What Millennials Want From Non-Millennials—And Vice Versa

By Matthew Schwartz

Madison Avenue’s fixation on youth is an old story. 

It’s been the default position among brand managers for decades: Older consumers are set in their ways and couldn’t possibly be persuaded to try (and buy) new products, so better to cater entirely to younger consumers.

However, a new survey splashes cold water on the theory, which never really held up to scrutiny, anyway. Old habits die hard.

The Massive Growth Opportunity That Marketers Are Missing,” which was conducted by Age of Majority, found that while 58 percent of marketers believe that consumers 50+ spend less than younger groups, the reality is that consumers 55+ represent 40 percent of all consumer spending vs.18 percent for consumers under 35. 

The survey, based on the responses from 1,284 results, also found that marketers under the age of 35 were significantly more likely than older marketers to underestimate, ignore, under-invest in and unfairly stereotype consumers 55+.

The PR industry is grappling with similar issues (and stereotypes) found in the above survey.

Just flip the model.

To wit, the Age of Majority study focused on external issues regarding younger marketers’ views of older consumers and how those views don’t necessarily jibe with reality.

But the PR challenges are internal: How millennials and non-millennial communicators jettison the stereotypes that each generation suffers about the other and, you guessed it, don’t necessarily jibe with reality.

With a growing number of millennials populating the PR field, these are questions that agency heads need to confront sooner rather than later.

Whether it’s driving digital practices or pushing the firm on how to “socialize” its brand, millennials are starting to have a significant impact throughout the PR industry. Millennials, disruption is thy name.

You also have a relatively new (and growing) cohort of millennials who own PR firms and bring much more of a financial antenna to PR management than previous generations of owners.

However, baby boomers and Gen Xers working at the senior level of PR aren’t going the way of the woolly mammoth just yet. They still have a great deal to teach millennial owners and millennial employees alike, particularly when it comes to cultivating relationships with the media and learning “soft” business skills that have absolutely nothing to do with social media or smartphones.

To get a better sense of how millennials and non-millennials view each other, Gould+Partners partnered with ARPR to conduct a survey titled “What PR Firm Owners Want From Millennial—and Vice Versa.”

We’re not asking for the generations to gather round the office campfire every week and sing Kumbaya but, rather, how they can better understand each other and work together for greater good.

Call it PR for PR.   

Please take a few minutes to respond to the survey, which is specifically tailored for millennial agency owners, non-millennial agency owners and non-millennial agency employees. The results will be released in December.    

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