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Why Every little thing Seems the Similar. How financial globalization… | by Ryan Duffy | Knowable | Oct, 2022

Why Every little thing Seems the Similar. How financial globalization… | by Ryan Duffy | Knowable | Oct, 2022

2022-11-08 10:00:00

How financial globalization, generational transition, and know-how converge to flatten the patron expertise

Do you ever get the sensation that the whole lot round you appears the identical?

  • Inside areas
  • Client manufacturers
  • Automobiles
  • Restaurant menus
  • Apps
  • Web sites

Throughout each shopper class, selection and originality have given strategy to monotony and conformity.

A triple menace of financial globalization, generational transition, and new know-how has flattened the aesthetics of our digital and bodily lives.

What are the origins of those regressive tendencies? Why do they matter? And what can founders, entrepreneurs, and creators do to face out amid a sea of sameness?

In his 2016 story for The Verge titled “Welcome to Airspace: How Silicon Valley helps spread the same sterile aesthetic across the world,” Kyle Chayka revealed the banal penalties of Airbnb’s fast rise. Enjoying on the corporate’s identify, he known as the phenomenon AirSpace:

“It’s the realm of espresso outlets, bars, startup places of work, and co-live/work areas that share the identical hallmarks all over the place you go: a profusion of symbols of consolation and high quality, at the very least to a sure connoisseurial mindset. Minimalist furnishings. Craft beer and avocado toast. Reclaimed wooden. Industrial lighting. Cortados. Quick web. The homogeneity of those areas implies that touring between them is frictionless, a price that Silicon Valley prizes.”

The 2007 introduction of the iPhone opened the door to the social net, remodeling our digital lives. By the point Chayka wrote his story in 2016, these applied sciences had been reshaping our bodily areas, too — at international scale.

When Airbnb launched in 2008, it bought itself as a brand new strategy to journey, permitting customers to expertise cities how locals do. It was about human connection and authenticity. Nevertheless it wasn’t lengthy earlier than a creeping sameness set in:

  • The identical generically tasteful furnishings
  • The identical succulents and monstera crops
  • The identical Nespresso espresso makers
AirSpace: Airbnb interior design blanding

From Brooklyn to Mexico Metropolis to Tokyo, inside areas grew to become interchangeable. As Chakya wrote:

“As an prosperous, self-selecting group of individuals transfer by way of areas linked by know-how, explicit sensibilities unfold, and these small pockets of geography develop to resemble each other.”

Satirically, Airbnb’s authentic promise of a differentiated journey expertise was neutered by the defining qualities of the lodge {industry} it aimed to disrupt:

  • Expectation
  • Consolation
  • Stability
  • Comfort

The social net smoothed the tough edges of style, substituting idiosyncratic native allure for clean placelessness — a bellwether for a broader development to return.

Chayka’s articulation of AirSpace was prescient, however the time period by no means fairly caught on.

A special one did: Blanding.

Blanding is the copy-paste mannequin of shopper product growth and model advertising and marketing that follows repetitive patterns within the identify of modernity however on the expense of authenticity and originality.

The final decade noticed an explosion of recent direct-to-consumer manufacturers achieve mindshare and pockets share, particularly among the many millennial set. Suppose Casper mattresses, Away baggage, and Warby Parker eyewear.

Fueled by the web’s democratization of advert concentrating on, a newly-employed technology of younger folks with disposable earnings, and a gentle circulation of enterprise capital funding, a category of rebel startups barged its means into markets beforehand dominated by a small group of legacy companies.

However their disruption shortly gave strategy to the sanitized agreeableness of blanding.

Supply: Bloomberg Opinion

As Ben Schott wrote in Bloomberg Opinion:

“All startups search to disrupt and disintermediate a smug established order, or originate and dominate a completely new area of interest. However what makes a model a bland is duality: claiming concurrently to be distinctive in product, groundbreaking in objective, and singular in supply, whereas slavishly obeying an identikit components of enterprise mannequin, feel and look, and tone of voice.”

The hallmarks of blanding

Blanding logos
Supply: Flux Branding

Chasing the identical beneficial millennial demo, many direct-to-consumer manufacturers adopted a turnkey sample:

  • Underdog positioning — “We’re not like the company giants.”
  • Human-centered tales — “We began this firm in our dorm room.”
  • Mission-driven messaging — “We’re preventing the nice combat for you.”
  • Aspirational narratives — “We’re making luxurious approachable.”
  • Chummy tone of voice — “Hello, pal!”

They abided by the identical aesthetic conventions:

  • Sans-serif fonts
  • Extremely-clean traces
  • Brilliant however restricted shade palettes
  • Flat-lay product photographs

Even their names had been paint-by-numbers:

  • Human characters — Judy, Floyd, Billie
  • Colours and nouns — Blue Apron, Purple Carrot, Inexperienced Chef
  • Generic monoliths — Public Items, Trendy Citizen, Ministry of Provide
  • Ampersands — Tuft & Needle, Frank & Oak, Mizzen & Fundamental

These prefabricated model signifiers mixed to offer us what we now know because the “millennial aesthetic,” a blueprint designed to entice Instagram-obsessed younger folks.

Blanding 2.0: The post-millennial aesthetic

Gen Z blanding

Alas, the millennial aesthetic that outlined the previous decade is displaying its age. Some are even declaring it formally “over.” Or worse: cheugy.

However blanding isn’t useless. It’s simply evolving. And Gen Z is setting the template for blanding 2.0, an specific rejection of the earlier technology’s conventions however acquainted nonetheless.

Millennial blanding v. Gen Z blanding

The extra issues change, the extra they keep the identical.

The scourge of blanding isn’t restricted to Airbnbs and direct-to-consumer merchandise. You’ll find examples throughout each shopper class.


Seemingly all of sudden, the world’s greatest luxurious style manufacturers changed their charmingly distinctive logos with almost equivalent semi-bold, sans-serif, all-caps wordmarks. Squint, and you’ll hardly inform the distinction.

Fashion logo blanding
Supply: Flux Branding


A 2021 Street & Observe article titled “Why does each new automotive seem like each different new automotive?” compares the shape elements of midsize SUVs from 24 producers. Regardless of a variety of worth factors, they’re extra alike than they’re completely different:

  • The identical proper angle-eschewing silhouettes
  • The identical tiny rear quarter home windows
  • The identical chrome-heavy accents
  • The identical emphasis on statement-making entrance grilles
Image of 24 white midsize SUVs that look the same
Supply: Road & Track

Web sites

Web site design, particularly for SaaS corporations, is depressingly mundane:

  • Prime-left nook brand placement
  • H1 and H2 on one facet
  • Exaggerated flat character illustrations on the opposite facet

Or simply check out the touchdown pages of those 4 subscription media merchandise — barely completely different conventions than SaaS merchandise however indistinguishable nonetheless.

Four similar subscription media product landing pages

This suppression of creativity in net design has even been confirmed by science.

Screenshot of Fast Co. article “Science confirms it: Websites really do all look the same
Supply: Fast Co.

Restaurant menus

While you’re endlessly scrolling DoorDash or UberEats, do you ever get a sense of déjà vu?

  • The identical menu choices
  • The identical meals pictures
  • The identical restaurant addresses

On-demand meals supply has given rise to ghost kitchens and digital eating places. Digital-native restaurateurs can now use the identical cooks, amenities, substances, and packaging to meet orders for a number of “eating places” concurrently. So whether or not tonight’s dinner comes from Wings and Issues, Wings Plus, or Sizzling Wings Cafe, you’re getting the identical meals, in the identical container, from the identical kitchen.

Ghost kitchens

Video streaming apps

In 2013, Netflix’s Ted Sarandos famously told GQ:

“The aim is to grow to be HBO sooner than HBO can grow to be us.”

When it launched its streaming service, Netflix supplied two key worth propositions that differentiated it from each different market participant:

Its aversion to advertisements was baked into the tradition from sq. one. As CEO Reed Hastings mentioned in a 2019 earnings name:

“We need to be the protected respite the place you’ll be able to discover, you may get stimulated, have enjoyable and luxuriate in — and have not one of the controversy round exploiting customers with promoting.”

By no means say by no means.

Dealing with elevated competitors from new streaming gamers like HBOMax, Netflix is abandoning its two core tenets by introducing an ad-supported tier and reportedly considering a conventional weekly launch schedule for a few of its reveals.

So, sure, Netflix is changing into like HBO — simply not within the methods Sarandos most likely imagined again in 2013.

Meme: Netflix ads

Social apps

The world’s greatest social media apps have gotten extra alike than completely different — usually by overtly copying the competitors’s options. Meta’s Instagram is the prime perpetrator:

  • In 2016, it launched Tales — a clone of Snapchat’s defining format.
  • In 2019, it launched Reels, a direct response to the rise of TikTok.
  • This 12 months, it launched Twin, a facsimile of BeReal’s sizzling new two-way picture format.

However Meta isn’t the one responsible get together:

  • In 2018, YouTube launched its personal Tales format, and in 2020 it launched Shorts, a direct TikTok competitor.
  • On the heels of Clubhouse’s ascent in 2020, Twitter (Areas), Reddit (Discuss), and Spotify (Greenroom) all launched related social audio merchandise.
  • This 12 months, TikTok launched Snapchat-like ephemeral posts.

These examples are simply the tip of the iceberg. The traces between social apps will proceed to blur lengthy into the long run.

See Also

Meme: Social media apps are the same

The social net

Blanding has contaminated almost each facet of the fashionable shopper expertise. And it’s not by probability that its rise parallels social media’s.

Algorithms haven’t simply reshaped the best way we eat content material. They’ve insidiously retrained us to need the identical issues, flattening style and want like pancakes. As Chayka wrote:

“If style is globalized, then the logical endpoint is a world wherein aesthetic variety decreases. It resembles a type of gentrification.”

Lack of variety in enterprise capital

It’s additionally no coincidence that the “disruptive” corporations most liable for the creep of worldwide monotony are funded by a comparatively small cohort of Silicon Valley enterprise capitalists. VCs are recognized for “sample matching,” a way of reasoning by analogy when evaluating early-stage corporations for funding. With few measurable standards upon which to evaluate a startup, they as an alternative search for acquainted patterns from the market or their very own experiences as indicators of potential success. Sadly, this technique ends in an extreme lack of diversity throughout the {industry}. Enterprise-backed founders are disproportionately related demographically:

  • Race
  • Gender
  • Training
  • Socioeconomic background
  • Geography

When the capital that drives innovation comes from and goes to a homogenous inhabitants with a comparatively slim shared worldview, it ought to come as no shock that its outputs are so alike.

Trade-specific elements

There are useful, industry-specific elements that impose uniformity, too:

  • Inside design and aesthetics — Individuals crave consolation, comfort, and familiarity whereas away from house.
  • Automotive design — Kind is secondary to operate, and the legal guidelines of aerodynamics are immutable. Silhouettes share similarities for the sake of gasoline effectivity and low manufacturing prices.
  • Web sites — A long time of UX A/B testing have resulted in a slim set of conventions primarily based on empirical consumer information. And user-friendly design instruments like Canva and Squarespace have templatized a lot of the web.
  • Restaurant menus — On-demand supply apps have remodeled the {industry} by drastically lowering startup prices and enabling entrepreneurs to construct a number of parallel manufacturers utilizing the identical back-of-house assets.
  • Social media apps — When a couple of gamers compete for the world’s finite consideration, conformity is inevitable.

Two current merchandise exhibit the aggressive benefit of resistance to blanding.

Liquid Dying

Till not too long ago, the grocery retailer bottled water aisle was dominated by indistinguishable manufacturers. Clear plastic bottles, mushy blues, and pictures of mountains and streams so far as the attention might see.

Enter Liquid Dying: a model that zigs onerous in opposition to the class’s drained zags. Dying metal-inspired graphic design. Hyper-aggressive copywriting. And aluminum tallboy packaging that begs for a brown paper bag.

It’s undeniably and unapologetically completely different. It’s additionally one of many fastest-growing non-alcoholic beverage manufacturers in current historical past, attaining a $700m valuation in lower than 5 years.

Liquid Death advertisement
Supply: Liquid Death

Tesla Cybertruck

Though it doesn’t go into manufacturing till 2023, the Tesla Cybertruck is likely one of the most talked-about autos on this planet as we speak. That’s due to a kind issue not like something the market has ever seen. Its designers deserted each conceivable conference to construct one thing completely new. Halo’s Grasp Chief can be proud.

Time will inform if the ultimate product lives as much as the hype, however with multiple million models reportedly pre-ordered (5x greater than Tesla’s Mannequin 3), it’s already a critical contender.

The Tesla Cybertruck and Halo’s Master Chief

In fact, there’s a enterprise case for following confirmed formulation:

  • Value discount — It’s cheaper to construct utilizing present instruments.
  • Velocity — For startups, time is essentially the most valuable useful resource. It’s sooner to comply with established patterns than to create completely new ones.
  • Danger mitigation — There’s security in pursuing concepts already validated by the market.
  • Client expectation — Radical innovation usually comes with a steep studying curve. It’s simpler to fulfill clients by giving them one thing acquainted.

These are standard wisdoms, not common truths.

And a few guidelines are made to be damaged.

Actual-time paradigm shifts like no-code, cloud computing, drop delivery, AI, and distant work are democratizing entrepreneurship in unprecedented methods.

Lengthy protected by gatekeepers, the technique of manufacturing, promotion, and distribution are actually freely obtainable to anybody with a laptop computer.

Right now, one particular person with no enterprise or product expertise can do what would have taken a group of highly-trained folks only a few years in the past — in much less time, for a fraction of the fee.

Meaning extra crowded markets, extra intense competitors, and extra worth positioned on uniqueness, or what VCs name “alpha.” Adamant Ventures founder Jason Yeh defines alpha as:

“The worth awarded for being a class creator, disrupting an {industry}, or rising as a market chief. With out alpha, your startup is at greatest an ‘also-ran’ or extra possible a failure…To generate alpha in startups, you may have to have the ability to beat the market so to talk. The market has produced all that it thinks it wants, however you disagree. You imagine there is a chance to provide one thing outdoors of what’s anticipated. And, once you’re right you’ll be rewarded.”

Submission to blanding’s gravitational pull alerts to the market and traders {that a} enterprise lacks the aggressive edge wanted to win.

In enterprise, it not often is sensible to reinvent the wheel fully.

However now greater than ever, figuring out your factors of differentiation — your alpha — is important.

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