Friday, February 21, 2014

It is Time to Start Digging Below the News Dirt

Digging below the surface and unraveling the sub-merged.

In some ways that line is really what drives me to get out of bed every morning.

I am surprised by just how many folks claiming to be in the business of business fail to do any digging.

But then again, it’s good because the failure to do it keeps my company in business!

With all the snow that has hit the Southeast in the last several weeks, I’ve had the chance to delve more into the news reports.

For example, here in front of me is today’s edition of the Wall Street Journal with a major news story posting the headline: Household Debt Jumps as Banks Loosen Up.

I am always amazed how the writers on Wall Street see the world through their green colored glasses.

Last week I received a great project working with a financial group located in the Great Northwest and got the chance to hear some Oregon and Washington folks talk about banks and the process of “doing banking.”

Maybe its because the Northwest is not within a short car ride from Wall Street that the world over in the Northwest fails to perceive much “loosening up.”

Before I get into some digging, I want to share another interesting news story.

While unemployment posted by the Washington Politico continues to decline… so too does the percentage of folks out there claiming to work.

The percentage of population of our workforce has been declining in recent years.

The political left fails to even acknowledge the decline in the active American workforce. The political right dashes quickly to showcase how many Americans have left the work force because of limited employment opportunity.

Again… the writers on Wall Street see the world through their green colored glasses and quickly attempt to engineer economic and business models to explain the decline.

The last Blog-post (and you can read it below if you haven’t) highlighted Generation X and their perspective of the world around them.

The generational architecture of a society… or the marketplace… is very telling indeed.

While Generation X is small and not too happy about being overlooked and dismissed, Boomers and Millennials are a whole different story.

Both generational groups are social, cultural and economic driving forces.

Those two generations combined represent about half of all human beings breathing in the U.S.

Let’s take a look for a moment at the Millennials.

This year — 2014 — Millennials will occupy the age 20–35 year old age group with the mass of the generational bell-curve falling in their mid-to-late 20s.

Over-nurtured by their Boomer parents, the U.S. marketplace is experiencing a seismic tremor as many are finally leaving the parental nest.

When the amount of debt is reviewed on an average across all households, Wall Street is correct that the average overall amount is on an increase…

BUT… if you simply view the debt by generational group, it’s a BGO of what’s driving it… (BGO = Blinding Glimpse of the Obvious).

It’s the Millennials who are finally forming their nests and accruing debt as they purchase everything from homes to furniture to appliances to electronics.

Yes… debt is on the increase, but the driver of it is the new generation now forming their nests.

And the drop in the percent of who all makes up the active American workforce?

Enter the Boomers.

What I am about to post is something to which, I can personally relate.

In a couple of weeks, I turn 55 years old. I am a trailing Baby Boomer.

If you asked me 10–15 years ago, at what age I would see retiring or starting up a second career, I probably would have said close to the age I will celebrate in a couple of weeks.

Baby Boomers long thought that they would enjoy an early retirement.

While the economy has shattered those dreams for many, we cannot let go of the fact that many, many businesses and corporations have extended early retirement packages and that many Boomers have quickly said, “Okay.”

Every day, about 12,000 Boomers turn age 65 and that will be taking place every day of every year for close to the next 10 years.

Part of the economic model is based on the drive that as people retire, the younger generations will have jobs.

Problem is that technology and the web have exploded in the midst of that transition. Technology can do things that previously took 3–4 people to do. And I am not just talking about technology on manufacturing lines.

Sooooo…. When we hear statistics of individuals exiting the labor pool, we have to be careful not to lay all the blame on lukewarm economics.

Lastly, the big news on Wall Street is the sale of WhatsApp for $19 billion dollars… the most paid ever or a new venture start-up.

There’s a picture of the fWhatsApp founder on the NY Times website. He’s wearing a T-shirt, suit jacket (note: not a blazer), jeans and flip-flops.

The article highlights why the deal makes sense and cites the fact that 55% of its users are age 18–24. It highlights that young people use it.

Here at EXPERIENCE, we have coined the term ZOOMERS to describe those born between 2000 and 2014. Their parents are GenXers. Leading-edge ZOOMERS are just entering into the adolescent years.

Individuals age 18–24 are riding the very tail end of the Millennial Generation that this year spans the age spectrum of 20–35 years old.

Part of the rationale behind Facebook’s acquisition of WhatsApp is that it could be a tool to help Facebook open up China.


Here’s where I will place the bet.

One interesting characteristic of Millennials that they very rarely lay claim to the fact that they are a generational group. Many believe that youth is immortal and that their group is comprised of boundless youth.

Just as the BIG BUSINESS clients I work with have great difficulty seeing the world beyond their corporate walls, Millennials have difficulty understanding constraint… for the most part, any constraint.

Reading the article and further reading an editorial about the founder in the Wall Street Journal, it quickly becomes apparent that he… like Mark Zuckerberg… believes that the age 18–24 year old group will be the commanding force forever.

Problem with this perception is the bubble is bursting as I write this blog.

Starting this year and going forward for at least the next 10 years, the U.S. population of those age 18–24 will decline dramatically as the 76 million strong Millennials age and the 1–2 average kids per household of the 52 million GenXer parents cruise through their late teens and 20’s.

That’s the U.S. stats. If you don’t think its rattling the population globally, check out the latest of how China is finally loosening the “only one kid per household allowed” dictate from Beijing.

I’m not planning to purchase any Facebook stock anytime soon.

What amazes me most out of the observations I post on this blog is how much the business community looks at the surface stats and surface news and crafts their overall strategy around it.

Yesterday I watched how a past corporate client of mine continues to move forward with some rather naïve actions that in the long-term make no sense.

I also had a chance to sit down with a financial service entrepreneur. It was a very enjoyable time listening to the entrepreneur react to market dynamics and strategic options.

By the way, the entrepreneur was older than these geek-tech 20-somethings!

My advice… don’t react to the surface level of news reports… better yet, call us and bring us in to dig below the surface and unravel the insights!



CEO & Discovery Chief at EXPERIENCE Insight Group, Inc. In the business to discover and craft brand experiences that humans seek out and engage in.

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Mark Kooyman

CEO & Discovery Chief at EXPERIENCE Insight Group, Inc. In the business to discover and craft brand experiences that humans seek out and engage in.