In part 2 of “the Millennial mirror,” I called for a radical reimagining of the traditional brand management model — one that empowers Millennial staffers in a bold balance of power I call “reciprocal mentorship.”
I call it a bold balance of power because, at its core, reciprocal mentorship is about relinquishing control. It requires defining key brand priorities and goals and then allowing Millennial staffers — and even audiences — the freedom to meet those goals in the ways they best see fit.
Ironically, so many executive managers who shudder at the thought of this are in fact already doing it. They regularly grant great leeway and flexibility to teams in emerging markets, trusting their knowledge and insight of local culture to establish and translate brand standards.
Highly social, digitally savvy, and, at various stages of economic development, Millennials around the world are like a borderless emerging market. Just as we have witnessed Indonesia, South Korea, Africa, India, and China use technology to bound past inefficiency, skipping entire decades of development, with a relentless focus on results, so too can we see parallels to Millennials. As consumers and brand managers, they are perfectly situated to holistically comprehend a connected global market, while keeping pace with the rate and nature of that connection.
Certainly, there are skeptics who will refuse to relinquish control of brand management. What they don't realize is that they are clinging to an illusion. It is already gone. Today's true brand managers do not sit in a corner office at company headquarters. They are, in fact, the networks of advocates and detractors who curate, tweet, like, and dislike messaging and communications, then add to it, refine it, and distribute it to the consistently shifting connections that trust them.
Like it or not, those are the messengers and messages that reach today's target audiences, that resonate and drive results through real engagement. That is not about when or where someone was born. It is about the changing nature of communications and brand equity in the light of stunning technological developments.
Whether this change will happen is no longer in question. It has happened. Seamless succession and success — both internally and in a global marketplace — hinges more than ever on an organization's ability to implement reciprocal mentorship. It is time to move from “Millennial as Other” to “Millennial as Us,” and allow our internal structures to better reflect the changes that have so dramatically reshaped the world around us.
Thomas Harrison is chairman of the Diversified Agency Services unit at Omnicom Group.