When does a dog become too old to learn new tricks?

It’s just a few short months before my 40th birthday. I like to think I’m still hip and young. I’ve tried to keep up on trends. Try new music. Try to be the first to find and try new things. However, the fact remains the same: I’m on unavoidable collision with a birthday.

In my professional life, I work with college students. It was funny a few months back when I was launching the Backpack software at Seton Hall University. I got the distinct impression that the strange looks I was getting from students had to do with me looking like someone’s dad.

Scott Lemon was discussing his “Big” insight with me the other day. Remember the movie Big with Tom Hanks? On a wish, he suddenly was transformed into an adult. But inside he was still a kid. He was hired at a toy company. All the executives were guys that were “old” inside and out. Josh (Tom Hanks) was confused at all the stupid toys the company managers created that no kid would want to play with, let alone buy.

This example has caused me to think a lot about the point in life when it’s harder to create products that a younger audience will still find valuable and cool. The generation gap is real, and what is important to youth today is far different than it was important 5, 10, or 20 years ago.

Ive been influenced in my thinking recently after reading an article by Chip Walker, the author of the GenWorld teen study and executive vice president at Chicago-based agency Energy/BBDO. Id highly recommend his article Six Seismic Shifts in Global Teen Culture published on Chief Marketer.com.

A few things I took away from the article:

Is it possible to deliver products for the youth market if you’re 40? Absolutely, just look at Steve Jobs. But like Mr. Jobs, you’ve got to keep yourself surrounded by your target customer and those that are young at heart.

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