Posted by: Chris | July 17, 2007

Teenage Disconnect

So I’m sitting here, bored as hell, watching the little COGNOS fish swimming back and forth at the bottom of the screen as my pretend stock portfolio I’m monitoring every 10 minutes continues to decline, and I’m wondering if this is corporate life. If indeed it is, the answer to a pondering in which I indulged myself earlier this morning (how do brick and mortar boutique/niche/specialty shops survive and flourish these days in light of the superior convenience, price, and availability of online shopping?) is all too clear. I’ll explain how the answer emerged from these vastly different considerations once I check COGNOS to see if my report has finished yet.


I should warn you, this is lengthy, but if you’ll commit, I think you’ll find a little bit of meaning within a lot of drivel. So stick with me.

First up in this magical circle of inspiration, I was contemplating my work-related activities so far this morning. An itemized list:

  1. Run reports in COGNOS to find histories of potential fraud suspects. This consists of copying and pasting a suspect’s number (I’m not entirely sure what this number is, but I think it’s a membership number) from a spreadsheet into a very slow program that searches through my company’s entire database for details about the suspect. Then, I copy these results into another spreadsheet, and I format the color of the number, based on the results provided. That’s the fun part.

I then considered my non-work-related activities:

  1. Check my e-mail accounts which are packed full of job-search results, most of which have been posted by people who think that sales and marketing are the same thing, and one which suggests that it is expedient to combine a PR position with that of a secretary (job title: “Public Relations Executive and Assistant to the President”). This is extremely frustrating because at first, I think there are all kinds of marketing possibilities in Tulsa for me, but I then find out that unless I want to sell CutCo knives or random financial services, I’m out of luck. It is also frustrating to see that Tulsa, a pretty big city, has so few legitimate marketing opportunities to offer. But I digress.
  2. Drink 3 cups of coffee.
  3. Read 94 blog posts between COGNOS searches.
  4. Contemplate my future.
  5. Make multiple bathroom trips.
  6. Invite a guy I knew at grad school to join my LinkedIn network-in hopes that he can somehow point me to a perfect marketing job in Tulsa.
  7. Watch my aforementioned {fake} Yahoo portfolio dip below $700 (not $700K, just $700-I’m a freaking teacher, what do you expect?) after being at $750 last week. (Still, not too bad considering I started at $500 less than 2 weeks ago.)
  8. Set up an account on Pandora-a cool internet radio site that I really cannot enjoy since my work computer does not have speakers.
  9. Yet again, Call an HR guy at Cox who sent me his phone number last week (message sent to me via LinkedIn contact), who has yet to answer his phone, or to return my messages.
  10. Find out what my wife and daughter are doing for lunch today.
  11. Write this blog post.

{that fish is still swimming. this guy must have a long history of fraud with us}

So I’m spending a little time on #4 above, and I’m thinking, I really need a job with lots of people-interaction. (I’ve been a teacher for 8 years and, as I tell my wife, I hate giving tests in class because there is so little interaction on those days.) I’ve been contemplating going into business for myself (especially since I just found out that I could get into a quaint little brick-face one-story on Brookside—that is, if I had a business to put there), and I have recently realized Tulsa is missing is a marketing firm that focuses specifically on teenagers. I take a mental inventory of what I know about teenagers (heavy online presence-especially social networking and cheating on tests, little knowledge of systems that do not generate instant results, etc. etc.), and I realize that it really should be no surprise to me that the service at Hollister, the Gap, Old Navy, and every restaurant in the mall food court ain’t great: these places are run by teenagers! I make this statement with a little trepidation for fear that I’m going to be pegged as one of those old guys who simply, categorically hates all teenagers. I don’t. I actually really like teenagers, but I believe that, to an extent, many teenagers have forfeited an important aspect of their service provision ability because of their non-confrontational, instant answer, desktop-only accessibility. Herein lies a huge problem. This personal connectedness is extremely important to Boomers and to a certain extent, Busters…

{two COGNOS results! that guy’s number is now red! restart search with new number. hello fish. bathroom break}

…Boomers and Busters who, like me (a Buster), sit in an office and watch a fish swim back and forth at the bottom of our computer screens each day and long for personal connectedness. Sure, Facebook is interesting sometimes, but it just doesn’t scratch the itch. Yeah, Amazon has everything I could ever possibly want to purchase while at work watching the fish, but a trip to the local bookstore is special. I am driven, not to online markets or mass-produced mall cubicles, but instead to small, local niche shops…well, not really me. I’m a shallow bastard who spends his shopping days at the mall drinking Starbucks coffee at the Gap and wondering if there’s a Wi-Fi connection nearby that I could hook into. But other people are driven to these shops, for the connectedness, the expertise, the genuine communication that takes place over an item about which all conversing parties are passionate.

So my question is, how can teenagers be taught to appreciate this unintentionally (and perfect) branded service that is found in these establishments?

I must admit, I am being highly stereotypical of teenagers. I realize that many teens out there do have a respect for personal connectedness, but I also believe that teenagers and their use of technology today (no longer just as a tool, but as an essential part of their social life-which includes shopping) will have a significant effect on future sales venues and values in the US, and I’m not sure how, and I’m not sure it’s all going to be good for those like me who need a break from the computer terminal and the animated fish that swims for minutes and hours.

So I wonder, how do you see it happening? What investment can be made now? Is the current combination of teenagers and commerce headed down a dangerous path, or am I just being old-fashioned, irrelevant, and melodramatic?

Who knows, maybe I should move into the cool shop on Brookside and start up my own business: a boutique/niche/specialty marketing firm which rests on the premise of communication and personal contact, and which focuses on a very special and unique group: teenagers.

Anyone want to join me?



  1. Great blog post. I’m in marketing (DISCLAIMER: I’m not marketing anything here) so I check the blog world for Cognos from time to time, and your fish came up. Made me laugh.

    I’m with you on Facebook. I have two 20-something sisters who come to visit their nieces and me once a year and what do they do? They open up their computers to go on Facebook when they’re with me to send me a note.

    As I say to my wife, we’ve slipped out of the target demographic.

    Anyway, keep the faith in Tulsa. Probably not a lot of fish round there other than the Cog ones.


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