Strategic planner Dev Patnaik explains why younger generations view goods as disposable, why older generations view them as durable, and how businesses need to re-orient themselves accordingly–or lose teenage consumers altogether.
Question: How do businesses create new markets?
Dev Patnaik: Creating new markets comes from seeing the world through new eyes. It’s about having a fundamentally different perspective on the way the world works.
We are often looking for a reframe at Jump [Associates]. We’re looking for a fundamental shift in perspective that makes you think, “Wow! I thought the world work this way, and it actually works this way.” It’s a completely different change.
In “Wired to Care” I write about one of my students and those kinds of reframes, and they’re incredibly powerful when you get a reframe. It’s like taking that pill in the movie “The Matrix”--and you thought the world was one thing, and then suddenly the world is all numbers and you can’t go back to the view that you had before.
I had a student a couple of years ago and we’d asked him to go out and study what cleaning looks like. So we had 50 of America’s best and brightest. These are all Stanford students and they are studying how do old people clean, and how do young people clean, and then how did Latinos clean, and in the final presentation--they were doing a presentation to Clorox because they were our corporate sponsor--and a guy was up there and he was presenting how young people clean, what the world of an eighteen-year-old looks like, which is not a pretty picture when it comes to cleaning and he’s presenting his story.
They are showing video and this vice president from Clorox cuts him off right at the middle and says, “Wait a minute. It sounds like you’re telling me that people your age don’t care about cleaning nearly as much as people my age and we should forget about you.”
And this guy says, “No. It’s not what I’m saying. I’m saying that people have come to view the world through some basic frames based on whatever they have experienced in their life, and there are some people who for whatever they experience earlier on, view all of the world around them is being made up of durable goods, that the stuff around you will last, the table, the chair. You take care of it. You keep it looking like new because it will be with you for a long time. And there’s other people who view all these same things as disposable goods. So, if you get a scratch in the table, it’s no big deal, you throw it out and you get a new table, right? So, there are people with a durable good mentality and people with the disposable good mentality.”
And people who are the age of this vice president tend to view the world as being made up of durable things, things that last. And people who are seventeen or eighteen years old tend to view the world as being made up of disposable things because they are on their third personal computer by the time they’re eighteen. They are on their fifth cell phone. And they say things to their parents like, “Mom, can we get a new car? This one has a rattle in it.” That’s how they view the world.
And then, this student of mine looked at the VP and said, “Here’s a real clincher. Everything that Clorox makes, everything that you produce speaks to the world as if it was durable. It says keep looking as new. Keep looking like the day you bought it and you have an entire generation of people coming up who think well, why would we do that? Why wouldn’t I just throw it out and get a new one?”
And this is a fundamental problem. It’s also a fundamental reframe for this vice president. If you think about it, she walked into the room thinking that her business was about having an ice lemon scent and killing bacteria and maybe cutting cleaning time in half. And here are some guys who, after studying the worlds of that’s all great, but it is totally irrelevant to an entire group of people because they see the world in a different way.
Conducted on: June 24, 2009.