business news in context, analysis with attitude

by Michael Sansolo

Adapt or die is a common thought in business. We have to find ways to change even the most successful models to stay relevant to the times.

A crystal clear example of how to do just that is the incredible career of crooner Tony Bennett, who passed away recently at age 96. Bennett, as you might be aware, was a chart topper in the 1950s and as also in the last decade by adapting and reinventing himself.

And thanks to him, we have a great and in some ways simple model in how to understand exactly how to reinvent both ourselves and our businesses, and in the process stay successful. (Kevin offered some additional lessons from Mr. Bennett last week.)

You might be aware that in recent years, Bennett performed regularly with pop star performer Lady Gaga, As the New York Times reported, the partnership paid dividends to both. Bennett found an entirely new generation of fans of his singing and songs and Lady Gaga proved herself a sensitive partner to an aging and ailing star and also got a new forum to display unexpectedly strong musical skills.

Actually, for Bennett, this wasn’t a one-off experience. Earlier in his career he sang duets with artists from Rosemary Clooney to Stevie Wonder to Elvis Costello to Amy Winehouse. But his partnership with Lady Gaga included concerts, new recordings and a years-long relationship.

It’s in their unexpected partnership you too can draw a lesson in how to build relevance to new generations of shoppers, but like Bennett and Gaga you need to partner creatively.

Start simply: social media can bedevil any of us beyond a certain age. Somehow we learned to use Facebook (and destroy it for younger generations) but we also need to master - or find partners who can master - all the social media that followed, such as Pinterest, Instagram, SnapChat and most certainly now, Tik Tok and Threads.

The reality is that no marketing messages today is reaching the youngest generations without Tik Tok, and the odds are you have many people in your company and family who love and use the somewhat controversial app. Like Tony Bennett you need to partner with the young generation to develop a new presence there.

And it doesn’t end with social media. Younger shoppers have come of age in an entirely new era of customer expectations, economic realities and more. Again, you need to cultivate the young adults and even the older teen-agers you employ to learn about their world. What matters to them, what needs do they have.

Remember, they are both your shoppers and staffers of tomorrow so the better you understand them today the better able you might be to win their loyalty and sales into the future. And don’t hesitate to remind those younger people how these new partnerships might benefit them, just as Lady Gaga showed incredible savvy in aligning with Tony Bennett. Help them see all they might gain through having older mentors.

What’s so remarkable about Tony Bennett is that while he left his heart in San Francisco he never left his desire to grow anywhere in his career. And just maybe he left a lesson that can help business people in countless ways.

Michael Sansolo can be reached via email at

His book, “THE BIG PICTURE:  Essential Business Lessons From The Movies,” co-authored with Kevin Coupe, is available here.

And, his book "Business Rules!" is available from Amazon here.

For information about hiring Michael to speak at your next meeting or conference, click here.