Can only young marketers drive social media and digital marketing?


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An article on the Marketing Week website this week has caused a bit of a rumpus and comment, including from me! It argued that age was now a major issue for success in marketing, due to the perception that younger people had better understanding and so an ability to drive digital marketing activities.

This a theme I have blogged about before in posts like: “Where on earth do all the over 40 year old marketing and advertising people go to? And why?

What caused that debate to break out?

  • The article that ignited the debate was entitled “Aging marketers risk being out of touch“. Christoph Michalski, president of the global hygiene category at SCA spoke about how “older” marketing people were less likely to do well as they grew up with the 30-second TV ad, and did not understand digital.
  • He was commenting on a report that “older marketers face age discrimination” and that over 50s felt they were being discriminated more than ever in favour of younger marketers due to the perceived belief that “younger” folks understood and where more able to handle digital media than older marketers. The belief being that discrimination would get worse. 

This drive me a bit crazy! At age 52 I know that I am miles more active digitally than most of the people I worked with – irrespective of their age. Having started using tools as they merged and constantly experimenting. It is not just about age.

Why do I believe that age and ability to drive digital is not linked?

  1. Forward Looking Attitude is not Age Linked. All successful marketers know that success is about constantly looking forward, and never assuming what you did in the past will work tomorrow. This was as true in the day of the 30 second TV ad as now. Attitude not age determines this.
    1. The risk is that if you are older you may have had things that worked for you and got you promoted, and may start to slip in this regard.
    2. But any successful and ambitious person knows that if you stick only with what worked and are not constantly challenging, innovating and evolving – you will not continue to be successful. You cannot win a race by standing still. It just happens that digital and online is what you need to do now.

  1. Everyone wanting to use digital has to understand it is in state of constant change, and be on top of that change. 

    1. No matter how young or old you are, you need to be constantly updating and learning. The pace of change is huge and will be for some time. 
    2. New tools and applications emerge – and disappear. Habits and expectations change as consumers adopt and adapt. This is not just about age. For what you use today will be different tomorrow.

  1. Consumers do not die at 35. The demographics and disposable income is in older age groups, and we need to avoid just thinking about early adopters.

    1. Marketing and marketing teams do tend to be younger in age and attitude, and there is a tendency to target young. Even when I was selling anti-age products the idea that over 60% of sales were to over 55s and 60 year olds seemed a worry. But it should not be. This is where the population is and where the money is. 
    2. And so understanding not just the early adopter needs and habits, but also the mainstream is key. The risk in the digital space is that there may be a tendency and trend to focus on the latest tool, and not the mainstream. 

The story was picked up pin the new Storify site with added thoughts from Twitter, Facebook and comments on the article.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Gary Bembridge
30 years of marketing experience managing and building brands globally for companies like Unilever and Johnson & Johnson, as a Global Vice President Global Marketing. Now a freelance marketing consultant, blogger and podcaster. The podcast has won awards in the European Podcast Awards (Business) the last 2 years.


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