Sunday, March 20, 2016

The Defibrillator

No matter what generation in which you are born, there are certain lessons you learn at your mother's or father's knee, or more accurately, at the end of their pointed fingers.  Everyone has heard the constant refrains about washing their hands before eating dinner.  Another old saw has to do with how long after lunch one has to wait before going swimming.  You know the drill, right?  These are warnings we've all heard a million times, and because we've heard them, we now know not to cross the street until the light turns green.

There does come a time in one's life, however, when we simply have to temper the warnings of childhood with the wisdom of experience.  Just as most of the adult world has figured out that "not stopping that" hasn't -- and probably won't -- render them blind, there comes a time when some of our childhood fears have to be re-examined or even reversed.

Among those that we reverse is our fear of electricity.  As kids, we're warned to stay away from electrical outlets because we're told that one finger on a bare wire could electrocute us.  Electrocution burns the skin and shocks the nervous system.  Electricity can kill you.  But like fire, electricity has its good points, too.  It powers everything in our lives, from can openers to large screen televisions.  Without electricity, there is no internet, no communications.  In fact, without electric power, our entire civilization breaks down and the system as a whole dies.

So imagine the fear one must endure when his physical health is in jeopardy.  The doctor confirms that your heart isn't performing properly.  That vascular pump -- itself driven by bio-electrical power -- is the engine of your overall health, distributing oxygenated blood and nutrients throughout the rest of your body, enabling all other organs to function.  But now, your doctor says, your heart is slowing down, and not performing its function.  In turn, those vital organs aren't functioning well.  They're breaking down and malnourished.  This, your doctor tells you, means that your whole system is breaking down.  Not good.

As you mull the bad news, you fall asleep, waking only to the sound of rush and panic. Your eyes barely open to reveal a team of technicians surrounding you.  One has two silver paddles pressed to your chest and yells, "Clear!"  At that moment you realize that he's going to electrocute your, jolting you with a shock in order to restart your heart.

Emotionally, you know that the same electricity of which you were warned is approaching, and that the very same danger about which your parents wagged their fingers is about to send its power through you.  It's scary. You've never done it.  Yet rationally, you know that if the doctor doesn't do it, that's it.  The end.  Your heart won't restart.  Your organs won't be restored to their previous vigor.  Your whole system will break down -- for good.

I don't blame people for harboring fear.  I do blame people for harboring irrational fear, especially when their entire system is about to break down -- for good.  At that point, you have no choice but to go with the effective option, because your survival depends on it.  The question is whether you can overcome the irrational fear to get to the effective solution.

Especially when the only man holding the paddles happens to be a Republican.

Friday, March 04, 2016

Millennial Amnesia

By now you already know that I write a lot about issues tangential to branding, although most of the time, the topics on which I opine here are borne more from some glancing tangent having to do with brand strategy.  Branding is about human behavior and the circumstances around them.  Those who believe branding is about products or companies are way off base:  Branding is all about people.

At the time of this writing, the United States is undergoing a presidential election unlike any in recent memory.  And I don't use the phrase "recent memory" any too lightly here.  The issues, candidates and voting blocs are strangely unfamiliar.  To be succinct, this is not your traditional presidential election.

One of the characteristics I've observed about this election is that the opinions expressed by its most ardent participants seem to be derived from two primary sources:

1.  Facebook memes
2.  Comedy Central comedians

I know, it sounds odd to me, too.  Because we live under the illusory existence of the "informed voter," which I assure you is about as real as the "informed consumer," neither of which has a good chance of being discovered any time before someone hauls in Bigfoot.  We're somehow laboring under the outdated notion that people are still motivated to investigate, compare, challenge and discuss before they render their carefully-thought decisions.  That process left the building ages ago.

In today's search-engine society, more people are inclined to push a button and expect an answer in a millisecond.   Good for Google.  Maybe not so good for you.  Here's why:

It occurs to me that the internet (the popular usage of it) is now roughly 20 years old.  That means anyone under the age of, say, 30, has pretty much spent his conscious life pointing and clicking.  He's never known anything other than instant answers presented to him, rather than his own motivations to access alternate viewpoints on any given topic.

But it gets worse.

Those same Millennials also have spent their conscious years (any time after the age of 10, if I'm generous) never knowing any other political or economic environment than the last four years of George W. Bush and the last eight years of Barack Obama.  Put it all together and the math produces the answer to why so many younger people embrace the likes of Bernie Sanders and eschew the man called Trump:

They simply haven't experienced what life was like before times got tough.

In what could be called Millennial Amnesia, those under 30 would have no memory of stable jobs, a thriving middle class, a strong defense, traditional notions of character or affordable lifestyles.  They may have been breathing, but all that stuff vanished before they blew out the candles on their tenth birthday cakes, in an age when pimples are more important than politics.  When you backdate them from their thirtieth birthdays, that means anyone born after 1990 or so -- people who are now eligible to vote -- make their decisions based on what they've grown up with and what they see on Facebook and Comedy Central.  They never bother to investigate further, because they've never been taught to do so.  

They dismiss the experiences of those senior to them because they never lived those experiences firsthand.

This would mean that an entire generation has grown up believing that a weak economy, unstable jobs, unaffordable lifestyles and the loss of traditional notions and character are normal, because to them, it really is.  Even scarier is that they accept the current situations as normal and have no notion of why or how they'd remedy them.

That's scary.

I call it Millennial Amnesia.  But maybe there's a better term.  After all, you can't really forget what you never really knew.