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Tuesday, April 06, 2010

The lost generation of marketers

Today’s FT has an article about the inability of today’s older marketers to ‘get’ the use of social media. Sorry, this article might be on subscription only.

The outgoing marketing chief of Unilever has warned of a “lost generation” of brand managers who do not understand the web and social networks.

In his final interview before retiring, Simon Clift said he believed public relations agencies were best placed to profit from the rise of Facebook and Twitter, as traditional advertising agencies struggle to adapt to the digital world.

Mr Cliff’s basic premise is that: “If you are 25 or 20, you know this stuff – you are brought up with Facebook and YouTube - if you are 50 see your kids do it - most of our brands are managed by people who have had to learn it.”

So you get the basis of the argument; the young have digital welded into their DNA, the 50-plus observe its use and the age group in the middle learn, but do not instinctively use it.”

To help out Unilever has encouraged its staff to use sites such as Twitter and acebook themselves, to understand them better and help them “live the space”.

Mr Clift said: “The people who have most needed it are the people aged between 30 and 45, running global brands because they grew up after it and haven’t seen their kids doing it”.

I assume that Mr Clift’s arguments are a tad more sophisticated than represented in this article since he is portrayed as talking in terms of simplistic stereotypes. He is falling into the trap of purely associating digital knowledge and use with age.

Here is something for him to consider during his retirement years. If he is right then the same argument dictates that as a huge chunk of Unilever’s products are purchased by the 50-plus the company should have a few more 50-plus brand managers to “live the space”? Dick Stroud

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