words

experts schmexperts

posted by

Ann Smith
strategy director / vision

the age of amateurs is underway.

the two guys in the garage with a “crazy idea” and a passion for brewing. the blogging stay-at-home mom with a bone to pick with big business. and the circle of friends, fresh from business school, with ambitions to be their own bosses.

these unassuming ingénue are the engines behind some of the influential brands rocking the boat today—Venmo, Car2Go, Impossible Foods, just to name a few. wide-eyed, scrappy and unfailingly optimistic, they are jumping head first into brand – poking, prodding and nipping at the bottom line of longstanding industry titans.

the popularity of this challenger class reflects a larger cultural shift where proven expertise is no longer indispensible. if anything, the aspirational image of success has evolved to celebrate these baby-faced CEOs, many in their first foray of business altogether.

we find their inexperience refreshing, we’re more forgiving of their foibles and we take joy in watching them grow up in front of our eyes. suddenly, moonshots have shifted from a risky phenomenon to a source of competitive advantage. but why? what does our culture’s open embrace of the anti-expert say about us?

the following is a junk drawer of musings, hypotheses and I.O.U notes to inspire your own thoughts…

  • we value purpose over perfection. we’re drawn to brands with a deep conviction and passion for what they do, even if they haven’t been doing it that long.
  • we’ve become our own experts. we’ve become allergic to marketing-speak and superlatives like “the best”, “the finest”, “the ultimate”. we consider ourselves the judge of choice, not brands.
  • the Google effect. is this cultural zeitgeist a by-product of what’s happened in technology? concepts like “Fail fast, Fail early, Fail often” (see Google innovation) now permeate our thinking and vernacular, reframing how we view innovation altogether. a shift away from rewarding the big idea or outcome to celebrating the process and the bumps and bruises that come with it. what is the entire discipline of Science, after all, but a series of failed experiments and theories? perhaps we have Google to thank for bringing trial and error to mainstream…
  • all is not lost. so what to do if you’re a brand with a hard earned resume of experience?
    a. wait for the cultural pendulum to swing back
    b. perform a nip and tuck on your brand so it at least looks fresh
    c. tune in for the next blog post on “Decoding the Challenger Class.”

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