Millennials are the focus of more and more headlines.
Fair or not, millennials have been called trendsetters and brand kingmakers. They’ve been credited with killing department stores, the game of golf and mayonnaise. It’s no surprise, then, that this group is the object of marketers’ fascination.
With millennials surpassing baby boomers as the largest generation in the U.S. labor force in 2016, it’s a group with a lot of spending power, and much of the conversation focuses on how to market to the millennial contingent.
Yet what about the impact millennials are having as employees in marketing and PR departments, on both the brand and agency side?
Here’s how millennials are changing the marketing industry from the inside out:
Bridging the digital gap
Millennials are often called “digital natives,” and considered to be the first demographic that doesn’t remember a world before personal computing and smartphones permeated every aspect of our lives. However, if you listen to Pew Research, millennials stretch back to those born in 1981. The oldest millennials still remember when Windows 3.0 was cutting edge, and they earned bachelor’s degrees before they got their first Motorola RAZR phone.
Millennials are better defined as a bridge generation, one that is well-positioned to understand the behaviors, motivations and desires of both digital natives and the less tech-savvy.
Marketer Bryan Eisenberg drives this point home when he says, “Our jobs as marketers are to understand how the customer wants to buy and help them to do so.” If the ability to put yourself in your audience’s shoes is an important quality for a marketer, millennials have their feet in the right place.
Driving technology change
It’s no surprise that millennials are often the ones driving technology change in the workplace. It’s an effect that is more pronounced in some industries than others, but none are exempt.
The oil and gas industry has a name for it: the “great crew change.” Due in part to reduced hiring throughout the 1980s and 1990s, many engineers are either nearing their 60s or under the age of 40. This new generation of workers is poised to usher in dramatic technology changes. By extension, marketers selling to the oil and gas industry are taking note of this shift in their buyers. Those that are able to change tactics and keep pace with these changes will reap the rewards.
The fact is, millennials are increasingly the ones making buying decisions, with one study showing 82 percent of millennials are involved in buying committees. It’s only logical that marketing and PR teams reflect the market they serve.
Pushing for more collaboration
Millennials will make up 75 percent of the U.S. workforce by 2030, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. This influx of talent is being accompanied by an influx of collaboration tools like Slack. Early adoption by millennials is driving change within organizations and changing how marketing departments operate.
When our agency, Walker Sands, transitioned from Microsoft Outlook to Gmail several years ago, it was millennials pushing for the change. The same was true when we overhauled our editorial process using Trello earlier this year. Both changes have been nothing short of transformative for our business, increasing efficiency and collaboration both internally and with our clients.
Beyond collaboration tools, the role of PR and marketing has changed dramatically over the past decade. Marketers are increasingly sales-literate, working hand-in-hand with sales teams to drive customers through the sales pipeline. CMOs, in many cases, have increased input on customer service, product development, pricing and other key aspects of the business.
PR people are now data scientists in addition to storytellers, accountable for key metrics that often drive the goals of the marketing department. All require a new level of collaboration to perform their roles effectively.
Whether it’s bridging the digital divide, ushering in new technologies or prompting a culture of collaboration, millennials are making an impact on the marketing world. The future looks bright.
Andrew Cross is the VP of public relations at Walker Sands.