Can We Close the Marketing Generational Gap?

Recently, I’ve been giving a lot of thought to a generational gap I’ve seen become more evident over the past few years separating traditional marketers from online marketers. I’m 36, and I can tell you that with a few noted exceptions, most of the marketers I know over the age of 40 don’t really seem to understand the cutting edge of online marketing, much less the basics.

Yesterday, Mike Grehan over at Clickz wrote a great article entitled: “Search and the Changing Face of Public Relations”. In it, he addresses how public relations is changing today with the advent of technologies like social media, blogging and more. And the unfortunate reality is that MOST public relations firms are not adapting to bring these new technologies to their clients.

In the beginning of my firm two years ago, I reached out to several major PR firms in my local area to become partners. I was hoping to outsource PR SEO to a local firm. While I have a lot of PR experience, I wanted to focus on just search, so I’d hoped I could educate a PR firm in how to optimize press releases and put them out on the web. Every firm I approached seem disinterested.

I find that the case in PR is similar across all of marketing. It’s why I believe (without sounding too ageist here) that there is a definite generational gap in marketing today. When networking with seasoned marketing professionals, I often find that a large majority of them are almost clueless about pay-per-click advertising, social bookmarking, search engine optimization, blogging and more, although they all seem to know that these tactics are important in some way.

Just today, I had a conversation with a longtime friend who ran a small web design and marketing firm for many years. I was telling her I thought, based on her skill set and video background, she might consider branching out into podcasting. Then I had to explain to her what podcasting is, how you get a podcast, and what the purpose of one is. Wow.

The greatest concern I see with the current state of the marketing generational gap is that seasoned marketing professionals with twenty years or more of experience are typically in leadership roles in companies, typically holding a title of director, vice president, or CMO. This same generation of marketers is the core decision making group for marketing tactics and budget within an organization. So, because these individuals do not understand online marketing in many cases, do they stunt the growth of the newest technologies within their own companies? If they don’t understand it, will they still try it and/or budget for it?

I hope that they are willing to listen to the staff members that do understand online marketing and trust the instincts of those young bucks. If not, it may be several more years before real cutting edge, effective online marketing reaches deep into those organizations married to traditional marketing tactics.


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