution, all have proven bottom-line impact. The impact of marketing ROI, on the other hand, is often less clear.

Then our conversation took an unexpected turn: the vendor speculated that younger marketers might be more analytical and hence more inclined to ROI measurement.  This was a new thought to me and offered the cheery prospect of an actual change from the long-term status quo. But neither of us had seen any research on the topic, so we couldn’t judge whether it was likely to be true.  End of discussion.

I’ve since had time to look into this more deeply. There’s plenty of research on millennials’ (currently 19-34 years old) in general and a fair amount on their behavior in the workplace. Most of it reinforces familiar stereotypes: millenials are collaborative, tech-savvy, results-focused, fast-working, multi-tasking, anti-hierarchical, socially-conscious, company-disloyal, and of course digitally connected. But none of the research shed much light on whether they’re more or less analytical than older generations: since they’re skeptical of authority, you can expect them to be more open to challenging past assumptions, but this doesn’t necessarily mean they rely on data to resolve those challenges. They could just as easily rely on what feels right to them, even though they’ve had little time to sharpen their intuitions on the stone of reality.  Even their presumed affinity for digital media, which is certainly more measurable than traditional media, doesn’t necessarily translate to an interest in ROI measurement. Indeed, most digital measurements such as Web traffic and social media interactions have almost nothing to do with ROI.  Finding that millennials rely heavy on them would bode poorly for advanced measurement methods.

But all of this is just speculation, and I am definitely a fact-based kinda guy. Has anyone seen any information on how marketers’ behaviors differ by generation? If not, would you find it an interesting topic for a survey?

Republished with author's permission from original post.


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