Disrupting the disruptors.

Disruptors, Dreams, and The Dew Doo Man

Greetings from Zoom, where we recently welcomed a very adorable new addition to the LHC team.

Charlie's people were not available for comment.
Anyway, onto the #content.

The Soul-Crushing Monotony of Late Capitalism, Part XVII

Have you bought a consumer product lately? Have you noticed how your toothbrush, your mattress, your groceries, your clothes, and even your erectile dysfunction pills all now come with utopian statements of purpose? How everything you can buy online seems to have been “born” with the “simple mission” to put power back in the hands of consumers? How every single D2C company seems to be using the same 3 fonts? 

You’re not alone. 

Thanks to Bloomberg’s Ben Schott, we now have a name for this phenomena -- a beautiful, evocative, and brutal term to describe these D2C, digitally native, venture backed lookalikes. Welcome to the world of “Blands”. 

As Schott puts it, these companies strive both “to be unique in product, groundbreaking in purpose, and singular in delivery, while slavishly obeying an identikit formula of business model, look and feel, and tone of voice.” It sounds all too familiar, doesn’t it? Where has this term been our whole life—or at least during the past five to seven years when these companies began to take off every industry?

The details of that formula are clear to anyone who’s bought anything online in the last few years. Blands are always focused on positioning themselves as the underdog who is offering the people’s solution to a given need or problem. Their taglines and rhetoric take aim at the “man” that the industry they are trying to revolutionize represents (even if that “man” is a straw one). And they are always, always, disrupting something. 

The problem is, that when everyone’s doing the same thing, it loses all meaning: the main issue with blands is that they have turned “disruption” into a new, empty status quo. What was cool and effective for Dollar Shave Club or Warby Parker now just gets lost in an endless scroll of identical Instagram ads. The identikit works -- until it doesn’t. 

The good news is, de-blanding is not all that hard, as long as you’re doing business right. The bland model arose from early venture-backed companies who outsourced labor to agencies who developed stock, PR-ready messaging that showed quick returns. That’s not necessarily bad, obviously. Many bland founders want this kind of flash-in-the-pan growth. Their desired endgame is cashing out with an IPO, creating a partnership with a bigger business in their general industry, or being acquired by one of the companies they were trying to disrupt. That is to say—blands, in many cases, don’t expect to last that long.

But if your company wants to take a different longer-term approach, you can fully de-blandify yourself by—corny as it sounds—actually believing in your company’s product -- and creating content that reflects those beliefs. 

Most importantly, scrap the plug-and-play phony revolutionary pronouncements. In 2020, these big declarations are  boilerplate—the kind of shit that annoys people in Hulu commercial breaks or in ads on the train. Especially with the pillars of the world crumbling around us, millennial and Gen Z consumers are cynical enough now to see right through them. In a bland-free world, messaging and strategy should emerge from what your company can actually offer people. You can’t just change the world by default; you must earn your brand-ness the hard way. Only then, Padawan, can you truly de-bland.