Before the coming of the Internet, the telephone or the telegraph, the quickest way to send a message was to jump on a fast horse with stamina and hit the trail.
So it was that the Pony Express was born in April, 1860, linking St. Joseph, Missouri, with Sacramento, California, in “only” 10 days.
The route was long and it was arduous; 1,900 miles, traversed by a 24/7 chain of riders, the most famous of whom was Buffalo Bill. Yep, that Buffalo Bill. Each rider switched horses six or seven times a day on a hell-for-leather shift of 75-100 miles. Just thinking about it kinda makes a person reach for the liniment.
It was dangerous, too. So much so that the company’s recruiting ads stressed a preference for orphans who were “willing to risk death daily.”
As if this wasn’t daunting enough, riders had to swear an oath that would send modern HR departments scrambling to lawyer up in anticipation. It read, in part:
“I do hereby swear, before the Great and Living God, that … I will, under no circumstances, use profane language, that I will drink no intoxicating liquors, that I will not quarrel or fight with any other employee of the firm … so help me God.” (Wikipedia)
In the end, it wasn’t the danger, the morality clause – or the HR department – that did in the company, but progress. Upon the completion of the transcontinental telegraph in 1861, it folded after only 18 short, glorious months of operation.
Still, the Pony Express rider lives on as a symbol of independence, toughness and daring.
Even today, in the comfort of cozy, climate controlled offices, there are still assignments available for orphans (preferred) willing to risk death daily – you know, the kind of gutsy undertakings from which lesser mortals shrink.
For example, devising advertising campaigns aimed at Boomers.
The Millennial wunderkinder challenge: create a Boomer ad campaign
What more dangerous, career-ending decision could there be for any young Madison Avenue wunderkind than creating a mainstream brand campaign directed at Boomers?
It’s a radical, edgy idea – no doubt about it. And everyone knows that edgy is the currency of the fast track to the boardroom these days, but, c’mon, even edgy has it’s limits.
For decades now, conventional marketing wisdom has drummed into young ad-minds the mantra that, after 50, American consumers are no longer adaptable enough to switch brands or develop new buying patterns. Except of course, for a lemming-like rush to the drug store for adult incontinence undergarments and anti-wrinkle preparations.
So why waste budgets on relics whose buying behavior was fixed back in the days of Imhotep?
Besides, there’s the curse to contend with: “death, eternal punishment for anyone who opens this casket.”
Well, somewhere out there are a few courageous Millennial orphans with the moxie to – shameless mixed metaphor alert – open the casket and take that grueling ride to the 50+ consumer space where half of all consumer packaged goods (CPG consultancy IRI) and half of all new cars are bought.
Go for it! See you in Sacramento. If you make it.
Forget the silver tsunami, Boomer-Plus will be the next gold rush
Back when the Pony Express was Gmail of its day, Sacramento was the jumping off point for the California gold country. When today’s young adworld disruptives finally blaze the trail to the buying power bonanza of the Boomer-Plus Generation™, born 1940-1965, a new gold rush is sure to follow.
Owners of over 70% of U.S. household net worth, and 93 million strong, if we were a country it would be the world’s 15th most populous – the 15th Nation™. That means a bigger, more affluent market than any EU nation and far bigger than Canada and Australia combined. Eureka!
Part of the old Pony Express route ran through Colorado; for daring marketing orphans headed for the 50+ gold country it still does.