The (Mostly) Pros and Cons of Working with Millennial Marketers

June 2017

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When I was asked to give my thoughts and perspectives on the next generation of marketers, I thought it would be easy to describe them. I’ve been teaching at the college level for the past 17 years (yikes!). As a practitioner faculty member at a small, private college for the past four years, I’ve seen the youngest of the millennial generation in my most recent marketing classes. And to be honest, they live up the stereotypes:

• Sense of entitlement
• Need for structure
• Need for reinforcement
• Constant use of technology

There are actually positives to these so-called negative stereotypes.

Entitlement

While they do really think they deserve a “trophy” just for showing up, what that really means is that they know no bounds. To them, anything is possible. As marketers, that could mean unlimited opportunities to create marketing plans, products, and creative concepts.

However, because they have always been praised, à la trophies, they don’t necessarily prove their ideas. Providing supporting data and being able to demonstrate the net result(s) of their ideas is something they struggle with. Thinking is easy. Proving is difficult. The millennial marketer needs to be reminded that they have to justify why their idea is best by how it affects the bottom line.

Structure

This generation has gone through most of their educational lives with rubrics and standardized testing. Rubrics are the educational equivalent of play dates. All their activities—educational and social—have been structured for them and the potential outcomes generally known.

Rubrics let them know how much reward (in the form of a grade) they can expect for various levels of effort. And they want to be given credit for effort. Standardized testing has made millennials focus on the one correct answer.

As you and I know, in the business world, effort doesn’t necessarily matter, but proven results do. And we’ve also figured out that there are often many solutions to not only business problems, but to consumers’ problems. Again, it gets back to getting the millennial marketer to support and prove their ideas.

Reinforcement

Because their lives have always been structured and they’ve always been rewarded for everything they’ve done, millennials need constant reinforcement, especially when they are pushed to think independently. Having free reign to do anything and everything terrifies them because decisions have often been made for them. When you think about that, it’s ironic because they’ve always been praised for anything they’ve ever done. But, when they are instructed to figure things out on their own, they lack the necessary experience and confidence.

For the millennial marketer to be successful, you will need to have regular meetings with them to gently guide and mentor them to self-sufficiency in the workplace.

Tech savvy

Millennials are aptly called digital natives as they’ve never known life without technology. They can use a mobile phone like nobody else. They are in the know about all the various social media. When it comes to actually knowing how to use any of it, not so much. When a millennial marketer says they are “proficient” in Excel, Word or PowerPoint, what they really mean is they know how to open the program and type in it. They do not necessarily know how to use formulas in Excel or format in Word. And despite their FOMO, they will struggle to understand the analytics behind measuring the effectiveness of the social media they and the rest of consumers are using to engage with your brand and products. The millennial marketer is on the cutting-edge of new media—let them make sure your message is there as well.

The millennial marketer is not unlike the baby boomer or GenX marketer before them, with the exception of their use of and comfort with technology and social media. Just like marketers before them, they are competitive and driven. It’s up to elder marketers to give them the guidance and constructive feedback to help them succeed.

–Rae Caloura, Contributing Writer

Rae Caloura spent 15 years doing market research before moving to academic for the past 17 years. Her primary course load includes intro to marketing and marketing research. She also runs a small marketing consulting practice. Rae has a B.S. in managerial economics from Carnegie Mellon University and MBA from Providence College. She can be reached at raecaloura@gmail.com.