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Are People Misreading Older Business Executives in the Internet Age?



I was made aware study that was done by Forbes Insights in conjunction with Google about video and the business executive. Hmmmmm, Google and video, I wonder what the connection is? Anyway, here was the audience.

Forbes Insights, in association with Google, surveyed more than 300 C-level and senior executives at large U.S. companies ($500 million-plus in annual revenues) to learn more about how they are approaching Web video as a source of business-related information.

The chart below shows who did what after watching a business video. This chart comes from eMarketer (Note: We refer to them often because they make data from various sources a little cleaner to understand in graphical form. Thanks eMarketer).

Here’s where it got interesting to me. The paragraph following the above chart in the eMarketer article reads

Generational differences ran throughout the Forbes research, with a split in behavior at age 50. While the youngest executives were most interested in video across the board, baby boomers in their 40s had comparable participation levels. It was older executives who had not yet gotten on board with video, and business-to-business marketers must continue to reach them through other means.

What exactly does it mean that they have not “gotten on board”? Is it because they don’t act like Pavlov’s dogs by responding and reacting to what they see on video?

This is the kind of thinking that gets people in trouble. Here’s what I mean. What if rather than these older executives being crotchety hunched over guys who walk the C-suite in their pajamas are actually just more seasoned and able to sniff out BS more readily? What if after growing up in an age where TV was coming of age and seeing how most of what is pushed there is absolute junk has made these people more discerning? What if they know that video pitches should be just as suspect (if not more so) than traditional sales pitches?

Maybe it’s because I skew older in these studies that I get upset because the inference is often that older executives “don’t get it” or “are not on board”. What if the real reason for their lower engagement is that they are actually working rather than watching and uploading videos AND they exercise a level of discernment about what is crap and what isn’t based on years of experience rather than doing what the cool kids do?

I think that this idea that the new media world is better is the wrong way to go about this whole change. Does it have the chance to be better? Absolutely. But like with anything else it isn’t better just because it showed up. It will only be better because it provides value.

This idea that because video or anything is being embraced in greater numbers by certain age groups literally means nothing. The only real important measurement is what value does a video deliver to a viewer. How many crap business videos have you watched and wondered if you could get that 3-5 minutes of your life back?

Just because younger executives act more on video doesn’t make them smarter. In fact, it might just prove that they are inexperienced suckers who fall for the latest shiny object. If that’s the kind of leadership the new media era is truly developing then buckle up for a bumpy future.

So what is your take on this? Does viewing more video and acting on it make you a better executive or are experience, value contribution and doing the job more important? Is the lower adoption rate by older executives because they don’t get it or that they have a more refined bullshit meter?

Would love to get your thoughts in the comments.