About three or four years ago I was giving a presentation about technology at a large prestigious University to a group of Masters students soon to graduate. The presentation was going well and the crowd seemed to be engaged and enjoying what I had to say. I had made it through approximately half of my slides and had mentioned something about an email I had received, when suddenly, from the middle of the auditorium style room a student shouted out, "Email is for old people."
This comment caught me off guard and I stopped the presentation. I asked, "Who just said that?" The formal setting prohibited the disruptor from volunteering right away out of embarrasment. The crowd was large enough and the room lights were dimmed low enough that I couldn't pick the culprit out. It seemed that whoever had made the disruption realized that maybe he shouldn't have blurted out the comment. After some cajoling, a hand was raised and the once brazen student admitted to the outburst.
I asked him, "What do you mean, email is for old people?" He explained, to the agreement of the crowd, "No one uses email anymore! The only time we use email is when our professors make us check our grades." I was very interested in what he had to say and so instead of continuing on my topic I put away my clicker, abandoned my slides and just had a conversation with the group.
"So Who uses email on regular basis?"
Less than a fourth of the hands went up.
"How do you get a hold of one another?"
"We text, twitter, or Facebook."
"Email is so slow. We want to get ahold of our friends instantly."
"Yeah, it takes forever to get someone to answer an email."
"We can text during class and in meetings. You can't really do that with a phone call."
"How many of you will text first instead of calling on the phone?"
Almost all hands were raised.
"How do you communicate anything substantial, with only 160 characters?"
"U only need 160 chars 2 say what U need 2 say. FYI."
"Facebook is for bigger stuff - and pictures."
"If you really need to write something big you just post it to your blog. I have an RSS feed of all my friends blogs."
The conversation continued like this for the duration of my visit. The votes were in and email failed the test of GenY and the Millennials. The next generation weighed-in and without an instantaneous response they are not interested.
A friend of mine, James Keddington, heard a similar story when he saw Gen. Colin Powell speak who shared an experience about his Grandson saying the same thing, "Email is for old people Grandpa!"
So, what does this mean for the world of Marketing? It means that those Masters students have been in the work force for several years now. It means that we can not ignore the power of new media, social networks, and social media. It means that 1f we adapt our products and marketing efforts to this group where they live, how they live and on the platforms they live on then we will span the generational gap and be a thriving company in the next five years.
Curtis J. Morley
P.S. Let's regain our youth and instigate a worldwide "Email Free Friday."