Are Generation X’s class of marketing directors to blame for businesses failing to get social media?

Interesting piece on the Telegraph website today from Alexis Dormandy, who runs something called, who argues that despite all the evidence that social media works businesses still don’t get it.

He blames Generation X market marketing directors, those 40 year olds, now running the marketing show for failing the big businesses they work for in pushing through social media adoption. He says they have the wrong skills. I’m pretty sure he’s wrong.

“Marketing has become all about analytics and maths and measurement and making targeted investment decisions on a daily basis. It’s about data – lots of data. It requires totally different skills than the senior marketing director spent the last twenty years learning. But the guy who didn’t want to do maths is still making the decisions, and he can’t admit that he doesn’t really understand sponsored stories or Open Graph or hashtags.

The limiting factor in the adoption of the internet and social media by businesses is not the technology, it’s the people in charge,” Dormandy writes.

He goes on to argue that the people responsible for social media are the 26-year old social media manager who are too young to affect real change. Probably true, but that needn’t be a problem.

While he makes some interesting points, I’m sure he’s wrong. Marketing isn’t about analytics, maths and measurement. It is about ideas. Sure you have to understand all of the above, but being brilliant at understanding analytics is not going to help produce great marketing.

That’s like saying you have to understand media planning and buying to be a great marketing director. You don’t, but hiring a media agency helps as does hiring an agency that understands social media. If you can do that as a marketing director then you have half of the problem solved. It is their job to get the maths and analytics and present it in a form that won’t put a board room to sleep.

As in the end it doesn’t matter if you adopt social media or not if your campaign sucks. Old Spice’s Mustafa campaign wasn’t a rip roaring success because it linked TV together with Facebook. It was a success, and revived a brand, because of a great creative idea. Period. The analytics won’t tell you that. They just haven’t got that algorithm yet.

The job of the marketing director whether he is 30, 40 or 50 is to recognise those ideas and be open to exploiting or any media landscape wherever that be in print, TV, mobile or online.

Some ideas will work better than others in social media, but Facebook isn’t going to solve all your problems. What is true is having a presence on Facebook is important. It is a space you have to be in and you don’t have to be a genius of 26 to see that you simply have an understanding of what it means and appreciate that 650 million Facebook users probably means something.

  • Jamie Bolland

    Very well said. There needs to be a very long discussion with lots of people (I’m not saying all) who work in social media to make them understand that a crap idea on Facebook is still a crap idea.

    Numbers can’t predict it, only show it after the fact.

  • Martin thomas

    Marketing has always required a mix of left and right brain thinking (ideas and analysis … creativity and data) and social media hasn’t changed this.

    Social media commentators, such as Dormandy, will always argue that more could be done, but the relatively slow progress has nothing to do with marketers’ inability to deal with data and everything to do with the organisational and cultural challenges that need to be overcome before companies can fully embrace the social media opportunity.

  • John Turpin

    I love stats, they offer meaning and guidance to those that make the higher decisions, but as stated above, they do little (currently) to support Social Media Campaigns. Social media, as a b2b tool is yet to really take off for most, but that should’nt stop you. As Gordon states, it’s a space that HAS to be filled.

  • Craig

    Sucks. Not ‘campaign is sucks’. Typo.

  • @gordonmacmillan

    Ah yes. Missed that. thanks

  • James

    Here here! If a Marketing Director has to get into the nitty gritty of a campaign there is something seriously wrong with the organisation, this is the roll of the marketing and brand managers.

  • Lisa

    A lot of businesses (I feel) just simply don’t understand social media and often have a presence on facebook / twitter and then do nothing further…surely this is about understanding and accepting the shift and changes of technology and implementing an integrated marketing communications strategy which is the key along with a good idea…

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