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How to stay hip as a marketer

“How do you do, fellow kids?”

Steve Buscemi 30 Rock meme

You’re getting older. The marketing channels you mastered when you began your career have changed. 

No matter how young, hip, experienced, or knowledgeable you are, the future will always be nipping at your heels. And your company looks to you to understand the latest trends and tactics.

Even if you are a marketer for the most boring of boring B2B products, you still need to be more hip than John in accounting. But first things first, you need to understand …

Everyone interacts differently online

“And that’s why Finsta accounts are an untapped marketing opportunity,” explained the zoomer intern to a conference room full of millennials shaking their heads in disbelief.

These social media professionals gave the intern the same look my mother gives me when I try to explain how files are stored in the cloud. “The younger generation is insane!?” they all uttered. (Also, here is what a Finsta is in case you don’t know.)

People 10 years apart in age use Instagram drastically differently. It’s not enough to know what a platform does. You need to be so plugged in that you understand the many ways people actually use it.

As a marketer who loves newsletters, I am endlessly fascinated by the myriad ways that people manage their email. 

Some people achieve inbox zero with smart labels, while others have thousands of unread emails just sitting there (and somehow maintain their life). I mention these disparate cases because there is no standardized consumption of marketing. 

But we can draw up some vague cohorts by generation divide and their accompanying competency and habits.

Generational cohort usage

Age and demographics form a big divide in the way people interact with technology. Marketers have been increasingly grouping swaths of cohorts into generations, and while these labels cover far more than digital habits, that’s what we’re going to focus on today. Here are some generalities.

Boomers are competent users who consume far more digital content than you would expect — whether it’s your mother-in-law who has cable news on as background noise/propaganda all day or your father who scrolls social feeds on his iPad in between backgammon matches. 

Gen Xers are the bad boys and girls who are among the most laissez-faire about it all. They don’t give a fuck about trends or their social presence, yet they are healthily informed and extremely well-read. 

Millennials are among the first to become truly addicted to screens. From AIM to MySpace to modern social networks, they broke through the illusion that you can make friends online. They may have some legacy media-consumption tendencies, but overwhelmingly they revert to social influencers and social news sources for their digital diet. 

Zoomers are and will be the generation that normalizes having a fully digital lifestyle. Where their parents found status purchasing cars and brand-name clothes, zoomers establish status and clout in the digital ecosystem. The full scope of this generation is yet to be seen. 

So what to do if your brand’s target audience — and potentially biggest spenders — are millenials and zoomers? How do you stay hip?

Sample a young person’s media diet

There is a saying that “people stop liking new music after they graduate from college.” All the music from your pop middle-school years to your angsty high-school phase to your sophisticated and elite college years is great. Everything after that mostly sucks. 

During our younger years, as our brains are forming and we are experimenting with different styles, we haven’t locked into our tastes yet. We also have a ton of time to explore, discover, and go deep into media before our adulting puts those things on the back burner.

Unfortunately, this applies to far more than music. 

Take time to sample a young person’s media diet. Forsake your daily New York Times paper for the trending topics on Twitter while blasting some top 40 on those bougie Sonos speakers you just bought.

Don’t let your tastes solidify. Sure, The Beatles, Madonna, Radiohead, and Kanye might always be the best for you. But open your mind to Billie Eilish, BTS, and Olivia Rodrigo. It might be scary, but that doesn’t mean it’s bad. 

You don’t have to go native, but here are a couple of ideas to see what’s going on in the new media landscape:

  • Put on a Top Hits of Spotify in the background and just let it ride.
  • Go down a Youtube click-hole and see where it takes you. (Watch out for QAnon!)
  • Subscribe to curated newsletters to stay in the know. (Here is a list of our favorites.)
  • Challenge that bratty cousin of yours in a game a Fortnite. 

But how do you find out what’s new or hip in the first place?

Interview friends and family about their online habits

During Christmas, I make it a habit to sit at the kids table and ask my cousins about their digital consumption. And not just surface-level social media trends, but quality and concerning questions of our time around data, privacy, big tech, and the government’s role in it all.

Here are some additional questions you can ask to get a convo going:

  • What email addresses do you have, and what do you use them for?
  • What newsletters do you subscribe to?
  • What are your favorite brands?
  • How do you communicate with your friends?

From grilling my sister over Christmas last year, I found out that, although she isn’t on Twitter, she reads articles like “craziest thing Karens say on Twitter.” The insane part is these are Buzzfeed articles native on Facebook. So although she isn’t on Twitter, she is getting a curated Twitter feed on Facebook from a media publisher. 

I didn’t even know that was a thing!! What does that tell me about marketing?! I can infer some useful things:

  • There is a need for curation of content.
  • People still go to Facebook to be entertained.
  • Facebook provides a nice and readable publishing platform, apparently.

An example like this might not immediately have an application to your job or your brand, but it will be a small case study of online usage. With enough of these examples, you start to begin to understand a more exhaustive overview of the online landscape and the people who inhabit it. 

You don’t have to use it or even like it, but you do need to understand it

I may not like Snapchat, but I get it. TikTok, on the other hand, I get almost too well.

The future is coming fast, and new marketing opportunities emerge every day. If you find yourself in the late majority or laggard category for platforms, trends, and opportunities, then you can damn well imagine that fresh new hire is coming for your job. 

Remember: Innovators and early adopters don’t have to be power users. You don’t need to have a viral TikTok dance account to understand the platform. Like I said earlier, you don’t even need to like it. 

A good exercise is to think about where you and your company sit on the technology and product adoption curve in different categories. 

  • News and media habits
  • Marketing industry news and trends
  • Emerging platforms (social media, audio, video)
  • Industry technology 

Marketers should always be on the innovator or the early adopter phase of the curve. But let me be clear: Just because something is new, doesn’t mean it’s for you or your company. 

So when you hear about Clubhouse, get yourself an invite. As a newsletter subscription platform takes root, test it out. There is no telling what will pop. 

Now for some old-person advice

Being hip doesn’t always come with perspective. Here is some old people’s advice to get ahead of those bratty college grads:

Read more. You may not be a power user or innovator, but your experience and knowledge are advantages, the radical assets to showing people the links between things. 

As Harry Truman said, “Not all readers become leaders, but all leaders must be readers.”

Have an opinion. Similar to the last point, having an opinion or a take starts a conversation. Planting a flag in the ground, no matter if you are right or wrong, adds value. Even better than having opinions on past things is being able to have opinions about the future.

Get risky. Get fucking crazy. Buy some bitcoin. Get a tattoo. Doesn’t matter what it is. Experiment and try things out so you don’t turn into that old man yelling at people to get off his lawn. 

Get curated. The modern media and marketing landscape is so utterly vast and varied that you need some help. Find sources and people you trust to outsource some of your knowledge. Subscribe to curated newsletters to stay in the know. (Here is a list of our favorites.)

Stay curious

I have some bad news. Even after reading this incredible advice, the reality is that you’ll never be as cool as you once were. 

I’ve done my best not to use the A-word (shhhh authenticity), because it’s simply overused in marketing blogs. But if you follow some of this advice, lean into your personality, let your voice come out, there might just be hope for you yet.

While you’ll never be as hip as you once were, that’s what Dad rock, Mom Chic, and Pupper Parent (not trying to discriminate here) are for. 

How to stay hip as a marketer

“How do you do, fellow kids?”

Steve Buscemi 30 Rock meme

You’re getting older. The marketing channels you mastered when you began your career have changed. 

No matter how young, hip, experienced, or knowledgeable you are, the future will always be nipping at your heels. And your company looks to you to understand the latest trends and tactics.

Even if you are a marketer for the most boring of boring B2B products, you still need to be more hip than John in accounting. But first things first, you need to understand …

Everyone interacts differently online

“And that’s why Finsta accounts are an untapped marketing opportunity,” explained the zoomer intern to a conference room full of millennials shaking their heads in disbelief.

These social media professionals gave the intern the same look my mother gives me when I try to explain how files are stored in the cloud. “The younger generation is insane!?” they all uttered. (Also, here is what a Finsta is in case you don’t know.)

People 10 years apart in age use Instagram drastically differently. It’s not enough to know what a platform does. You need to be so plugged in that you understand the many ways people actually use it.

As a marketer who loves newsletters, I am endlessly fascinated by the myriad ways that people manage their email. 

Some people achieve inbox zero with smart labels, while others have thousands of unread emails just sitting there (and somehow maintain their life). I mention these disparate cases because there is no standardized consumption of marketing. 

But we can draw up some vague cohorts by generation divide and their accompanying competency and habits.

Generational cohort usage

Age and demographics form a big divide in the way people interact with technology. Marketers have been increasingly grouping swaths of cohorts into generations, and while these labels cover far more than digital habits, that’s what we’re going to focus on today. Here are some generalities.

Boomers are competent users who consume far more digital content than you would expect — whether it’s your mother-in-law who has cable news on as background noise/propaganda all day or your father who scrolls social feeds on his iPad in between backgammon matches. 

Gen Xers are the bad boys and girls who are among the most laissez-faire about it all. They don’t give a fuck about trends or their social presence, yet they are healthily informed and extremely well-read. 

Millennials are among the first to become truly addicted to screens. From AIM to MySpace to modern social networks, they broke through the illusion that you can make friends online. They may have some legacy media-consumption tendencies, but overwhelmingly they revert to social influencers and social news sources for their digital diet. 

Zoomers are and will be the generation that normalizes having a fully digital lifestyle. Where their parents found status purchasing cars and brand-name clothes, zoomers establish status and clout in the digital ecosystem. The full scope of this generation is yet to be seen. 

So what to do if your brand’s target audience — and potentially biggest spenders — are millenials and zoomers? How do you stay hip?

Sample a young person’s media diet

There is a saying that “people stop liking new music after they graduate from college.” All the music from your pop middle-school years to your angsty high-school phase to your sophisticated and elite college years is great. Everything after that mostly sucks. 

During our younger years, as our brains are forming and we are experimenting with different styles, we haven’t locked into our tastes yet. We also have a ton of time to explore, discover, and go deep into media before our adulting puts those things on the back burner.

Unfortunately, this applies to far more than music. 

Take time to sample a young person’s media diet. Forsake your daily New York Times paper for the trending topics on Twitter while blasting some top 40 on those bougie Sonos speakers you just bought.

Don’t let your tastes solidify. Sure, The Beatles, Madonna, Radiohead, and Kanye might always be the best for you. But open your mind to Billie Eilish, BTS, and Olivia Rodrigo. It might be scary, but that doesn’t mean it’s bad. 

You don’t have to go native, but here are a couple of ideas to see what’s going on in the new media landscape:

  • Put on a Top Hits of Spotify in the background and just let it ride.
  • Go down a Youtube click-hole and see where it takes you. (Watch out for QAnon!)
  • Subscribe to curated newsletters to stay in the know. (Here is a list of our favorites.)
  • Challenge that bratty cousin of yours in a game a Fortnite. 

But how do you find out what’s new or hip in the first place?

Interview friends and family about their online habits

During Christmas, I make it a habit to sit at the kids table and ask my cousins about their digital consumption. And not just surface-level social media trends, but quality and concerning questions of our time around data, privacy, big tech, and the government’s role in it all.

Here are some additional questions you can ask to get a convo going:

  • What email addresses do you have, and what do you use them for?
  • What newsletters do you subscribe to?
  • What are your favorite brands?
  • How do you communicate with your friends?

From grilling my sister over Christmas last year, I found out that, although she isn’t on Twitter, she reads articles like “craziest thing Karens say on Twitter.” The insane part is these are Buzzfeed articles native on Facebook. So although she isn’t on Twitter, she is getting a curated Twitter feed on Facebook from a media publisher. 

I didn’t even know that was a thing!! What does that tell me about marketing?! I can infer some useful things:

  • There is a need for curation of content.
  • People still go to Facebook to be entertained.
  • Facebook provides a nice and readable publishing platform, apparently.

An example like this might not immediately have an application to your job or your brand, but it will be a small case study of online usage. With enough of these examples, you start to begin to understand a more exhaustive overview of the online landscape and the people who inhabit it. 

You don’t have to use it or even like it, but you do need to understand it

I may not like Snapchat, but I get it. TikTok, on the other hand, I get almost too well.

The future is coming fast, and new marketing opportunities emerge every day. If you find yourself in the late majority or laggard category for platforms, trends, and opportunities, then you can damn well imagine that fresh new hire is coming for your job. 

Remember: Innovators and early adopters don’t have to be power users. You don’t need to have a viral TikTok dance account to understand the platform. Like I said earlier, you don’t even need to like it. 

A good exercise is to think about where you and your company sit on the technology and product adoption curve in different categories. 

  • News and media habits
  • Marketing industry news and trends
  • Emerging platforms (social media, audio, video)
  • Industry technology 

Marketers should always be on the innovator or the early adopter phase of the curve. But let me be clear: Just because something is new, doesn’t mean it’s for you or your company. 

So when you hear about Clubhouse, get yourself an invite. As a newsletter subscription platform takes root, test it out. There is no telling what will pop. 

Now for some old-person advice

Being hip doesn’t always come with perspective. Here is some old people’s advice to get ahead of those bratty college grads:

Read more. You may not be a power user or innovator, but your experience and knowledge are advantages, the radical assets to showing people the links between things. 

As Harry Truman said, “Not all readers become leaders, but all leaders must be readers.”

Have an opinion. Similar to the last point, having an opinion or a take starts a conversation. Planting a flag in the ground, no matter if you are right or wrong, adds value. Even better than having opinions on past things is being able to have opinions about the future.

Get risky. Get fucking crazy. Buy some bitcoin. Get a tattoo. Doesn’t matter what it is. Experiment and try things out so you don’t turn into that old man yelling at people to get off his lawn. 

Get curated. The modern media and marketing landscape is so utterly vast and varied that you need some help. Find sources and people you trust to outsource some of your knowledge. Subscribe to curated newsletters to stay in the know. (Here is a list of our favorites.)

Stay curious

I have some bad news. Even after reading this incredible advice, the reality is that you’ll never be as cool as you once were. 

I’ve done my best not to use the A-word (shhhh authenticity), because it’s simply overused in marketing blogs. But if you follow some of this advice, lean into your personality, let your voice come out, there might just be hope for you yet.

While you’ll never be as hip as you once were, that’s what Dad rock, Mom Chic, and Pupper Parent (not trying to discriminate here) are for. 

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