Turn on the juice! Upward bound! Nebraska's business and government leaders are aching for something to discuss other than stay-at-home corona-crisis. Something positive and energetic. Something that takes us into a bright and exciting future, not a dismal and uncertain slog.
Eighteen months ago, I met with several UNL grads at a Starbucks and asked them why they were intent on leaving Nebraska. The feedback boiled down to one three letter word:
Another way to express it in more businesslike terms: "Innovation." The World Herald has been talking about it while covering the Blueprint Nebraska initiative that launched in 2018.
That doesn't surprise many people. But what makes the article particularly interesting is the metaphor that came into my mind as I reflected on the Gen Y/Z input.
Coke versus Pepsi. The fight for dominance began on TV 40 years ago. It's a simple metaphor for the past versus the future - a future where things are NEW.
Here's what you'll learn when you read the editorial that was published in the Omaha World Herald on April 4, 2020: Nebraska is currently perceived as "Coke" by young people. The state has to become more like "Pepsi" if it wants to attract more "high-skill, high-wage, high-demand" talent.
Some of you will dismiss this as "ad-speak." But if you're old enough to relate to this comparative metaphor, you'll recall that Pepsi grabbed massive market share from Coke when it associated its brand with a young, progressive drinker. The trend lasted for decades.
Now, shift to our digital era when new apps are being financed and launched every day. We live in an era when Elon Musk will soon send two average people around the moon and bring them back again in three days. This is an era when a 16 year old girl can receive the Nobel Prize because of her eloquent passion about our sclerotic response to the environmental crisis - the mega-problem Gen Z has inherited from Boomers.
Yes, we Nebraskans are experiencing a new era whether we like it or not. If we hang onto our past and cling to rigid thinking in our companies and communities, we will continue to lose our brightest young people. We will remain Classic Coke. Most business leaders don't really want that, but they haven't addressed it with urgency. Now is the time. We can't wring our hands about infection forever. Put on a mask and move forward with a planning partner and motivational consultant.
Here's the reason you must read the Omaha World Herald editorial: the word 'new' is very similar to the first syllable in Nebraska. By adding only one letter - a "W" - we could be talking about 'NEWbraska' to people and companies looking for a new place to live, build a career and prosper.
As in, "Yes, Mr. Prospect, we have reinvented our state. We are full of innovative people that would make great employees. That's why we think of ourselves as 'NEWbraska!'"
Let's assume you get it - you understand why that kind of promotional wordplay actually works when trying to catch the attention of bright, busy people who have already LEFT Nebraska. They're skiing in Utah or hanging out in Austin or KC.
What exactly would we do to attract those people and grow our firms using the NEWbraska concept? How can we sell more and be more? How could we transform NEW into NOW?
The details to that loaded question are addressed in the editorial mentioned above.
Simply email me and I will happily SEND YOU the PDF of that 600 word essay. It could become your company's marketing plan if you think carefully about it and the book that inspired it from author Eric Ries.
My email is email@example.com.