What CMOs Can Learn from Millennials through Reverse Mentoring

What CMOs Can Learn from Millennials through Reverse Mentoring

Generation Y (also known as Millennials) can often be misunderstood when it comes to their roles in the workforce. Some think of this generation as innovative and influential, while others consider these young adults lazy and entitled. But before getting too caught up with the perceived problems of Gen Y’s work ethic and aptitude, it’s a good idea to understand what CMOs and marketing executives can learn from them. In fact, as a CMO, if you are not learning from the Millennials on your team, you are missing out on a golden opportunity.

As a CMO you likely did not come up through marketing with digital as a piece of the puzzle. Any gap you have in your understanding can likely be answered by someone on your team and they will respect you more if you ask than if you try to fake it. Most importantly, if you are a CMO, you can no longer get away with outsourcing digital because you are hoping to hide your lack of understanding of the discipline. Everyone sees through that in today’s environment.

Overall, you’re going to need to rely on Millennial talent if you expect your organization to grow in today’s digital space. As experienced marketing recruiters, we recognize that the impact Millennials have had on the job market is undeniable. This generation shouldn’t be viewed as just a disruptive group, but rather an incredibly valuable resource of digital natives to tap into.

It’s Time for the (Evolved) CMO to Take Charge

Millennials are a large and influential generation and are the first truly digitally-native group of working professionals. This generation can be a goldmine when it comes to knowledge on how to approach today’s digital consumer of all ages, but specifically their own generation.

The digital marketing world moves incredibly fast and there’s simply no one better than a Millennial to help you keep up with it. Here are a few crucial things today’s CMO can learn from this generation of digital natives:

The Millennial Consumer

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The Millennial generation can be quite challenging to figure out thanks to growing up in an entirely different world. The truth is that this generation doesn’t respond to traditional marketing or advertising tactics like the previous generations. Given the vast volume of Millennial consumers, CMOs must figure out how to target them effectively.

Millennial marketers can help CMOs better understand how to engage with this group. The group holds a tremendous amount of spending power – Millennial spending is expected to increase to $1.4 trillion in 2020. Their impact on the economy is going to be increasingly significant, meaning CMOs cannot afford to ignore targeting this audience.

A Crystal-Clear Digital Buyer’s Journey

It requires more from marketing teams today than understanding the traditional buyer’s journey to truly optimize the experience in a space where everything is shifting to digital. Millennials have a more innate understanding of the digital buyer’s journey and how they make decisions as they are more technically-apt to buy from brands online.

Much of this generation turns to their social networks when making a decision on a purchase. They rely on online platforms as sources of information. From reading reviews on Yelp to seeing the recent places their friends have checked in on Facebook, the online efforts and reputations of brands significantly impact the purchasing decision of a Millennial.

With Millennials on your team, you can get insights on the digital buyer’s journey directly from the source. You’ll better understand the thought processes of a Millennial consumer as they move from the top of the funnel to the bottom, and how you can more effectively target them during the different stages.

Meaningful Digital Native Perspective

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Millennial marketers have a strong sense for big tech trends and are plugged into new media channels and influencers that talk about digital innovations.

One development many CMOs may not have expected is the impact of mobile devices on the industry. The world fundamentally changed when the iPhone came out. And as we are still amidst the continuous mobile evolution, CMOs cannot ignore mobile as it is one of the most effective ways to reach their audiences (especially when targeting millennial consumers).

Millennials grew up right alongside the transformation of digital and mobile. These digital natives have a different way of interacting with technology. They witnessed the globalization and disruption of technology firsthand, giving them an entirely different set of experiences and perspectives than previous generations.

As digital marketing headhunters, we know marketing executives need digital natives on their team. Regular communication with the Millennials on your team helps keep your organization on top of trendy digital developments so you don’t miss out on a huge opportunity. They’ll also be the first to find ways to apply new technology to streamline their day-to-day work and enhance its quality.

Innate Social Media Expertise

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If they’re nowhere else, you’ll be sure to find Millennials on social media. These digital natives can also be considered social media wizards. Whether it’s for entertainment or keeping up with friends, social media has become an integral part of this generation’s daily lives.

So it’s not surprising that more brands are realizing the significance of integrating social media into their marketing strategies. CMOs who recognize the impact of social will successfully target this generation through platforms like Instagram, Facebook, and Snapchat. And there’s no better way to adopt the most effective social media marketing tactics and trends than from someone who inherently understands how it works.

More Mindful Understanding of the Millennial

By working directly with Millennials, CMOs will learn that this generation is incredibly diverse and unique. Despite the common generalization of the entire generation being extremely similar, the various subcultures within it can be surprising.

The Millennials CMOs work with will give them a better understanding of the different personas that exist in their audience. This allows CMOs and their teams to successfully target Millennials through both digital and traditional channels.

Managing Millennials: Reverse Mentoring

CMO Recruiters Explain the Immense Value of Reverse Mentoring

When it comes to continuously growing and staying afloat in a digitally-driven world, it requires a mindset shift for the CMO. Most marketing executives who are a part of Generation X were expected to be the expert on all things marketing and a complete master of their craft to earn a position in the C-suite.

As a CMO executive search firm, we know things are different now. With the pace of change in the business world (particularly in marketing), it’s fundamentally challenging to be an expert on everything. From traditional functions like direct marketing, to advertising, to communications, the digital shift adds on an overwhelming amount of things the CMO is in charge of. So, how is the CMO expected to expand their skill set and adapt to these changes?

All business leaders and marketing executives can leverage Millennials’ unique perspectives and digital nativity to gain insights on their generation. Wise leaders will use this information to improve their marketing efforts, internal processes, and ultimately better reach their audiences.

Mentoring is typically seen as a way for a more experienced leader to share their expertise with a younger professional to mold them into a more effective employee. However, that system can be easily reversed for great success.

As a CMO today, it has never been more important to be a Level 5 leader. As such, you must demonstrate humility and willingness to learn. Leaders who are too proud to admit that they don’t know something or that they need help will find themselves falling behind, quickly. If you want to keep your brand relevant, don’t hesitate to break the boundaries and consider adding a reverse mentoring program to help you stay up-to-date on Millennial perspectives.


With the digital evolution, it’s quite impossible for CMOs to be the jack-of-all-trades and a master of all the developments that occur in the marketing landscape.

CMOs who find it challenging to market to and understand Millennials will see incredible value in having them directly on their team. Marketing leaders must encourage intergenerational dialogue in their organizations to successfully leverage the unique insights and perspectives of this generation. CMOs who don’t place themselves in a vacuum and who aren’t afraid to go against the grain of traditional marketing tactics will be successful.

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