Fifty years ago on July 18, 1969, Ted Kennedy and Chappaquiddick took over the focus of the media.
Part of the focus was to report the news. Part of the focus was to contain the facts.
I had celebrated my 10th birthday in 1969.
My dad was being promoted in the manufacturing of engines and electric parts. My mom was pursuing a career in medicine.
We still lived in a very defined suburb of Cleveland Ohio where Italians ran the politics and the Irish were not welcome.
I was just entering Junior High School and was in the midst of studying the shifting of the continental plates and magnetic polar shifts.
My sister had just turned 2 years old.
I am a Baby Boomer. My sister is a GenXer. My parents, members of what is now termed the Mature Generation spoke about the influx of the Baby Boomers and how they were changing the dynamics of our neighborhood.
Many of our relatives who had lived in the city were moving out to the suburbs where homes were new and lots were big enough for the playsets.
I remember shopping back then at Sears, Woolworth, JCPenny and Pic-n-Pay stores.
We also shopped at local hardware stores, farmer’s markets and the milk was delivered to home based on orders my mom called in on the dial phones.
We also were drawn to a very cool place called Great Lakes Mall where stores were connected to one another and part of where you walked was actually undercover.
I also remember sitting in front of a black and white television set and watching Neil Armstrong walk on the moon.
“Peace, Love and Rock ‘n Roll” was in and toking was quickly overtaking the thrill of simply smoking.
Over the course of the next 10-15 years, the marketplace exploded.
New brands were introduced and technology emerged in the form of personal computers and car phones. Brands like Target and Kmart came to life.
Cars gave way to station wagons that family used to go on vacations. County fairs gave way to theme parks where rides and games were available more than just one week of the year.
New roadways and Interstates were being expanded all over the U.S. and not just in the big cities of New York, Chicago and Philly.
The Republicans and the Democrats were at one another’s throats and presidential impeachment was the mainstay talk on Capitol Hill.
Today… July 17, 2019… is nearly a carbon copy of 1969… something that you very rarely hear talked about in academic, business and media circles today.
Back then I remember watching the Jetsons and hearing folks talk about how soon we would be colonizing the moon, how computers would take over the tasks of the house and how cars would be self-driving.
One of the key questions I ask clients and fellow consultants just to see how much they are swayed by hype vs. anchored around reality is a simple one.
In first quarter of 2019, what percent of retail sales in the U.S. took place on the Internet? “Retail” being department store, mom-and-pop stores, restaurants, car dealerships and grocery stores.
About 80% of who I ask this question are totally living in the media-hype and tell me its at least 50% and as much as 80%.
The answer is 10.2% … a percentage that remained unchanged from 4th quarter 2018.
As much as technology has advanced over the past 50 years, the vast majority of future projections are getting revised as Washington takes on Google, FaceBook, Apple and Amazon and new state and city laws emerge putting constraints around the use of technology on the roadways and public spaces.
However, the focus of this blog is not about technology market drivers.
Instead, there was one fundamental driver of what took place from 1969 through the mid-1980s that is happening all over again.
As Baby Boomers coupled and made babies they fueled the largest and most profound generational change on the planet earth. What was driven by adolescence gave way to family cocooning.
And that very same thing is happening right now in our midst with the even larger generation of Millennials produced by the Boomers.
Pew Research Center recently published a news story about Millennials that was featured in the Wall Street Journal. The New York Times published a news story about Baby Boomers in 1969.
“Most educated ever,” “idealistic,” “technology,” “social justice,” “women employment,” “moving to the suburbs” and “higher incomes.”
Those phrases were used in both of the two articles... written 50 years from one another.
Just as the Jetsons provided a channel of entertainment so too is the content about self-driving cars generated for SyFy and the news media today.
Just as the predictions about the end of government and the crisis of leadership clogged the airwaves back then, so too is the same focus of talk radio, cable news networks and social media today.
In some cases, what was hot and hip then is coming back as hot and hip today… maybe in a slight alteration for format and packaging.
Joints were hip to toke on at concerts back then… today CBN mom & pop joints are popping up on street corners and websites.
PTAs and tutorial programs then… PTAs and tutorial programs today.
Just as I remember my parents telling me to turn off the tube and get outside and explore back 50 years ago, I am telling clients today to turn off their iPhones and log out of Linkedin.
But then I go further… get out of the office and go walk the streets, grab a burger at a McDonalds, push a physical shopping cart at a Target or a Walmart and go take a walk down Main Street.
Go to a restaurant during its special Family Night Specials and grab a table next to a new Millennial family.
Trust me… while so many of the media stories showcase the family all staring at their smartphones, you see… and hear… a different scene.
Here are the brands introduced in 1969… Frosted Mini-Wheats, Wendy’s Restaurants, Hawaiian Tropic, Comfort Fabric Softener, Eukanuba, Tic Tac, Nerf Balls and Volvo GTS.
Here are the “Top Innovating Consumer and Retail Brands” emerging in 2019… Abe’s Market, AquaFarm counter-top organic garden, Beyond Meat, UrgentRx Single Packs, Renault Duster SUV, Bisto Gravy Pots, Chobani Nut Butters and EVOL Foods.
What to watch for… Just as Woolworth back then left the scene and Target entered the stage, my prediction is to watch because a brand will appear soon to fill the gap left behind by Toys-R-Us.
They say that history never repeats itself.
Okay, but remember that the Boomers vow to change history.