Don’t fear Millennials but do get with the technology revolution
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Don’t fear Millennials but do get with the technology revolution

Kim Hollamby
Wednesday, 15 November 2017

It was great to hear the informed views of Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of the Brunswick Corporation, Mark D Schwabero, at this morning’s Breakfast Briefing. Not least his assertion that Millennials are just as in love with the water as generations of the same age before them.  

The data, he says, simply doesn’t back up the theory that Millennials (those aged around 18-35) won’t want to play anymore. Exactly the same number are participating now as they would have done in previous years. What they do need however is the means of doing so and for their boating experiences to reflect the world around them.  

That advice though is tempered with the caveat that status quo will not be sufficient to engage with new generations. Schwabero had three decades’ experience in the truck and automotive industries before joining Brunswick 15 years ago. So, he is acutely aware that trends and technologies pioneered in that sector typically trickle down to marine and set the expectations of its customers.  

What we can expect, according to Brunswick’s research, is the need to evolve boat sharing, greater connectivity and even the development of autonomous boats. Schwabero observed that the kind of development we saw in transistors in the 20th Century is being mirrored now in the evolution of sensors in the 21st Century.  

Schwabero asserts that competency in software development will be the differentiating factor for businesses in many sectors. The ability to be able to upgrade boat systems will be expected as a norm by customers. Knowing quite how hard it can be for companies of any kind to successfully bring any software based solution to market and then maintain it, this seems quite challenging in itself.  

Brunwick is already anticipating its future customer predictions. For example, it has partnered with Seattle-based peer-to-peer boat rental company Boat Bound, supported an autonomous project undertaken by MIT and developed fully integrated electronic controls and interfaces for Mercury sterndrives and outboards. The company has also opened up an innovation laboratory in the University of Illinois Research Park and formed a joint venture with TechNexus to accelerate innovative development across its group.  

Its scale as a $4.5bn business of course provides the financial muscle for Brunswick to commit itself to future-focused R&D. The reality for smaller businesses on smaller budgets is they will also all have to work out how to engage with technical developments and supply products and services for customers that work right out of the box.  

RAI Amsterdam’s Manager METSTRADE, Irene Dros, similarly challenged the Breakfast Briefing audience to think about the power of young video bloggers and their influence on their audiences of millions. Take the vloggers out on boats, she suggested, then watch as thousands of youngsters pester their parents to get out on the water. Irene appealed for the exhibitors at METSTRADE to engage the new generation and embrace new materials and sources of energy.  

If nothing else, all of this tells me this will be a great environment for innovative and disruptive companies to build their market presence. Among the aisles of METSTRADE 2017 there are thousands of visiting and exhibiting entrepreneurs. Instead of fearing the future, the Breakfast Briefing suggests we have many good reasons to be excited about it.  

Yesterday, I joked with one of the marine industry’s statesmen at METSTRADE that we would look after his legacy. He was quick to say that was wrong – it’s time for you to make your own impact, he was quick to reply.  

Do you agree with the ideas in this piece or have other ideas of your own? Please comment and let me know, I’d be very pleased to engage with your views.

See the full keynote presentation of Mark D Schwabero here:

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