September 16th, 2014
Many CEOs worship Millennials and base their corporate strategies on chasing them. IBM’s Virginia Rometty is a perfect example; I discuss why in Be Unique or Be Ignored: The CEO’s Guide to Branding.
Why is this callow, coddled group of 20-to-30-somethings, one-third of whom live with their parents, so coveted? It’s as if the rest of us — who have experience, scars, knowledge, and wisdom — don’t matter.
Preoccupation with youngsters is not a new phenomenon; frequently the reason is political. In 1914, Progressive President Woodrow Wilson told a Pittsburgh YMCA audience: “I have often said that the use of a university is to make young gentlemen as unlike their fathers as possible.”
The Artificial Online Life
It’s now beyond worship: many Baby Boomers obsessed with The Artificial Online Life have become Millennials, in spirit. They’ve lost perspective and believe that direct contact with other humans is passé. Regardless of the fraud occurring on social sites, they rely on them rather than putting boots on the ground to understand how people really live and feel.
This hit home with me while watching the best James Bond movie of all time: Skyfall. In a revealing scene, Bond meets the new Q, a Millennial wearing a hooded raincoat, during a clandestine rendezvous at an art museum. Below is the essence of their dialog.
Q: 007, I’m your new quartermaster.
Bond: You MUST be joking.
Q: Why, because I’m not wearing a labcoat?
Bond: Because you still have spots.
Q: My complexion is hardly relevant.
Bond: Well, your competence is.
Q: Age is no guarantee of efficiency.
Bond: And, youth is no guarantee of innovation.
Q: I’ll hazard I can do more damage on my laptop, sitting in my pajamas, before my first cup of Earl Grey, than you can do in a year, in the field.
Bond: Oh, so why do you need me?
Q: Every now and then, a trigger has to be pulled.
Bond: Or not pulled. It’s hard to know which in your pajamas.
The Millennial Q, whose entire life is an online life, is admitting to Bond that his online life has limitations. This Q is too young for the job. He hasn’t lived long enough to understand how life actually works — and it works in the field.
Does James Bond kill the villain with a keyboard? Hardly. He does it with a real knife, thrown by a real hand, into a real back — in the field, with boots on the ground.
Speaking of pajamas, do you remember Obama’s Pajama Boy, one of many poster children for Obamacare? At once, Team Obama is trying to reach AND disdain Millennials. Think about it: Do you want him to brand your company or eliminate your villain? Let’s get real.
Bond is right: youth is no guarantee of innovation. Just because Millennials create things, or things are created for them (e.g., apps conveying what their fake friends are doing at every minute of every day), doesn’t guarantee utility. Chris Rock, from Bigger & Blacker, summed it up well: “You can drive a car with your feet if you want to; it don’t mean its a good f**king idea!”
There’s a growing movement, “slow reading,” whose members are escaping cyberspace in favor of reading books, in silence, as it used to be. Why? At some point, cyberlife destroys concentration, critical thinking, health, and human connection. People crave normalcy.
Parting Advice to CEOs
If you depend solely on The Artificial Online Life for gathering intelligence, communicating with humans, and delivering value, you will lose.
You must know when to pull a trigger, or not pull it, and it’s hard to know which in your PJs. Branding means boots on the ground: it always has and always will.
POSTSCRIPT #1: 36% of Americans Can Name All Three Branches of Government
About the Author
Marc Rudov is a branding advisor to CEOs,
producer of MarcRudovTV, and author of the book,
Be Unique or Be Ignored: The CEO’s Guide to Branding.
© 2014 Marc H. Rudov. All Rights Reserved.