The Case Against Old White Guys – And Why It Matters to Marketers

Two things in print this week that set me to ruminating. First, on The Dish, Andrew Sullivan posted a brilliant and withering rebuttal to Sen. Marco Rubio’s own insane rebuttal to President Obama’s State of the Union address. The whole thing is here:

Calling Rubio’s take on the Executive “unhinged,” Sullivan notes:

Obama has never said this, never given any indication that he believes this and has repeatedly said that the private sector is the engine of growth. And the recession was caused by government support for mortgages for low-income home-owners? Wall Street was a by-stander? This is a talk-radio talking point, not an analysis. And the sequester is now apparently an Obama policy, not just a short-term attempt to keep the government from a self-imposed credit crisis caused by nutball Republicans in 2011 that Obama wants to avoid.

Keep in mind, please, that Sullivan is an avowed conservative. He ends by saying:

This was an intellectually exhausted speech that represents the intellectual bankruptcy of contemporary Republicanism. It was a series of Reaganite truisms that had a role to play in reinvigorating America after liberal over-reach in the 1960s and 1970s. It had precious little new in it. If reciting these platitudes in Spanish is what the GOP thinks will bring it back to anything faintly resembling political or intellectual relevance, they are more deluded than even I imagined.

Marco Rubio is not an old white guy. That seems to be what the powers that be in the GOP seem to think matters. If a younger Hispanic guy with good hair says some crazy things, we’ll look better and the young people will believe us. And we’ll win. And they’ll hate Obama! Yeah! That’s it! Now, go off and play with your Twitter and let us get back to smoking our cigars and plotting in the back rooms.

They are, as Sullivan says, completely UNHINGED. There is no understanding of the world in which we now live. But, don’t take it from me, take it from Republican pollster Kristen Soltis Anderson, whose results when she asked a focus group of swing voters what they associated with the word ‘Republican’ including the following, published in today’s New York Times Magazine (p.27):

middle-aged white men, hypocritical, narrow-minded, religious, military, retirees, corporate, greed, conservative, polarizing and the largest words in the cloud: old and rich.


The brilliant cover image of the Feb. 17, 2013 edition of the New York Times Magazine. Robert Draper’s cover article is called “The Late Adopters. These great photo illustrations are by Matt Dorfman.

So, what exactly does this have to do with marketing? Everything, actually. Who is running your company? Who sits on your board? Who makes policy decisions that affect you? By and large it is middle-age-to-old white guys. And, by and large, they are as completely and hopelessly out of touch as these damn fools.

And, yes, you can look at my picture and think, “Gee, pots calling kettles black all over this damn place,” but if I have learned anything at all it is that hanging around young people keeps you young and it keeps your mind agile and malleable.

If you are going to play, you need to do what the young people are doing. Think about what they are thinking about. Be open to new ways of doing business, of interacting, of simply being. If you want to know why the Republicans lost definitively at the polls in 2010, it’s because they refused to embrace the young audience. If you want to know why consumers think a particular business model is failing, think about how they relate to young people.

Get your corporate old people to get out of the way of the youth of today. Push if you have to, but move them.

Back in the mists of history, this clash of cultures between the young and the old was called “the generation gap.” Today, we have another. But a lesson from history is that no innovation ever came from an old person. Think and be young. As I tell my friends, I am proudly a traitor to my generation.

PS — Sullivan has an array of information from millennial voters that is worth a read and a think or three.

One thought on “The Case Against Old White Guys – And Why It Matters to Marketers

  1. Pingback: My Continuing Tirade Against The Powers That Be | One Last Word

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