Bob Dylan knew it. Now Pitney Bowes confirms it. The Times They are a'Changing.
A new study by Pitney Bowes demonstrates that the practitioner's age makes a huge difference in media selection among marketers. 47% of marketers over age 55 are satisfied with the results they get with just one media channel, while only 16% of the under-35 crowd limit themselves to just one media.
Makes sense. Old codgers grew up in a time and space that had fewer options. They became familiar with and versed in a more limited universe of options. The youngsters had more technologies and options available to them. Like most of us, we go with what is comfortable.
And here is where it starts to get interesting. Really interesting.
Looking at online media, marketers under 35 are (no surprise here) most like to use email (66%), social media (34%), mobile media (28%) and QR codes (22%). Senior marketers use email (57%) while mobile marketing and QR codes are barely a blip on the radar screen for them.
That the youngsters embrace online channels shouldn't come as a surprise. This is, after all, their native language. They grew up with all things electronic. But their enthusiastic embrace of direct mail does come as a bit of a surprise.
According to the Pitney Bowes study, marketers under 35 are more likely (57%) to use direct mail than their elders. In the 35 to 54 age group 40% use direct mail and in the 55+ age group only 35% do.
Hypothesizing on the wide acceptance of direct mail among younger users, Joseph Piteo, a business development manager at Vision Critical, which conducted the survey for Pitney Bowes, suggests that the large numbers of entrepreneurs in their early 30s may be the reason. "Some of the digital marketing channels would be quite expensive to implement for a small and medium-sized business owner," he suggests.
So what's up with the old guys and direct mail?
Why the decline in direct mail use as the marketer ages? It is possible that older marketers who responded to the 500-person survey are individual consultants, not working within the corporate structure anymore. (Someone said a "consultant" is just an older person who is unemployed—and in this market, there sure are a lot of consultants on the street!)
As consultants, they may be focusing on electronic media to seem "hip" to the younger crowd, aka their client base. Like a man with a truly bad comb over wants to hide the obvious, they want to seem relevant to the footsteps they hear approaching from the rear.
On the other hand...
Despite indicating a preference for direct mail, younger marketers indicate they have less comfort with and knowledge of the media. They find it harder to track results with direct mail than with email or social media. Ultimately only 21% of the youngest marketers cite direct mail's proven effectiveness, compared to 42% of those over age 55.
Older marketers, the study suggests, have seen it all over time. They know what response rates are, and more clearly understand the value of that information. In other words: older marketers have more experience. Duh!
But can the older generation teach the youngsters what they know? And can the youngsters be patient with their elders as they fumble their way into social media acumen?
So many questions. So few answers.
Pitney Bowes says more studies are in the works. Maybe they will answer some of these unanswered questions. Or raise new ones. Only time will tell.