August 21st, 2013 by Bob Bly
There is a huge generation gap between young marketers and old
marketers — like me.
As I see it, many young marketers are overly fond of whatever is
hip and trendy at the moment – e.g., Instagram, Google +,
infographics, Foursquare, memes.
Many older marketers prefer the tried, true, and tested methods:
e-mail marketing, white papers, landing pages, direct mail, ads.
Why do young marketers have such a strong preference for the
latest flavor of the month?
I can think of a few reasons:
1-They want to appear “in the know” to their friends,
colleagues, and clients.
2-People are always attracted to things that are new.
3-For old-school marketing methods such as direct mail, there is
a huge body of tested experience which young marketers do not
know about … so they are at a disadvantage.
4-Some clients are mesmerized by the latest fads, and look for
consultants who are proficient in those methods.
5-Many marketers find refuge in marketing for which sales ROI
cannot be measured, because it masks the fact that they don’t
know how to sell.
6-It’s easier and takes less skill to create a blog post or a
Tweet than it does to write a long-copy landing page whose sales
can be measured to the dollar.
I often say I was born at the wrong time, for the following
When I was young and worked in marketing for large corporations,
the senior marketers were revered while it was assumed that us
“kids” knew nothing and would take many years to train.
Now that I am older, I live in a youth-oriented society where
young people are valued for their superior grasp of technology,
while folks in my 50+ age group can’t get a job because their
skills are thought to be obsolete and their thinking out of step
with the times.
The fact is that today’s youth does not respect the wisdom of
their elders – either in business or in life – and does not seek
to learn from them.
A case in point is EM, one of my early mentors, who was
considered one of the great copywriters of the 20th century.
EM and I both wrote direct mail copy for Publisher X. At the
time, I had about 7 years experience, and EM had more than 40.
The marketing managers at Publisher X – who were all in their
20s and 30s – loved what I wrote. And I think they viewed me as
a contemporary. But they tore EM’s copy to shreds.
Here they were, able to access decades of tested direct mail
knowledge from a guy who wrote some of the most famous classic
DM packages of all time …
… and they had no interest in what he thought or had to say. He
lamented to me that X routinely ignored his advice and
I close with this bit of wisdom from my favorite comedienne,
“Life is an education, and if you’re older, you’re smarter. If
you are in an argument with somebody and they are older than
you, you should listen to them.
“It doesn’t mean they’re right. It means that even if they’re
wrong, their wrongness is rooted in more information than you
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