I was struck by a recent Marketing Week poll that 65% “believe older marketers are being edged out by digital natives in the job market.”
The terms “Digital Natives” and “Digital Immigrants” were coined by Marc Prensky in 2001 to define a generational divide of those born before and after the advent of digital.
As technology continues to impact every aspect of marketing, the terms are used more and more frequently to categorize how adept marketers will be based on their age. The labels discount experience in favor of youth. They eschew traditional marketing in favor of the new, new thing.
The Marketing Week article includes the story of an experienced marketer named Jan Gooding, who had been head of strategic communications at BT and owned her own consultancy. Yet when she tried to look for an agency management position in her mid-40s, she faced a block:
“I was told by two top head-hunters that I was too old and wouldn’t even get an interview – it was that blunt.”
I think it’s a false dichotomy. It’s less about technology than it is about mindset. As Diageo CEO Ivan Menezes put it, “It is not about doing ‘digital marketing’, it is about marketing effectively in a digital world.”
I liked Russell Parsons’ assessment of digital natives in a related Marketing Week editorial:
“A good marketer puts strategy first. Thinks customer, before thinking product, service or campaign execution. Being customer orientated, therefore, trumps the fact that they haven’t grown up with Snapchat, WhatsApp and Uber. It pays to be curious and questioning, of course, but that should be the case regardless of age. Overlooking someone because of their age risks losing out on the strategic and business nous that comes with having been around the block. You don’t have to be digital native to understand the advantages of digital and you don’t have to be pushing 50 to understand the basics of what you do.”
Here are a couple related cartoons I’ve drawn on this topic:
“Growth Hacking“ March 2014
“Digital Transformation“ November 2016