“Botox to me is not surgery.” Kim Kardashian
We all know there are entire galaxies beyond our own, possibly with complete civilizations. Intelligent life forms could be eyeing us right now, calculating birth rates, mortality and why we eat spinach.
Viewed on a typical day, humans must seem like a quirky bunch. Our love of luminescent screens, sitting in traffic jams, or taking pictures of our cats, can’t be normal by any intergalactic standard. Martians might even be hard pressed to call us intelligent life forms.
Eventually, some martian sociologist will conclude that we’re simply doing what others are doing, following a pattern known in earthly terms as “trends.”
Based on this knowledge, martians might consider rounding us all up in sports stadiums. Most of us will go willingly, since it’s the Eastern Finals, and tweeting outdoors can be fun, especially if everyone’s tweeting, and so what if a green man in a spacesuit is herding us. That can be fun, too.
In the animal kingdom, herding is the result of pheromones, something perfume makers have tried unsuccessfully to isolate for years. Pheromones are tricky, whereas trends are simple.
Kylie Jenner can’t understand where her “power over people” comes from, other than it probably started with her sister, Kim, lying naked in a video, saying, “This better not get out.”
We can laugh at the “shortness” of any fad, but it also represents the laziness of human nature.
Martians will also deduce that humans don’t have to set trends to appreciate them. In fact, we’d rather follow than risk starting new ones.
Risk is a big part of trend-setting. One wrong move and you’re not a Kardashian anymore. The trick is not thinking, which is a big part of what makes a Kardashian a Kardashian.
There are marketing groups today set up specifically to find the latest thing. A commercial did a spoof on this, where a woman is hired to tell a man when his “man bun” is passé. We can laugh at the “shortness” of any fad, but it also represents the laziness of human nature. Give us a screen and opposable thumbs and we’ll follow like ants.
From a marketing perspective, it’s good that we don’t think. When you ask your daughter why she’s wearing her dress so short, you want her to say, “It’s what all the girls are wearing.” What you don’t want is her showing up in a cowl, complaining about a woman’s place in the hierarchal church.
Why did Frank Capra, director of “It’s a Wonderful Life” and “Meet John Doe” tell young filmmakers, “Never follow trends, set them.”
“I don’t set trends,” Dick Clark once admitted. “I just find out what they are and exploit them.” American Bandstand ran for 37 years, with Dick hosting from 1956 until its final season. Even advanced life forms on other planets would find that laudable.
So why, if it’s so easy to follow, do some humans feel the need to choose new paths? Why did Frank Capra, director of “It’s a Wonderful Life” and “Meet John Doe” tell young filmmakers, “Never follow trends, set them.”
And why would Mark Cuban, owner of the Dallas Mavericks, Landmark Theatres and Magnolia Pictures want to know “who the morons are”?
Does he like morons, or is he trying to avoid them?
As it turns out, Mark sees a different role for trends these days, what he calls “re-application.” As he told Entrepreneur, “Successful people don’t ask what consumers want. They envision a complete re-application. Then they decide what to do with what they just recreated.”
Only, what’s popular isn’t necessarily what’s smart or even logical. Sometimes it’s just plain silly.
It’s an interesting premise. Mark’s obviously thinking beyond the boundaries of what we expect — or what we think we expect. The truth is, most of us don’t really process. As Frank Zappa once said, “There is more stupidity than hydrogen in the world. And it has a longer shelf life.”
Dick Clark made a lot of money finding and exploiting the latest thing. If Dicky said it was good, he ought to know, right? Only, what’s popular isn’t necessarily what’s smart or even logical. Sometimes it’s just plain silly.
Take, for example, what ranked as the top hits of 1966. A dinky little song called “Winchester Cathedral” by The Vaudeville Band ranked at #4, while one of the greatest seminal Motown songs “What Becomes of a Broken-Hearted” by Jimmy Ruffin was way down at #38.
Obviously, you can’t pick every trend — nor is every trend worth picking. If it’s your business to choose what’s “hot and what’s not,” it might be wise to do a little “re-application” of your own.
“We’re not here to change peoples’ minds,” David Ogilvy once said. “We’re here to change peoples’ beliefs.”
As Mark Cuban explained to Entrepreneur, innovation is essentially trying something different, something that expands the trend. Afterall, we don’t necessarily set them, but we do influence them.
Advertising agencies fancy themselves the biggest influencers going. Yet most commercials today follow rather than lead. They say the same thing we do, thinking they’re getting into our heads. Only they miss the most important part of being influencers. “We’re not here to change peoples’ minds,” David Ogilvy once said. “We’re here to change peoples’ beliefs.”
In other words, trends may be the result of lazy thinking, but changing them takes a lot of work. Whether you’re ready for that work is really what separates trend followers from trendsetters. You have to choose what you want to be: Mark Cuban or Dick Clark or The Vaudeville Band.
“Okay,” he’s saying, “the way I figure it, humans like big butts. If we’re going down there, we’d better have big butts.”
If you’re saying, “What about The Kardashians?” let’s think back to those intelligent life forms out in another galaxy. Imagine the martian sociologist trying to explain Kim to the others. “Okay,” he’s saying, “the way I figure it, humans like big butts. If we’re going down there, we’d better have big butts.”
“We don’t have butts,” another says.
“We’ll put our brains back there.”
“You’re kidding, right?”
“That’s what they do.”
“Kim must be highly intelligent.”
Robert Cormack is a novelist, journalist, blogger and freelance copywriter. His first novel “You Can Lead a Horse to Water (But You Can’t Make It Scuba Dive)” is available online and at most major bookstores (now in paperback). Check out Yucca Publishing or Skyhorse Press for more details.