It’s never been easier to blend in. For a brand, for a person. It’s never been this easy to figure out what is going on at a given moment – a given second – and hide in that micro trend.
Look at letter boards. Last spring, one brand got the idea to use a letter board in an Instagram post, and it must have been the most successful social post of all time. Because since then every brand, influencer and most internet users have used a letter board in an image on their feed. There may have been a law passed. I don’t know.
The wonderful thing about media right now, and social media in general is its limitless nature. There are an infinite ways to communicate about what or who you are. For creative people, it’s like getting a new assignment every day for how to reinforce the brand; or just share how you’re feeling.
There’s no wrong or right. There’s just what you want to say and how you want to say it. And yet, every post on each platform looks like there are maybe seven authors of every single post out there. The same visual clichès, the same um, regular clichès. The same faces (go look at YouTube video preview screens).
You could show someone with any experience on the internet 50 images and I am willing to bet almost anyone would be able to sort the images by platform with a 99% accuracy.
This channel and style similarity is incredibly counterintuitive because it’s also never been easier to find your own extremely small niche of interests.
Watch The Breakfast Club. A brain, an athlete, a basket case, a princess and a criminal. Do you know how John Hughes chose those groups? Because in 1985 that’s all the fucking options people had. We have access to so many more things to be interested in, and so many ways to remix subjects, genres, styles and technology.
I used the word ‘infinite’ to describe the amount of ways people or brands could express themselves. Clothing, fit, products, cosmetics, hair. It is more likely give our global access to these things and world trends that no two people would be alike than different.
Take this a level deeper. Brands are not people. They employ people in teams to develop their inner workings. Those people often hire other teams of people to further develop the voice, tone, look and feel of that brand. This should be pulling from the individual influences and expertise of every person on all of these teams.
But people look for commonality. We want to find ways to relate to each other. We want to explain something wholly new, but we still need to use something existing as reference. We worry that people further away from the brand won’t relate to the ideas. We look for bigger commonalities; even more relatable or identifiable.
We are afraid to be different. Because we are afraid we won’t be understood. So we return to the safety of convention. We are on Pinterest, so it should be shaped like this and look like that. We are on Twitter, so use the word ‘fam.’ We are on Instagram, so hand me the letter board.
This or another version of this is the opening of my forthcoming book.