I was meeting with the CEO of a large food manufacturer when he made fun of the lack of marketing know-how among the U.S. auto industry’s leaders. “Maybe so,” I said, “but I think I can prove to you that your company has the same kind of problem.” I then kicked off the following exchange:

“What’s your most important customer segment?”

“The boomers.”

“When did you last meet with any boomers to find out what they thought about your products?”

“That’s not my job. That’s up to my product development and marketing people.”

“You’re just like those auto company leaders,” I concluded. “They never see what it’s like to buy a car because they get their cars for free, and you never make it your business to interact with your ...

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