More than 30 years ago, when I was but a newbie in what turned out to be my last corporate gig (thank God), I worked for one particularly inept Vice President in the proverbial Home Office. One of the VP’s responsibilities was for the national sales organization, including the field offices and their managers. When the VP decided he didn’t like one of the managers or one of the salespeople and determined he had to grease him, he’d invariably say, “The business has passed him by.”

POOF. The dude would be gone.

The notion of the business’s having passed any of those people by was some combination of a defensive rationalization and a self-justifying contrivance in at least 99 percent of the cases in which it was invoked. Nevertheless, I’ve wondered ever since if it might actually be possible for one to be cognizant of the fact that the business by which one makes a living has passed one by.

Now I know. It is. Here’s how I know.

The Big Bang

I was quite blithely and innocently perusing my LinkedIn feed when this phrase leapt from my screen, stunned me, and took it all: digital authenticity. In a flash, I saw my entire business — along with everything I believed I knew about marketing, communication, expressive interaction, language, argument, content, substance, coherence, relationships, and human nature — pass me by. FOOP! Gone.

The phrase began this update from a person who shall remain nameless, lest said person discover reality and sanity have passed said person by:

Digital authenticity trumps security on the priority list. Gen Z care more about who they are buying from online than how. This explains why a stunning one-in-two Gen Zers expect their visit to a website to become a more human, predictive experience.

And the update linked to an article called, “Humanising the Digital Experience”, which threw me into a state that combined depressed lethargy with brute incomprehension. I started feverishly searching for the Drano and my Hi-Point JHP when I read this:

The vast majority of digital experiences lack a human touch … people ultimately seek out interactions which feel personal … for most Gen Z audiences, there is little if any separation between a physical or digital experience.

And once we understand the members of our target audience want interactions that feel personal — as opposed to being personal — what’s the end game for which digital authenticity is the holy grail? Come on … you’re so close … you can do it … RIGHT! Consumer spending.

Vanishing Point

I’m so old I thought digital authenticity referred to the verifiable and agreed numeric value of the integers 1 and 0; that is, a single unit of that value and the absence of any unit of that value, respectively. Uh uh. I wasn’t even in the neighborhood. Not even close. Digital authenticity refers to, in fact:

An experience that is performant … [and] able to easily integrate with a broad range of technologies in the marketing technology stack.

I can wrap my age-enfeebled noggin around the fact that such digital authenticity — the performant experience integrating with technologies in the marketing technology stack — would feel personal to the extent of approximating a human touch. That’s obvious enough, right? It would be like a warm hand or a reassuring embrace.

What I don’t understand is how we got to the point at which people can write about such blatantly, shortsightedly, manipulatively, and exploitatively contrived rubbish, let alone believe it and — worst of all — profit from it.

As Grandpa O’Brien loved to say, “Strange things are happening.”

If you need me, I’ll be in the dark, waiting for the rest of history, humanity, and credulity to join the business in passing me by.

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