SP09 - Duke Stumps audience

In which the new zeitgeist is delivered. But was it preaching to the choir?

In one crucial way I have long been a disappointment to the women in my life.

I don’t dance.

Duke Stump encouraged the audience to get up and dance as his opening gambit to his presentation. He wanted, he said, to show his daughter 1500 kiwis dancing. Well make that 1499. I’m sorry. It felt like an Amway hoopla. Around me people stood and convulsed mildly. A couple twitched. Kiwis are a restrained lot at the best of times. 2.45 in the afternoon is not the best of times to initiate a rave. Who knows what the footage on Duke’s camera will reveal—he asked for it to be passed around the auditorium to record the moment.

So. We’ve hummed and we’ve rattled, now let’s get down to business.

Stump’s presentation, I guess, was intended as an inspirational message about sustainability. Though, to be fair, that’s not a word he would like to persist in the vernacular. He would like to have the ‘green’ message integrated into brand behavior, rather than applied. This, he argues is the ‘emerging zeitgeist’.

Stump’s history includes a period at Nike where he learned to ‘never underestimate the power and passion of the human spirit’. I hope I don’t sound ironic or sarcastic. I don’t mean to. It’s hard not to agree with a kind of Frank Capra-esque vision of corporate America. Who doesn't like spirited, passionate people? (He did warn us his talk would be Amerocentric). Nike may have taken steps to redeem its self, but the tarnish of the labour scandals hasn’t been fully burnished clean by subsequent programmes and campaigns.

Stump was vague about his reasons for leaving Nike, but it seems the prospect of working with the 7th Generation company held sufficient allure and there he seems to have developed a philosophy of doing well and doing good – selling laundry detergents and disposable diapers.  How can a company reconcile those two ends? Well…by building ‘bonfires with soul’. I know. I felt the crowd shuffle restlessly in their seats. I’m not sure they were drinking from the Kool-Aid hydrant.

The session/sermon featured many schmaltzy aphorism:

  • Quiet your cleverness – be like a kid.
  • Aim for icebergs (not a successful strategy for at least one ocean liner I can think of). Actually Stump meant that great brands begin at the tip of something.
  • Reclaim your human-ness; …ask what you want to do before you die.
  • Focus on storytelling.

I have to stop (to optimize my energy). To be fair to Mr. Stump his presentation probably resonates with corporate America. He has a terrific resume which gives him reflected credibility but I found it hard to really appreciate an evangelist for a message that I have already bought, or at least heard may times.

Duke Stump's blog

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