Never mind B2B2C. It’s time for F2F.
In view of the increasingly fragmented marketing landscape, I had intended to discuss the helpfulness or otherwise of labels such as B2B, B2B2C and even a new one that was thrown at me recently: C2C, which means Corporate to Corporate, apparently…
Yes, I really meant to take issue with the plethora of restrictive labels that now attach themselves to otherwise flexible relationships. Then, having read a number of recent research studies, I came to the conclusion that such compartmentalisation of roles and relationships is very much the last gasp of an older generation that is in the process of being swept away by the new generation of millennials.
New research conducted by the Business Marketing Association (BMA) suggests that over the next 10 years, millennials taking over leading roles in the workforce will become responsible for some $170 billion of spend.
While that might sound like good news for every forward-thinking marketer, it does however raise the question of how they will go about their work, and what will happen to established labels such as B2B, B2C and B2B2C, not to mention established marketing practices, when a whole new generation is put in charge.
After all, while the Baby Boomers and Generation Xers have been happy to both create and engage with traditional marketing, new research shows that Millennials can be a much harder audience for marketers to reach; with only 6% regarding online advertising as credible, and a significant 67% refusing to click on sponsored stories. Perhaps most crucially of all, the Northwest University study also found that 95% of millennials regard their friends as the most trusted source of product information. So it really does look like F2F is all set to be the new B2C.
Naturally, this suggests that millennial marketers will create an even more significant swing away from traditional marketing practices and media channels than we have already seen over the last decade. Yet the organisational upheavals the millennial generation look set to bring are sure to be just as cataclysmic.
Clearly, this generation is going to drive us all to a much more open-minded and collaborative way of thinking and doing business, not to mention affecting how we all react to marketing messages as consumers. Just a decade ago, few businesses would have considered collaborating with others for equal gain, yet that is an increasingly commonplace scenario today. In fact, it seems to me that most of the boundaries put in place by the current generation of business leaders and marketers are already being swept away, and where that will stop is anybody’s guess.
Perhaps I should declare my own colours at this point? While I’m not quite young enough to pass myself off as a millennial, I’m genuinely excited about the new course they seem sure to lead us on. I fully embrace the idea that we are all selling and all buying in our lives, almost without question, all the time. We are all traders: of thoughts, ideas, goods and emotions; and like everyone at Proctor + Stevenson, I’m excited by the challenge that lies ahead: of understanding and managing the interactions between real people rather than Mosaic profiles. B2F2C? Bring it on!
But while I’d really love to end this piece on a positive note, I think it’s only fair to raise a note of caution, not to mention a couple of points for discussion. We have recognised for some time that the pace of change in marketing and business relationships is increasing all the time, thanks largely to the influence of the millennial generation. Naturally, change is good: but only if it takes everybody with it.
The fact is that as millennials begin to take over the agenda they risk alienating or ignoring a significant, wealthy and influential section of every marketplace: the over-50s. My concern is that while time-shift viewing and constant social media interaction are second nature to the under-30s, or even under-40s, there's still a lot of resistance from the older generation who not only don't get it but don't want to.
The million dollar question for every modern marketer, therefore, is: how will we engage with both traditional and millennial audiences in the future, despite their deeply polarised positions? Answers on a postcard please, if you’re a Baby Boomer. Or if you’re a millennial, feel free to comment.
Originally posted on LinkedIn Pulse.