I despise fads. That might seem like a surprising admission from somebody who loves marketing in general, but there it is. Mostly, I dislike fads because I tend to get sick of them well before the general public ever does. Maybe it’s just a short attention span on my part, but whatever the case, whenever it becomes clear that a new phenomenon is sweeping the nation, I’m already counting the days until it falls out of favor.
One of the great benefits of the internet is that, while it makes it easier for fads to spread, it also seems to shorten their lifespan considerably. Case in point: the “Harlem Shake” meme of early 2013. That one was already on the way out before The Marketing Smart Aleck ever heard of it. Would that all fads would follow that pattern. Unfortunately, many fads linger around like the odor of fish fillets kept too long in the refrigerator. Here are a few that, as of November 2013, have over-stayed their welcome and need to go join Beanie Babies, The Macarena and MySpace on the scrap heap of dead fads:
1. Bitstrips — It is a paradox that human behavior is often effortlessly hilarious, but when most people make an actual attempt to be funny, they fall flat on their asses. Proving that point is the recent Bitstrips craze that has been all over Facebook for the past couple months. This app gives people the opportunity to create a cartoon version of themselves that they can insert into various scenarios. It sounds great in theory, but in the hands of most users, it only becomes a way for them to prove to their friends that they have no idea about how to create an entertaining cartoon, even with somebody else doing the art for them. Based on the growing internet backlash and the plethora of articles informing people how to hide the stuff from their Facebook feeds, it looks like the clock may already be approaching midnight for Bitstrips.
2. Variations of the “Keep Calm and Carry On” poster — Every time I think this one is dead, I’ll see it pop up on a t-shirt or website somewhere. It’s easy to see the appeal of this meme. Like Bitstrips, it gives people a template in which to insert the concept of their choice and feel like they have expressed themselves creatively. And like Bitstrips, all it really does is prove that having pre-fab layouts at your disposal doesn’t magically make your idea more entertaining.
3. Zombies — It says a lot of unflattering things about our culture that violence porn fixated largely the value of shooting people in the head has become mainstream entertainment. But my soapbox moralizing aside, can’t we all just admit that after all the movies and TV shows of the past few years, the creative possibilities of the zombie thing have been played out for a while now? The good news is that once big, clumsy corporations start appropriating fads, that’s usually a sure sign they are fading. That means this dreary, failed attempt at humor and cultural relevance by Sprint might be a harbinger of the end of the Zombie Era…
4. Pumpkin Spice — We already covered this one here. The only good thing about the Pumpkin Spice Über Alles! phenomenon is that we only have to put up with it for a couple of months before it gets shoved aside by peppermint and gingerbread.
5. End of the World movie plots — Blame 9/11. Blame climate change fears. Blame Harold Camping. Blame all the idiots who bought into the Mayan prophecy. Blame any number of factors, but for whatever reason, it seems required these days for the stakes in every action, sci-fi or superhero movie plot to be nothing less than the fate of the world itself. (I recently took my kids to see Thor: The Dark World, and there were no fewer than nine worlds in peril in that one. I think. To be honest, I was too busy stewing over the movie’s failure to give me a truly satisfying Natalie Portman 3D experience to concentrate on the plot.) It wasn’t always this way. Not too long ago, it was enough for a movie like The Rock to put only one large metropolitan area in the cross-hairs of nerve gas warheads. Godzilla only rampaged through a city at a time. Die Hard managed to keep audiences riveted by threatening just a single, largely empty building. The potential destruction in Lethal Weapon 2 didn’t extend much beyond Danny Glover’s toilet. But now, nothing less than global apocalypse will do, which ironically makes the outcomes seem less urgent, especially when it comes within a few milliseconds of happening in every movie that comes out in a given summer.
Perhaps by the time you read this, most or all of the fads on the list will be gone and it will seem quaint that anybody was even annoyed by them. But rest assured that whether you’re seeing this post in 2013 or a decade later, The Marketing Smart Aleck will be out there railing against whatever overexposed craze is impossible to get away from at that moment. The work of a fad hater never ends.