What’s wrong with young marketers today?

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
reason….

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
suggestions.

I close with this bit of wisdom from my favorite comedienne,
Louis CK:

“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
have.”

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10 responses about “What’s wrong with young marketers today?”

  1. Mary Rose Maguire said:

    Bob, I completely agree with you. The younger marketers are all about social media. Sure, some of them try to use some copywriting principles with Google+, Twitter, etc. But I agree that it isn’t the same as the tried-and-true methods.

    The good news is, we’ve got the goods! You’ve been doing this a lot longer than I have and you can share your numbers with prospects. What’s ironic is that marketing automation has made measurement even more accessible. A lot of these companies are starting to pull everything together (the web visits, pageviews, etc.) and tying it to sales.

    So although the younger marketers are leaning toward talking about “engagement,” the C-suite isn’t impressed. They’re looking for an increase in their sales and if they don’t see it, they’re starting to question all this social media “engagement.”

    Meanwhile, that’s when a wise marketer like you can come in and say, “When was the last time you did a direct mail campaign? How about a downloadable white paper from an opt-in on a landing page?”

    Let the young bucks spin their wheels while we make our clients some real money! ;-)

  2. Jen @ Daycare In Demand said:

    I think you’re so right that people tend to hide behind what’s new in large part because no way to measure ROI = no way to prove ineptitude!

  3. Curtis M. Alexander said:

    It’s not an either/or argument. Both young and old marketers need to constantly acquire news skills while fine tuning old ones.

    Often, grizzled veterans are just as guilty as newbie’s at being set in their ways.

    I’m no fan of social media and I think it’s overblown for the same reasons other commentors have pointed out. But that doesn’t change the fact that – for example – early testing into Facebook advertising is quite promising. Lower click cost and higher CTR’s then the Adwords.

    Whether we’re talking about new or old – opportunities for growth both professionally and personally are right next to us. We sometimes have to shift a bit to grasp them and flourish.

  4. Sandy Gerber said:

    In the marketing world, there is definitely great value in using the tried and true methods that have been proven with clear statistics. Social media hasn’t been tested for as long as the direct mailing approach, but in the past few years it does seem to be quite effective with younger generations.
    It will be interesting to see if social media will continue to be used in marketing as much in the years to come or if it is just a temporary trend in marketing. Hopefully there can be a blend of both social media as well as the other more established methods. Again this all depends on who the target market is, and perhaps in order to reach all ages marketers young and old can learn from each other to make a more effective collaborative marketing team.

  5. Jon P said:

    What’s wrong with young marketers is the same thing that’s wrong with old marketers: they think they have cornered the market on truth. Both generations can learn from each other if they show some humility and listen as much as they spout.

  6. Jim Angel said:

    After working at a large company’s marketing arm employing mostly under-35 types, it was apparent that the marketing and advertising emphasis was on entertaining an audience and trying to appeal to an emotion instead of informing them with compelling reasons to buy a product. No wonder the company has been losing market share for years!

    Sure, most buying decisions are based on emotions. But without practical reasons (spelled v-a-l-u-e) selling quality and quantity, not to mention higher priced products, it’s obvious that purchasing decisions become more effort than it should be, and the consumer opts for the easiest route to justify a purchase–the lower price.

    It’s always refreshing when I review Bly’s articles and books which have always been packed with (evidently) not-so-common-sense methods for delivering messages that are read and remembered.

    As for social media, isn’t it obvious by now that this is an over-hyped soap box-method of venting or praising? There has to be a reason for someone to want to read, let alone use, information; solutions to problems, or answers to questions, for example.

    Bob’s writing philosophy coincides with tried and proved advertising and marketing that always (yes, always) works written and handed down from other successful gurus like Ogilvy and others.

    For that we all owe a sincere, “Thank you, Bob.”

  7. Travis said:

    The idea that where you are is the smartest place never changes. The 20 year old that thinks there the smartest for reason (insert valid reason) will be 50+ years old and claiming to be the smartest for (insert valid reason).

    One thing that comes with age is complacency and laziness. Get older, don’t want to work out, don’t want to study or learn anything new. Many will die protecting ‘tried and true’ over any new information. Those same people would have been the ones who killed Galileo for saying the world was round.

    As many fools as i have met in every age group, one thing i have learned is Older is Not Smarter.

    Older is older. And older has been on the earth longer. But not necessarily smarter. Have you not experienced the number of people who get older but aren’t exposing themselves to much information?

    Stupid and 20 and maybe just a little less stupid at 50?

    Have you not experienced older, with information, but not intelligent enough to put the pieces together and constructively use that information?

    There are so many people who stopped learning 20 years ago, and claim they are smarter because they are older.

    Actually, the only thing that matters is getting the results you want and follwing what’s proving true.

    If you aren’t getting the results out of life that you want at 20 or 50, and if you’re having trouble getting work ….your results are telling something.

    And it’s not telling that you are the smartest. It’s telling you, you’ve got a lot to learn.

    20 or 50, the generation gap issue is not one sided. Its two generations of people who haven’t gotten ‘smart’ enough to effectively communicate with each other. Both come to the table with excuses.

  8. felgi stalowe said:

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  9. Asher said:

    From my experience as a 20-something marketer, there’s still no doubt that long copy outsells social media per visitor and per click. At the end of the day, the social media platforms du jour are only tactics. We still need solid copy to convert all that social traffic into buyers. Thank you for creating this wonderful resource!

  10. Result 2015 said:

    Wonderful blog. Great ideas and fun read.

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