High marks for Generation Z.

Last week I had a terrific opportunity to give a short talk for ninety-one aspiring leaders—ages thirteen to eighteen—at Bentley College, just outside Boston. The participants were attending a series of programs offered by Lead America, an impressive youth leadership organization whose goal is to develop 'leaders for life'.

It was also my first occasion to try Keynote—Apple's slide show application—for my 'Business Lessons From Rock' presentation. (Keynote is amazing. More on that in a future post.)

Some of my talk—usually aimed at a corporate audience—was a bit of a challenge for the younger kids to grasp, but by the end they all understood how they were 'branding' themselves at school everyday and were able to identify those brands—'hard worker', 'fashion queen', 'super jock', etcetera.

They also understood they could be stuck with a default brand (not of their choosing)—'unreliable', 'always late', 'slacker', etcetera—if they weren't mindful of their actions. I'm happy to report that even thirteen-year-olds get the implications of 'brand you'.

To my delight the kids also knew their rock & roll, even that of the classic rock variety.

When I asked which band broke the creative mold for pop music—after which rock & roll was never the same—one sixteen-year-old piped up: 'Pink Floyd!' A surprisingly good answer—if not the best one. (I bet I know Grandpa's favorite band.)

The kids also immediately identified The Who as the band that supplied the opening theme to my presentation. As expected, my references to more recent bands and the brands they featured—including Coldplay, Green Day, and even Nirvana (the signature band of their Gen X parents!)—were readily understood.

Now in comparison to these precocious teens, let's see how you perform in answering these same questions…

1 What band changed rock & roll forever, whose music altered the pop landscape—a band responsible for more musical innovations than any other in the history of rock? (No, not Pink Floyd, though they did their part.)

2 What is the best-selling female band still performing, whose instrumental prowess is legendary and whose independent thinking and irreverence for authority—qualities sorely needed by our business teams today imho—alienated thousands of their original fans while attracting thousands of new ones?

3 What two rock bands, monstrously successful over four decades, were formed in the early-to-mid-'60s—in London and San Francisco respectively—as blues and R&B cover bands?

More clues: Band A's success was eventually built on: (1) a string of hit rock & roll singles; (2) a brazenly flamboyant lead singer; and (3) a decadent 'bad-boy' brand. Band B's success was built on: (1) improvisational live performances; (2) a rejection of celebrity trappings, combined with a communal bond with its audience; and (3) a give-it-away-free business model—including hundreds of live performances and band-sanctioned bootlegged tapes.

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14 Comments

  1. Answers to quiz:
    (1) The Beatles. (Yeah, that was a “duh.”)
    (2) The Dixie Chicks. (The Spice Girls are the biggest selling female group in pop history, but I wouldn’t call them a “band,” and they’re no longer together anyway. Same for the talented Destiny’s Child, the runner up to the Spice in sales volume, but also no longer performing.)
    (3) The Rolling Stones and the Grateful Dead, who are still performing as simply the Dead. (If you read my recent posts you’d have nailed this one.)

    If you got all three right you should identify yourself here and achieve the global adulation for your musical acumen that befits you as a VIP reader of BLFR. Even if you didn’t get all three right (#2 was no lay-up), feel free to leave a comment—or dispute my answers.

  2. Self-esteem is apparently not an issue with BLFR readers, Dave. :-) Welcome to the VIP club. Your membership number is 0001. You may qualify for future prizes.

    I guess if one already follows the Chicks one might get #2 right. But I was surprised when I learned they're the top selling female band in the US now. They're still so controversial in some quarters I may get boycotted by simply mentioning them.

  3. we should never be amazed by the younger folk.

    not sure if these folks qualify as gen z yet.

    how is keynote working for ya?

  4. Hey John - what about my favorite Band?!!!

    Where are they in your quiz?

    You simply can't talk to youngsters about rock without mentioning the greatest band in history my friend!!

    Seriously - I love young people - I have great hopes they will not be as stupid as we have been in the last 20 years in allowing the world to slowly crumble as the rich get richer and the-poor get poorer.

    As my late beloved Dad use to say

    "I love kids - I wen to school with them."

    Another quote from me:

    "Children may only be 14% of our population but they are 100% of our future"

  5. PS John

    Sigmund Freud said it best.

    "What a distressing contrast there is between the radiant intelligence of a child and the feeble mentality of the average adult"

    Amen to that says I!

  6. Henry, there's some disagreement about when Gen Y (the Millennials) ends and the next gen begins. Apparently I had some of the latter in my group at least.

    Re Keynote, I LOVE it. Its features are way cooler than Powerpoint's (I'm now TALKING like Gen Z) and it accepts mp3 music files, so it doesn't bog down with multiple music files. There are some things that need improving but (1) the Cupertino folks are listening closely to customer suggestions for the next version and (2) for $100 bucks a year I can get personal coaching EVERYDAY at an Apple store. For the month of July I just about lived at my local store to get up to speed on Keynote. Apple's customer support model is unbeatable.

  7. Thanks, Trevor. "I have great hopes they will not be as stupid as we have been in the last 20 years..." That's setting the bar fairly low, I'm afraid. (And make it 30 years.) Re the Eagles, I'll have to include them in version 2 of my presentation. I can't afford to diss my UK country-rock audience. They (or should I say "you"?) are a large percentage of my readership this week. I just wrote a piece on Woodstock for http://www.tompeters.com (it will go up in an hour or two) in which I WANTED to discuss the Eagles at great length but they reminded me that the band didn't exist in 1969.

  8. OK, John. Those questions must have been really easy because I got them all right too! Yippie!

    I think it's absoultely great that you had such an opportunity. I love talking to young people.

    1. They're typically honest. (You can tell rather easily if you're having an impact or not.)
    2. They often ask non-patent questions that make you think.
    3. You have to find innovative ways to relate if you want to have an impact.
    4. You have an opportunity to shape the future generation and they you by the exchange.
    5. They are forward-looking, uninhibited usually by the fear of failure. They try stuff.
    6. Their brands evolve more readily.
    7. You have the opportunity to share your experiences associated with your time and learn of theirs in the same way. (Often times they are not that different.)

    I love that you were able to talk about bands relevant to various generations and talk about issues relevant to all. Of course, they understood the branding example because of the excellent way in which you presented it i.e., "slacker," "fashion queen," "super jock," etc.

    Was "nerd" too touchy? Everyone knows this brand. It is often the "nerd" who makes the greatest impact later on in life, not the "class personality." So, the brands that really matter at some point, often matter much less later on.

    Good post, John. Thanks!

  9. Judith, congratulations! Your VIP membership number is 0002. (This will be worth MILLIONS to you someday.) BTW, the only nerd in attendance at the seminar was I.

  10. John,

    Whew! I knew all 4 bands. Must confess, I only knew #2 because you talk about them a lot.

    Good post. I think it is important for teenagers to think about how they can influence their personal brand/reputation in a positive and negative way.

    Additionally, I think it's helpful to have the teenagers make a personal connection to a business concept. Perhaps some of them will recognize how they, as consumers, are influenced by what the companies are doing in building brands.

    --Kimberly

  11. Ok, Kimberly, you get to be VIP member # 0003. We'll be in quadruple digits in no time at this rate.

    If I had lectured kids on their "reputation" they would have zoned out. "Brand" is a fresher way to talk about it.

  12. Can't comment, Mark, lest I incur an Australian backlash, which could cripple blog readership (currently peaking in double digits this week). But it suffices to say that the Commonwealth is well represented on my lists. In fact, one of these days I'll talk up my favorite Canadian artists.

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