Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Making the case for experience

Is there a place for experience in the marketing team, or are older employees out of date and holding things back?

With Prime Minister Dave Cameron's recent cull of senior ministers - and it has to be said of mainly male and 'pale' older men - those  in marketing jobs must be wondering whether their time is up in a marketing space currently in thrall to social media. Although there is plenty of marketing focus on demographics and the power of the 'grey pound' as Britain's population ages, does it extend to employment in marketing? According to a recent report the grey pound accounts for nearly 50% of consumer spending and the over 50's account for 76% of the nation's wealth. And of course many specifiers and decision makers in the engineering and technology field are male - the recent Industrial Technology research found the average age of its readers to be mid forties - so it kind of makes sense to have someone on the team who can relate to that demographic.

Another survey - Age before beauty - claimed 66% regarded over 60s just as effective as their younger colleagues and 21% rated them more useful as team players. Older employees may not salivate in the same way over the latest gadgets or apps, but many probably have a more informed comprehension of how products are made and code is written - it's not that new. Don't forget the important mentoring role older employees can provide too. A former colleague of mine, someone much older than me - assessed a company's stability and capability by means of a straw poll count of how many 'grey heads' he saw in the building.

Although there is a tendency for older employees to subscribe to the 'told you so' school of conversation, the reality is that they have lived through changing times. seen boom times and recessions, seen what worked and what failed and hopefully understood why. It is, in short, experience. With that comes knowledge,  competence, reliability and a 'steady hand'. Surprising then that ex PR man Dave Cameron is sending out the opposite signals. Seems a bit like age discrimination. In marketing terms he has taken the hatchet to a group
of people who are most representative of his party's target audience. Is that wise?

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