Jim Rubart

Since 1994, Jim Rubart has worked with clients such as AT&T/Cingular, RE/MAX, ABC and Clear Channel radio though his company Jr2 Marketing, but his passion is writing fiction. He's also a photographer, guitarist, professional speaker, golfer, and semi-pro magician. He lives in the Northwest with the world's most perfect wife and his two almost-perfect sons. No, he doesn't sleep much. You can reach him at jlrudini[at]comcast.net

Why Boomers Are Lousy Marketers

Remember the rock band KISS? I was in eighth grade when a friend handed me his headphones, cranked the volume up to eleven, and said, “You gotta listen to this band!”

For the next six years, KISS became one of the biggest concert draws in the world. The black-and-white makeup, the costumes, on-stage pyrotechnic explosions, Gene Simmons blowing streams of fire out of his mouth twenty feet into the air, the KISS army . . . even if you hated the band, you knew who they were.

Notice I didn’t mention the music? No one would ever accuse the members of KISS of being great musicians. But it wasn’t about the music. It was about the hype.

The ’80s was the decade of hype. Everything was bigger! Better! Incredible! Big hair, big shows, big glitz, bright colors. Big promises. We believed the hype, bought into it, promoted it, and words like Staggering! Amazing! Fantastic! and Stunning! were embedded into our vocabulary.

But life has changed.

If you lived through the ’80s as an adult, you witnessed the peak of a generational trend that repeats itself every forty years. (If you want to dig deeper, reading the book Generations will give you a good start.)

In the early ’90s, the pendulum of excess started slowing down. Less flash. Less hype. Get real.

The entertainment industry often reflects this generational cycle earlier than other sectors of society. Musicians like Kurt Cobain broke onto the scene eschewing the decadence of the ’80s. His music, lyrics, and approach were the antithesis of the ’80s exaggeration.

Not only did his music strike a nerve, but also the way he dressed. No flash. No costumes. Grunge was in.

People—starting with teens—stopped believing the hype of the boomer generation. Teens and young twenties today grew up

with their B.S. meters set on ultrasensitive. Their translation of words like Amazing! Spectacular! Astounding! became: “Blah. Blah. Blah.” They want: Real. Genuine. Authentic.

As we ended the ’90s and entered the new millennium, TV started reflecting the trend toward real. From 2001 to 2003, we saw a fundamental shift in television programming. What became (and remains) the number one category on TV? Reality shows. Yes, I know they’re sometimes manipulated almost as much as a scripted show, but the point remains that seeing real people in real situations is far more popular with America than sitcoms and dramas.

We Boomers have moved away from the habit of hype we learned as kids and young adults. But some of it still lingers. And if we’re not aware, it can make us lousy marketers.

• Don’t exaggerate! Don’t overpromise! Don’t use words like Super! Fantastic! Unbelievable! Tremendous! No one believes them anymore. And it will be AWESOME if you get rid of 99.9 percent of your exclamation points!!!!!!!
• Platitudes? They’re hype.
• Clichés? Hype.
• Examine every piece of your marketing materials. I’ve read novels without the hint of cliché and hype, but the author’s promotional material and Web site is full of them.
• Study your endorsements with hype in mind. “Couldn’t put the book down!” might have worked in the ’80s. Today? Not so much.
• Ask friends, other authors, and marketing experts if your material is hyped and clichéd. Just like a great editor can see blind spots in your writing, many of these people will see the hype in your marketing materials.

You want your marketing and brand to shine more brightly? Take off the three coats of wax. Take off the super gloss. And tell the truth with no false embellishment.

How refreshing.