Your Key to Positive Impact: The 4 Generations Principle
4 min read

How the four generations principle could lead to positive impact

Why are light-switches in design hotels impossible to find? Why are our oceans drowning in plastic? How to find more satisfaction in your work? How to make your business a force of good? And how do we connect these seemingly unconnected questions? Let’s see how the 4 generations principle will contribute.

My mother (81 years old) took out her Nokia 3310, bought in the year 2001, she always had in her bag for emergency-calls, but she had never managed to fully use. She explained that she wanted to start using WhatsApp but that she had not yet figured out how to do so on her Nokia. I explained her it was time to change phones. She had been using an iPad for years, could read and write with it so I had no doubt whatsoever: we bought her an iPhone. Apple has been able to make things so intuitive, so easy to use, so absolutely simple, that my tech-illiterate mother was able to use both her iPhone and iPad in no time without even having to read one single line in a manual.

Last week, I saw that many of the people I know well from my time at Unilever were posting the news that any time soon now, the detergent OMO will be sold in bottles made from the plastic that was collected on the Brazilian shores by Unilever-employees in a joined activity with the Brazilian World Wildlife Fund. The employees posting the article are clearly proud of the brand they are working on and of the goal of Unilever to ensure that all of its plastic packaging is fully reusable, recyclable or compostable by 2025.

Some months ago, I was working on a food brand aimed at children and as part of the process, I spoke to several internal stakeholders in separate individual interviews to get a feel of what the strategic alignment was on the future of the brand. I asked them what their own children like about the product. They all said -independently and unanimously- they would never give it to their children. When I asked them why not, they explained that they found the product too unhealthy to give to their own children. I was utterly shocked.

Three simple short anecdotes and yet again containing valuable lessons that should guide us all in our daily work. If we would stick to those, the global marketing-community would make a big contribution to our world.

I call it the 4 generations principle.

Make things so simple that your parents (or grand-parents, or grand-grandparents) intuitively understand how to use your product. It is nice to indulge in vanity over a new fantastic design, pack-shape, architectural wonder or technical innovation, but if only you and your buddies understand it, it is a missed opportunity to do better.

Work on things that you proudly share, that make you feel good, and make you get up in the morning. Try to make a positive contribution to sales AND society with the products you work on, the innovations you are developing, the campaigns you make. If we would all work on things that make us proud, the world would move forward a lot quicker.

Only launch products that you would give to your own children. If you do not feel comfortable about giving something to your kids, why should others be happy with it?

Try to envision the impact of your actions on the life of your children’s children. If it negatively impacts, do not do it. If you do not know yet what the impact will be, do not do it.

Keep it simple for the previous generations. Work on things that make you proud. Make it good enough for your own kids. Do not let it be a burden to theirs.

Imagine we stick to all four always. This would create positive impact, wouldn’t it?

Robert Schermers, Partner & Business Humanizer