Top-post countdown No. 3: “Who the hell is John-Boy?”April 29, 2010Jon Brooks Comments Off
3. “Who the hell is John-Boy?” – blog post arguing that the American corporation, dominated by baby-boomer management, is out of touch with the youth culture that drives much of Americans’ spending (Mar 15, 2010)
On Grant McCracken’s blog, which “sits at the intersection of anthropology and economics,” this post argues that the American corporation is out of touch with much of the country’s population.
Let’s say we are a luxury car company. We’re doing a year-end review of marketing. We’re looking at everything, including person who supplies the “voice over” for our ads.
The room is filled with around 25 people. This room is mostly Boomers with 8 Gen Xers and 4 Gen Yers (aka Millennials).
“I say we stay with John-Boy,” says the most powerful person in the room. There is a pause as other Boomers nod their heads sagely. Richard Thomas has been the voice of the brand for many years.
But Generations X and Y are thinking, “Who the hell is John-Boy?” They don’t say anything. Then the penny drops. “Oh, they must mean that guy Richard Thomas.”
Their confusion is forgivable. Richard Thomas starred in a TV series called The Waltons, a show that ended in 1981. That’s almost thirty years ago. The oldest Generation Xer was 20 in 1981, the youngest was born that year. No member of Generation Y was watching TV in 1981. For Generation Z, Richard Thomas might as well be a Martian.
For half the room, Richard Thomas is just “some guy.” Actually, he’s just “some guy” for half the country. Certainly, it’s true that Boomers buy most of the luxury cars in this country, but this will not last. And in the meantime, we have 3 generations listening to a voice that means nothing to them.
And this is just odd. As these markets mature towards the age and income, the corporation insists in addressing them in a voice they do not recognize.
I believe this problem plays out in the corporate world several times a day. Boomers make choice that work for their culture, for the world they know. And the other half of the room (and the market) is left to wonder, “Who is the hell is John-Boy?”
The John-Boy problem is bigger than it seems. The American corporation is not just bad at youth culture, it’s out of touch with a good deal of the American world. It doesn’t have any real feeling for the ethnic variety of America, the alternative and indie movements, the constant ebb and flow of lifestyle, the churn in the sports world. What is happening in the world of music, film, sports (post arena), art, and social media? For that matter, what is happening in the kitchens of the American heartland? Even this is changing. Even this is mysterious.
The corporation needs to know. It’s not enough to bring in the cool hunters and trend consultants. These people have no vested interests. Frankly, they disdain the corporation for being clueless. No, the corporation need its own internal brain trust, stock of knowledge, and enduring mastery of American culture. Anything else is just guessing. And guessing is something the corporation is not allowed to do.
The inverse of this is that it took me months to figure out that Lady Gaga wasn’t some aristocratic infant with a great press agent…
Previous top-post entries:
- 25. Colorado Springs: City of the future? – Anti-tax haven Colorado Springs finds itself in desperate fiscal straits, touching off schadenfreude and defensiveness on the Web.
- 24. Sub-prime the Musical – college student creates series of podcasts on the causes of the credit crisis and, naturally, adds song parodies to illustrate the concepts.
- 23. Friday photo gallery Nov 20, 2009
- 22. The Skyscraper Index – This metric shows that the world’s tallest buildings rise on the eve of economic downturns.
- 22. Chances of passing a health care bill – On March 10, Bush administration economist Keith Hennessey upped the chances of health care’s passage from 10% to 40%.
- 22. Friday photo gallery Oct. 30, 2009
- 21. If persons were treated like corporations – Political cartoon from Kevin Moore’s In Contempt site.
- 20. Rappin’ economics – Rap adaptation of the classic econ textbook “Principles of Economics.”
- 19. Friday photo gallery Oct. 9 2009
- 18. Facebook “likes” by city – 210 million Facebook profiles broken down into which pages users click the “like” button on, organized by city.
- 17. Repaired Things – The blog – collection of pictures of things that have been repaired
- 16. Podcast: Local currency bucks the dollar – cash-strapped communities throughout the U.S. make their own money
- 16. Defriending over health care – Did you defriend anyone on Facebook, or were you defriended, in the midst of the furious health care debate?
- 16. Cards of change – altered business cards uploaded by people who have either been laid off or experienced a change in career situation
- 15. Who are the worst tippers? – Waiters comment on which groups of people are the worst tippers, and no one is spared.
- 14. 100 Motivational Blog Posts for the Unemployed – practical and emotional tips, tools, and resources
- 14. Teabonics – misspellings spotted on Tea Party rally signs
- 13. Facebook connections analyzed – interactive Facebook map with lines drawn between geographical areas that share a lot of friends
- 13. Friday photo gallery Nov 6 2009
- 12. Happy all the time – diary of a McDonald’s Happy Meal purchase, in which the subject of the experiment stays unnaturally fresh for a whole year
- 12. Merry Recession! – Recession-themed Christmas cards
- 11. Living Craigslist – Unemployed college grad travels cross-country using only Craigslist.
- 11. Who’s paying taxes?; Distribution of wealth – charts showing which income levels pay what percentage of taxes in the U.S., and the distribution of net worth and wealth
- 10. The Girl’s Guide to Homelessness – 24-year-old Brianna Karp’s blog about losing her job and falling into homelessness
- 9. Best of Craigslist: Economy version – Craigslist-user nominations of posts that are particularly interesting and humorous also serve as indicators of the rotten economy.
- 8. Pretend Office – Freelancers write pretend email messages about pretend office matters.
- 7. The H&M incident – After a student notices that retailer H&M is dumping unsold garments, a p.r. nightmare for the company unfolds on the web.
- 6. Who are the worst tippers? – another round of waiters commenting on which groups of people they think are the most penurious when it comes to tipping
- 5. Bush tax cuts vs. Obama health care – chart showing the relative impact on the budget of the two Bush tax cuts vs. the Obama health care plan
- 4. Funny unemployment photos – from the blog Unemploymentality