Two hundred years ago, black/white/gray products were about 15% of the total. Today?  Closer to 60%.

7 out of 10 cars are black, white or gray.  Gray is the most popular interior carpet color.

The most popular paints?  Fog, Mist and Linen, which as you might guess, ain’t exactly colorful.

What’s causing this?  Big data.  Everything gets standardized to what people like on average, individual preferences get tuned down/up, regressing to the mean.

It happens in our evaluation of human beauty too, a mushing to the middle.   The most attractive people in computer simulated visages?  32 image composites – i.e. morphing together 32 different people into one homogenous average.

Our quest for the “best” leads us to the most popular, which is the average.

One control mailing to everyone is our fundraising equivalent, mushing together individual differences into the number 10, plain white with generic copy to a generic middle that doesn’t actually exist.

And this is exacerbated by a factor of a bazillion with copy catting.  The nickel package anyone?  If it’s good enough for thy, why not try?

All this pushing to the middle is not a cry for being crazy different.  Why?

Our brains are always working to predict and instead of us passively looking for cues where a bright color or unique outer envelope might signal an interesting option the brain tries to predict what’s relevant in a given context.  In a crowded pile of mail or email inbox the cues of what’s standard will be what has a chance of being seen.

So, what’s a brand to do?  The key is being mostly similar with a dash of different.  The mostly similar signals you belong and the dash of different increases the chance of gaining attention.

Better yet, tailor at the margins with images and copy that create different controls for different people.  This means one callout for Personality A and another for Personality B.   This route puts your innovation on solid theory and evidence.

Guessing our way to creative breakthroughs that are “innovative and the same” to keep our one size fits all world is a much harder hill to climb.

Kevin