the corporate america male executive disconnect: discounting the experience to fast-track the end game

The sales guys are yelling at us. Our customers are yelling at us. That annoying social media troll who you can’t seem to shake is yelling at you. And then us. I’m definitely not referring to that long lost uncle who insists upon writing e-mails to you all in 16 point bold caps lock. And while we’re at it, don’t even get me started on the overly excitable Nigerian prince looking to part ways with a billion dollar oilfield on the cheap if you’d only just demonstrate some ‘skin in the game’ and share your bank account details.

Now close your eyes and imagine liberating yourself of this cacophony entirely.

Then start to pare every belief that you hold onto so dearly — the ones that are overtly steeped in wisdom all the way to the ones that you’ve managed to largely influence your life path all in the name of fear (or shall I say security?). Subsequently, allow your mind to settle in the gutter — in fact, not so graciously make your way from the kiddie pond over to the murky waters of a Las Vegas daytime ultimate hedonist pool party. Don’t even bother concerning yourself with the putrid state of the heavily chlorinated water that is stronger in odor than its bacteria fighting capability. Between the deafening bass thumping and synthesizer shrieking stabs, you’ve become uncomfortably numb. But are you also lost? I hope you have the courage to admit it.

That’s exactly what’s happening when your company decides to launch a new product/strategy/concept and a tussle of epic proportions ensues between the dollar obsessed pre-1980 and purpose motivated post-1990 birth year combatants. The ten year span generation in the middle is caught between a rock of selfie gluttony and the hard place of vinyl record analog nostalgia. It’s a battle predicated on philosophy and idealism vs. the all-too-practical. Something more rooted in touchy-feely than case study and clinical trials.

The difference between winning and losing here is the ability to understand that the Jedi mind tricks you’ve gleaned from PUA chat forums then cultivated in the conference after-hours hotel lobby party will only serve as mild humor. Not talent. Think laughing at you instead of with you. It’s because you’ve overcompensated your lack of intellect with bravado and aggression for far too long that you no longer can prevent your own downfall. So what are you holding onto so tightly that you don’t even know how or why it got there in the first place?

Just to be clear, I won’t mention anything about the most misunderstood yet so highly transparent generation of consumers: the millennial. It’s not hard to understand who they are, what they believe in (and why their convictions are so strong), and even what they want. They’re more than willing to open up their mobile wallets by incessantly teeing up marketing pitches and ideas that you can easily execute upon for which you then seamlessly repackage back to them in the form of a product they didn’t even realize they needed. But did you even bother to notice? Dismissing their unique breed as being callous or just a bunch of attention seekers merely displays your short sighted ability to only scratch the surface of marketing. But you’re an expert. Too bad it’s only at learning the hard way.

On the corporate battlefield you’ve secured an infamous status of belonging to the ‘old guard’ of executives who are so out of touch with their brand’s newest (and most influential) consumers that they spend more time fighting their own egos than they attempt to add ‘value’ to their organization. And what’s the genesis of this misguided fight? Most likely an outdated Business school marketing curriculum. Did anyone say SWOT analysis death? Then just as you think you’re about to strike gold, Gary Vaynerchuk appears out of nowhere delivering rapid fire strategy plays that manage to shoot down every one of your hare-brained ideas that were half plagiarized from a bargain bin marketing textbook.

Hypothesis. Having been bred of a certain pedigree, reached a particular corporate position, and surpassed the age of 40 (along with being male) you’re more likely to stop participating in the search for the experience and start expecting it to be curated for you (fast tracking the destination). A weaker extension — your ability to seek out curation grows with age along with your network (and perhaps net worth). I’ll even throw in a capitalist reference point using experience arbitrage — low cost high value curation begets an incredible (instantly gratifying) end result. But it’s short-lived and light on fulfillment.

Logic. The average age of a US based Facebook user is currently estimated to be 40.5. Given that Facebook is spearheading an anti-digital stance to curation, it clearly sees the value in creating, promoting, and drawing massive amounts of traffic towards it. See Facebook wants to help you get off Facebook with human-curated [e]vents.

And the reason for the theory? When you downplay the search for the experience, you lack the connection to a market that’s become consumed with the fulfillment derived from that very search. After all, why do so many travel blog first posts begin with a story that involve playing airport destination screen roulette?

Let’s even consider Daniel Kahneman’s two modes of thinking as the two routes to persuasion: Intuitive Thinking vs. Rational Thinking. The search for the experience is founded more in the former than the latter. While there might be elements at the onset of the search which are predicated by the latter, the intermediate decisions are nearly all driven by emotions and feelings. In fact, the sheer nature of fast-tracking the experience means that no intermediate steps ever get taken. As a marketing (or any sales oriented) professional, if you’re trying to sell an experience but lack the ability to organically create one for yourself, you’ll quickly be seen as inauthentic. And that boring PowerPoint presentation you’re still using to sell your half-baked vision?

Infographics have delivered the ultimate blow to the PowerPoint presentation. Rigor Mortis. Done.

Either it’s time for forced retirement mass exodus or the world’s largest see — no evil embrace of all things digital. But maybe you‘ll be the only one laughing all the way to the board room swiftly followed by a security escort down to the lobby? Go ahead and keep up that chuckle all the while convincing yourself that Snapchat will quickly implode, YouTube exists for the sole purpose of being a fancy repository of cat videos, or that avocado toast is starkly different than foie gras.

Meanwhile in this hasty rejection, you’ve become an expert in digitally navigating all the best ‘prospects’ on Ashley Madison that you forgot to notice you’ve left the longest trail of digital breadcrumbs leading to your SEP-IRA and its easily hacked access credentials. Do you need to be robbed blind to see that you’re merely saying one thing and completely doing another?

Concurrently published on my blog c-store ‘nomics