Markus Gull

Why we want to be original, but rather not quite.

Recently, there was a report about the Continental Barin Manhattan. There, they throw out those guests who suffer from Kardashianism, i.e. who constantly start their sentences with "I literally" and usually not in the correct meaning "literally", but in the wrong meaning "as it were". I will get drunk with happiness and gratitude at the Continental counterat the next opportunity.

Kardashianism - also called verbal selfie.

Do you notice it too: words and phrases keep popping up and proliferating - literally & as it were - like an epidemic through the everyday language of the scenes. People use these words en masse because they want to portray how original, hip, modern, trendy, cutting edge or who knows what they are. And they all gargle the same vanity phrase nonsense.

In the so-called start-up scene or among the something-with-media makers, for example, it is essential to begin every sentence with the word "genau" (exactly). Probably for safety's sake, because no one knows whether you will get rid of exactly often enough during the sentence. I always find this particularly useful with elevator pitches. If these birds would only say "exactly" half as often, they would have twice as long to talk about their idea.

In this context, "direct" has recently become a very popular term. A pitch then begins something like this. "So the best thing is to start directly. Exactly..." That's the way it is!

Junk-speak on everyone's lips.

Three somewhat older models, which have, however, acquired a real evergreen status, especially in journalism, are "probably", "fired" and: something is "owed" to a circumstance. It appears in almost every piece of text, probably fuelled by the hope that no one will notice that this unspeakable originality junk, due to a combination of vanity and incompetence, is also being pushed through every village by everyone else.

Excellent results are still achieved with "Don't go", "How cool is that?" and the clever "And yes, ... / And no, ...".

And here's my prediction for the next verbal selfie, already warming up on the sidelines by all accounts: "Is that so?"

Demonised fashion(s). We use it because we want to emphasise our individuality and then we all talk the same nonsense. And we all look the same, neatly painted in the respective fashion colour.

Aren't we all equally different?

I remember an episode from that time when purple-coloured clothes littered the cityscape. I came to a major meeting at a TV station, on a Monday, apparently preceded by the weekend, when the latest spring fashions landed in the shops. (At that time there were already H&M and Zara but not yet 365 collections per year). One by one, the meeting participants and mainly *women arrived, each equipped with at least one shopping trophy in purple, some completely dyed. And each, of course, was startled to the core by the realisation that she was - unsurprisingly - not the only Milka stunt girl on the planet. And each pretended not to notice.

This is true-to-life comedy after my own heart! But you mustn't laugh at all in this situation, it's a matter of iron control, please. Yes, I confess: If these hideous rags had not given me phimosis of epic proportions, I would not have remained master of my brunette by my own power.

We eagerly emulate.

Individuality and group - that's what we humans love, that's what we seek. Individuality, because each of us likes to be something special, an original, or at least original. But preferably not really individual, because a group provides security, and we need security too.

Social proof is the name given to this urge to emulate others. We want to be unique, but part of something bigger than ourselves. From this we draw meaning, self-knowledge and self-worth. We can define ourselves through our belonging.

"Think different." - We, the non-conformist free spirits, the individualists against the simple-minded masses. Fortunately, there are so many like-minded individualists that Apple could become the most valuable company in the world.

If you manage to create what the Berlin media and cultural scientist Prof. Marcus Kleiner calls mass non-conformity with your brand story, then you are at the forefront. Because in our so-called civilisation, we define ourselves not only by race, origin or religion, but often by what we buy. Or don't buy. What is my eating style? Can I even afford to do without meat? Bling-bling or normcore?

Groups, tribes and companies need their symbols, because symbols create visible togetherness. The common language is part of this. Corporate identity, corporate culture, corporate design. This works for brands internally as well as externally and must serve the same values in each direction.

The special challenge for brands is to find an independent language in the respective world. A vocabulary - visual, verbal and experiential - that is tried and tested enough to convey the desired security to the audience, but individual enough to create the necessary independence.

The key to this is the value world of a brand, because that is where the relationship with the audience is created. This is where distinctiveness through relevance is created.

Those who only want to distinguish themselves and be modern through original language or striking looks have already sown the seeds of failure, because that is what all too many want. A fashion that arrives in advertising is in reality already over again, even if everyone first says "How cool is that! And then, in the end, you are left with only one issue at all, and that is the price, and that doesn't work at all.

A powerful brand story nurtured on shared values between brand and audience, on the other hand, not only lasts forever, it actually grows, nurtures the individuality of the individual and unites everyone into a strong group.

And yes, if you now ask yourself directly about your brand: "Is that so?", then you are probably fired up by the phrase that my grandmother, the old Storydudette, literally rattled off incessantly, because it was not only due to her hipness: No Story. No Glory.

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