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Millennial CMO Article Our Thinking

Let’s give millennials the CMO chair. We know they think they’re ready for it. And maybe they are.

Maybe the CMO role is the most appropriate role for them. They’ve got the highest branding IQ of any generation. They’ve been acting as their own CSMO (chief self-marketing officer). After all, they’ve been promoting their own brand for years. They don’t have channel strategies, they just are. They don’t need words like “content” or “journey,” because to them, it is just “stuff” people “do”.

All millennials, simply because they are such, are already their own brand. They have social channels and platforms of their own. They’ve already developed their brand identity and positioning. They know their tonal guardrails. They know what’s cool to them, and they have an engaged social community that agrees.

Imagine it — a millennial CMO. Someone who pulls up a chair at the table because, as far as they’re concerned, they belong there. Someone who is not only accustomed to the rigorous speed at which social and digital platforms evolve, but doesn’t even know a different pace. Their headshot isn’t a portrait, but a selfie. They’re always connected, always on and always right.

To those millennials reading this thinking, “About time. Give me the chair!” Here are a couple things to be mindful of to make sure you succeed.

Learn how to fail

This is a hard thing to teach a generation that has always gotten a trophy for everything. But it’s important to understand that not all your ideas will work. In fact, success is incredibly hard and delicate.

Failing should happen fast, and you should get over it quickly. As the saying goes, forget your failures as fast as others forget your successes. Think of failures this way: If you come up with enough new ideas quickly enough, your failure will be pushed to page two of Google’s search results. And nobody looks at that.

Practice diplomacy

You’re good. No, really, you are. But it is still going to take a team and a massive effort from everyone on your team to bring an idea to life. There is going to be a tremendous amount of give and take to see a project come to fruition. There will be sacrifices. Diplomacy is the art of negotiating and making everyone else’s viewpoint known and felt on the project. All of a sudden, the idea isn’t yours alone. It belongs to everyone. This will be new and hard. You’ll need to learn this.

Selling is part of the job

Selling isn’t a dirty word or something your parents or grandparents did. It is a very desirable skill. If you can’t sell your ideas to other people, all your efforts are merely academic. The fact millennials will quickly realize is that selling your idea once isn’t enough. It is just as hard to keep an idea sold as it is to sell it in the first time.

CMOs have to sell and defend their programs and initiatives every day. Ask any CMO how much selling they need to do around yearly budget planning, budget cuts or product launches.

 Admit what you don’t know

“I don’t know” is a perfectly acceptable answer. For a group that already thinks they know everything, this may be the hardest of all pieces of advice to follow. Business is unforgiving. Don’t fake it. Eventually you will be found out, someone will notice you have no idea, and despite the all-knowing wisdom you’ve obtained over the last few decades, there are some things, believe it or not, that only life and experience can teach you. If you open up and admit you don’t know, someone might be willing to help you.

Be open to it.

Be open to help. Don’t just nod your head so they stop talking then go and make their same mistake. Listen to others, and someday, you will know, and that will be much more comfortable. Won’t it?

So are they ready for it?

Millennials don’t have the years of trial and error. You may need to teach them what they can’t say/do/post in a public forum. And you will have to explain to them why Saturday night’s photos are no longer appropriate to post on their social channels, given their role, but these millennials may reward your heartburn-inducing roll of the dice in spades.

So if you decide to even consider millennials to run your brand, research theirs first. And if you like what you find, it may be time to give them the reins. If nothing else, they could be the one generation that won’t be scared away by the average CMO tenure of 45 months — that’s probably too long for them to stick in one place anyway.

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