I play percussion for a South Asian dance troupe. Many of the dancers are young women with such high energy and expressions of optimism and glee that it’s as if their life is accompanied by abundant exclamation points and OMG’s hanging over their heads wherever they go. Sometimes I’ll walk into a practice studio or a room filled with these dancers and their energy hits me like I’ve splashed down at the end of a water ride into a sparkly-pink, fruity perfume pool. It’s taken some getting used to.
I thought of this when I read Kevin Kelly’s interesting piece about Extraordinary (clipped in this Farnam Street Blog post, where I found it).
The gist: Because we are exposed so regularly and so unexceptionally to the irregular and exceptional, we demand the best and greatest from our TED talks, sales presentations, and home videos of skateboard crashes and precious dog companion videos. That the regularity of irregularity in this “ocean of extraordinariness” skews our view of probability. That all must be great always.
The notion I’m sure is partially true, and Kelly is a terrific thinker. But there’s a clear and significant rise in a segment of our society that moves in the opposite direction. A segment that has reacted to growing up with the deluge of extraordinary in precisely the opposite way.
It’s the the set that appreciates the normal, used, understated, and inexpensive. That seeks aesthetic pleasure from utilitarian designs. That keeps their emotions in check unless it pertains to matters like relationships. Love. Their steady diet of extraordinary has distilled in them a certain desensitized existence where nothing is really that cool. Nothing really that special. The only thing that seems to matter—at least in their intentions, which we’ll assume are good—is authenticity. That there’s simply no such thing as a Best. Thing. Ever.
I don’t react to the at-times smothering energy of the dancers with more of their energy. I often withdraw, in fact. At times probably displaying less emotion and enthusiasm than I normally would. So I guess I recognize the response of the too-cool-for-school set.
Call them hipsters if you must, these Alternatives To The Alternatives that are reacting to our world of unfailing extraordinary by turning away. But keep an eye on the rise of the brand that doesn’t do an end zone dance, that advertises more covertly. The leader that understands the power of authenticity, vulnerability, and humdrum promises on which they can consistently over-deliver. Because I think they’re on to something.
It’s an interesting question here for transactional brands in this space: How do you attract the purchasing power of someone who owns their own web design firm, but shops at Goodwill? How do you promise a solid return on investment without promoting much of anything at all?
Beyond that, if we’re willing to listen to them, this particular market segment might act as a balance. A healthy dose of reality to our “steady diet of coincidences [that make] it easy to believe they are more than just coincidences.”