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The Age of Empowerment

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  • In the 1950s – the outsiders
  • In the 1960s – the hippies
  • In the 1970s – the hangover
  • In the 1980s – the punks
  • In the 1990s – generation X
  • In the new millennium we have the age of empowerment

sp902_die_hippy_die.jpgAs a society, we’ve always had ‘the younger generation’ that bucked the status quo. In every decade we’ve heard how people will rise up and change the world. The difference between then and now is youth has a voice- the Internet.

The spin in favor of Google began today- it’s not big brother, it’s little brother peering in on you. With Google & the Internet, you can do and say almost anything with little fear of being silenced- there isn’t much the status quo can do about it. What I find most interesting is that I believe the status quo is actually listening to its younger generation, maybe for the first time ever. The simple fact is- the younger generation is dictating how major corporations operate, speak, walk, talk, look, and even profit in some cases.

When I joined Facebook two weeks ago, it told me what I already knew- folks in my hometown in the midwest have no Internet presence. My friends from school do not exist, and I’m onlya younger thirty-something. Their family businesses have no web address- it is as if my generation has vanished. For reasons I can only guess, my peers are still either on the fence, or afraid of the Internet and have yet to be brought into this so-called ‘age of empowerment.’ The proof is there for all to see, when I searched Facebook, I didn’t see my old high school sweetheart, I saw her children, when I searched for my best friend from high school, I saw his son, when I searched my family, I found my younger brothers- not my parents.

This new reality goes far beyond the walls of real estate, and it is profound. Anyone who says we’ve seen this before is dismissing the voice our younger generation has- they’re even stars in their own universe now crossing over into our universe, or are we crossing into theirs? The question really becomes, how far will we ‘the elder generation’ go in bending to the demands to the empowered generation? How far do we flex to the so-called ’empowering professionals’ like Zillow, Redfin, and others who believe that by simply waiting out the mainstream, providing the medium, this new generation will meet them in the middle. We as a society are being twisted and contorted into something different- something we’ve never seen before…

No company or person has written the book on the social generation, in fact, it’s being written before our very eyes. How we as professionals and regular people design the next generation is up to each of us individually. Any company that believes they have the fix on how to proceed in this new era is blinded by themselves and may well be the ones who ultimately fail in meeting this generation in the middle. It stands to reason that standing still and observing may very well be the best advice for those looking for the way forward- or you could find yourself diving head first into the history books with other failed cultures of the past.

Benn Rosales is the Founder and CEO of The American Genius (AG), national news network for tech and entrepreneurs, proudly celebrating 10 years in publishing, recently ranked as the #5 startup in Austin. Before founding AG, he founded one of the first digital media strategy firms in the nation and also acquired several other firms. His resume prior includes roles at Apple and Kroger Foods, specializing in marketing, communications, and technology integration. He is a recipient of the Statesman Texas Social Media Award and is an Inman Innovator Award winner. He has consulted for numerous startups (both early- and late-stage), has built partnerships and bridges between tech recruiters and the best tech talent in the industry, and is well known for organizing the digital community through popular monthly networking events. Benn does not venture into the spotlight often, rather believes his biggest accomplishments are the talent he recruits, develops, and gives all credit to those he's empowered.

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4 Comments

4 Comments

  1. Daniel Rothamel

    October 14, 2007 at 12:56 am

    I think that the important thing for businesses to do is ENGAGE. The interesting thing about the current trend in social media is that it is driven by relationships, even if they aren’t always face-to-face or even on the phone. In many ways, the old techniques of prospecting for new clients still applies, it is just being done through a different medium.

  2. Benn Rosales

    October 14, 2007 at 5:32 am

    I agree with that completely, but it is a very shallow (I don’t me you) look into the change as a whole- If folks do not look at the entire picture (which has yet to really talked about) then you miss out on opportunites. I believe you should engage, just don’t dive off the deepend and leave what works behind.

  3. April Groves

    October 14, 2007 at 9:10 pm

    It is an interesting development. My parents have email so they can exchange pictures and jokes, and a myspace that I built and maintain so they could see eveybody’s family pictures. But they shop online, but they don’t buy. They worry about security.

    People my age (about yours too) that didn’t have a reason to get into the cyberworld in their twenties, will be hesitant to now. Not for sure, but I would guess the learning curve and the lack of time would be the two biggest factors.

    Now, we have an upcoming generation that lives in secondlife, dates on myspace, and learns business through linked in. Hopefully, when the shine wears dull, we will remember balance between the tubes (cyber) and the trolley (face to face).

    Wonderful thing, the cyber world, but you are right not to dismiss it as a passing phase of a younger generation. We aren’t talking about Elvis here – we are talking international commerce of product, services and ideas.

  4. Benn Rosales

    October 14, 2007 at 9:37 pm

    “We aren’t talking about Elvis here – we are talking international commerce of product, services and ideas.”

    But you see, that’s the point- they ARE talking elvis (Kanye West), adults are the only ones talking business, and we as businesses are spending millions to try to fit into the mold, um, oh yeah, there isn’t a mold. The summary? Pick your version of the mold wisely.

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Business Marketing

Use the ‘Blemish Effect’ to skyrocket your sales

(MARKETING) The Blemish Effect dictates that small, adjacent flaws in a product can make it that much more interesting—is perfection out?

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blemish effect

Presenting a product or service in its most immaculate, polished state has been the strategy for virtually all organizations, and overselling items with known flaws is a practice as old as time. According to marketing researchers, however, this approach may not be the only way to achieve optimal results due to something known as the “Blemish Effect.”

The Blemish Effect isn’t quite the inverse of the perfectionist product pitch; rather, it builds on the theory that small problems with a product or service can actually throw into relief its good qualities. For example, a small scratch on the back of an otherwise pristine iPhone might draw one’s eye to the glossy finish, while an objectively perfect housing might not be appreciated in the same way.

The same goes for mildly bad press or a customer’s pros and cons list. If someone has absolutely no complaints or desires for whatever you’re marketing, the end result can look flat and lacking in nuance. Having the slightest bit of longing associated with an aspect (or lack thereof) of your business means that you have room to grow, which can be tantalizing for the eager consumer.

A Stanford study indicates that small doses of mildly negative information may actually strengthen a consumer’s positive impression of a product or service. Interesting.

Another beneficial aspect of the Blemish Effect is that it helps consumers focus their negativity. “Too good to be true” often means exactly that, and we’re eager to criticize where possible. If your product or service has a noticeable flaw which doesn’t harm the item’s use, your audience might settle for lamenting the minor flaw and favoring the rest of the product rather than looking for problems which don’t exist.

This concept also applies to expectation management. Absent an obvious blemish, it can be all to easy for consumers to envision your product or service on an unattainable level.

When they’re invariably disappointed that their unrealistic expectations weren’t fulfilled, your reputation might take a hit, or consumers might lose interest after the initial wave.

The takeaway is that consumers trust transparency, so in describing your offering, tossing in a negative boosts the perception that you’re being honest and transparent, so a graphic artist could note that while their skills are superior and their pricing reasonable, they take their time with intricate projects. The time expectation is a potentially negative aspect of their service, but expressing anything negative improves sales as it builds trust.

It should be noted that the Blemish Effect applies to minor impairments in cosmetic or adjacent qualities, not in the product or service itself. Delivering an item which is inherently flawed won’t make anyone happy.

In an age where less truly is more, the Blemish Effect stands to dictate a new wave of honesty in marketing.

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Business Marketing

Google Chrome will no longer allow premium extensions

(MARKETING) In banning extension payments through their own platform, Google addresses a compelling, if self-created, issue on Chrome.

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Google Chrome open on a laptop on a organized desk.

Google has cracked down on various practices over the past couple of years, but their most recent target—the Google Chrome extensions store—has a few folks scratching their heads.
Over the span of the next few months, Google will phase out paid extensions completely, thus ending a bizarre and relatively negligible corner of internet economy.

This decision comes on the heels of a “temporary” ban on the publication of new premium extensions back in March. According to Engadget, all aspects of paid extension use—including free trials and in-app purchases—will be gone come February 2021.

To be clear, Google’s decision won’t prohibit extension developers from charging customers to use their products; instead, extension developers will be required to find alternative methods of requesting payment. We’ve seen this model work on a donation basis with extensions like AdBlock. But shifting to something similar on a comprehensive scale will be something else entirely.

Interestingly, Google’s angle appears to be in increasing user safety. The Verge reports that their initial suspension of paid extensions was put into place as a response to products that included “fraudulent transactions”, and Google’s subsequent responses since then have comprised more user-facing actions such as removing extensions published by different parties that accomplish replica tasks.

Review manipulation, use of hefty notifications as a part of an extension’s operation, and generally spammy techniques were also eyeballed by Google as problem points in their ongoing suspension leading up to the ban.

In banning extension payments through their own platform, Google addresses a compelling, if self-created, issue. The extension store was a relatively free market in a sense—something that, given the number of parameters being enforced as of now, is less true for the time being.

Similarly, one can only wonder about which avenues vendors will choose when seeking payment for their services in the future. It’s entirely possible that, after Google Chrome shuts down payments in February, the paid section of the extension market will crumble into oblivion, the side effects of which we can’t necessarily picture.

For now, it’s probably best to hold off on buying any premium extensions; after all, there’s at least a fighting chance that they’ll all be free come February—if we make it that far.

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Business Marketing

Bite-sized retail: Macy’s plans to move out of malls

(BUSINESS MARKETING) While Macy’s shares have recently climbed, the department store chain is making a change in regards to big retail shopping malls.

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Macy's retail storefront, which may look different as they scale to smaller stores.

I was recently listening to a podcast on Barstool Sports, and was surprised to hear that their presenting sponsor was Macy’s. This struck me as odd considering the demographic for the show is women in their twenties to thirties, and Macy’s typically doesn’t cater to that crowd. Furthermore, department retail stores are becoming a bit antiquated as is.

The sponsorship made more sense once I learned that Macy’s is restructuring their operation, and now allowing their brand to go the way of the ghost. They feel that while malls will remain in operation, only the best (AKA the malls with the most foot traffic) will stand the test of changes in the shopping experience.

As we’ve seen a gigantic rise this year in online shopping, stores like Macy’s and JC Penney are working hard to keep themselves afloat. There is so much changing in brick and mortar retail that major shifts need to be made.

So, what is Macy’s proposing to do?

The upscale department store chain is going to be testing smaller stores in locations outside of major shopping malls. Bloomingdale’s stores will be doing the same. “We continue to believe that the best malls in the country will thrive,” CEO Jeff Gennette told CNBC analysts. “However, we also know that Macy’s and Bloomingdale’s have high potential [off]-mall and in smaller formats.”

While the pandemic assuredly plays a role in this, the need for change came even before the hit in March. Macy’s had announced in February their plans to close 125 stores in the next three years. This is in conjunction with Macy’s expansion of Macy’s Backstage, which offers more affordable options.

Gennette also stated that while those original plans are still in place, Macy’s has been closely monitoring the competition in the event that they need to adjust the store closure timeline. At the end of the second quarter, Macy’s had 771 stores, including Bloomingdale’s and Bluemercury.

Last week, Macy’s shares climbed 3 percent, after the retailer reported a more narrow loss than originally expected, along with stronger sales due to an uptick in their online business. So they’re already doing well in that regard. But will smaller stores be the change they need to survive?

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