Federal staff demographic change to disrupt existing marketing models – the rise of Millennials

“Demographics is destiny”
― Arthur Kemp

40% of the Federal Workforce was eligible to retire as of last year.

I recently attended a briefing for marketers in San Francisco that was focused on the Federal Government Sector. This event was put on by Government Executive Magazine and research firm Deltek. The discussion centered on the trends for technology spending within the Federal Government, their priorities and pain points, and what the future holds.

One data point from this session caused my jaw to drop:  In 2000, the federal government employed about 94,000 workers who were 60 or older. In 2012, that had grown to more than 262,000. That means 40% of Federal workers were eligible to retire!

The old guard of the Federal bureaucracy is starting to be replaced by a new generation: Millennials (note: I qualify as one myself, b.1982). This change will be accelerated as technology takes center stage across the Federal Government in the wake of the Healthcare.gov rollout fiasco. Those who can grasp this technology will inevitably be called forward to more prominent roles (sooner rather than later?)

So what does this mean to marketers trying to reach a Federal audience? In my experience Federal Marketing has often been an area where companies have relied heavily on inside the beltway sales reps with deep relationships to work the complex Federal sales cycle over the course of months and years. This impending retirement wave presents a huge problem for them. Sure, you may have a guy that knows THE guy over at XYZ Agency. (Let’s call him Bob). But guess what? Bob just took his pension and retired to sunny South Florida. In his place now is a 31 year old tech superstar named Chad with a degree from MIT and 4 years experience in product development at Facebook.

What is your plan to reach Chad? Does he even know your brand at all, let alone have a relationship with you? We know for a fact that the media consumption habits of this new generation of decision makers are shifting. The old marketing models are in need of a refresh and only those companies who start making new media and marketing investments now will see the payoff when this demographic change is realized. Wait and you will be playing catch up.

What’s at stake? Access to massive federal technology budgets:

  • $112 Billion in Government Contracts will be awarded in 2013 and that $108 Billion will be awarded in 2014 (Sequestration has put a lid on things but it’s still massive spending.)
  • Big Data, Cloud Computing and Cyber Security are the primary technology concerns for Federal Agencies.
  • Several Federal Agencies, in trying to consolidate their Data Center footprint to become more modernized and efficient, had trouble with defining the term Data Center itself and resorted to referring to nearly any network connected desktop computer as a “Data Center.” That little anecdote tells you a lot about the struggles these agencies are having with adapting to the fast changing world of high tech.

At Just Media we see how our existing media plans have adjusted towards the new media consumption habits of Millennial technology decision makers. More focus on programmatic and paid content is key. Mobile, video and social strategies need to be accelerated. Are you ready for the challenge?

For some interesting  thoughts and data points on The Future of Business and the impact of Millenials/Gen Y, I invite you to check out this great compilation piece from Michael Brenner on B2B Marketing Insider.

Kevin Flint
Just Media, Inc. 

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