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In search of blandness

in search of blandness - In search of blandness

IN THE MIDST of our current pandemic crisis, there are already moves by some to raise profiles of wannabes for… ahem, bigger things. Is it too early to be thinking of the big marketing event in May of 2022? Brand consultants are tasked with transforming vanilla into an exotic flavor for the masses — bring it to the provinces. Never mind if they have enough hospital beds.

Blandness is promoted as a virtue. A case can be made for packaging a personality who is always in the news, albeit off to the side like an uninvited guest, and having no speaking part, except to move close to the masked man in the spotlight for a whisper — Sir, this is the page you should sign.

Exuding dullness is not an acquired skill. Some people are just born with it. There is a reassuring banality in a dolt that exciting alternatives (sometimes called charismatic) cannot provide. In a crisis, blandness exudes calm, which is sometimes mistaken for cluelessness. Life after all is not about fireworks and snare drums. The “new normal,” say working from home, can involve sleeping, eating, wearing shorts, and popping up at webinars to invite yawns.

The search for blandness also works in the corporate setting.

The boring CEO of a listed company can be more comforting than a flamboyant one who owns a seldom-used yacht and wears designer face masks. Would you trust the proceeds of an IPO to someone whose new home displays 20 of his portraits by well-known artists? He may be dissipating retained earnings in personal pursuits that get featured in the company’s annual report.

What’s wrong with projecting boredom? Many love watching boring basketball games. So what if the contest is lopsided, with the outcome assured, and no lead changes from start to finish?

Advocates of unexciting games come to the sports arena prepared to be well… bored. (Please pass the popcorn.) A steady pulse rate is guaranteed. Why not embrace the lack of thrills to quickly get a chance to sing, three minutes before the game is officially over, a seldom-used victory song? Dozing, monotony, the opportunity at any point to go to the washroom without missing much, and the desire to get to the alma mater song quickly with no prospect of overtime are outcomes devoutly to be wished.

Boring games are like TV cooking shows. We see the chef/host announce the dish she will cook up, a list of ingredients featuring the sponsored products. She then narrates the process that transforms raw items into a mouth-watering dish. We are shown the ground beef, carrots, potatoes, and green stuff being cubed or chopped, mixed together and thrown into the chafing dish with some soup stock and a pastry covering slid into the oven. Without waiting for the prescribed 45 minutes cooking time, the chef after the commercial break shows the finished product which she admits has been pre-cooked. She spares us the long wait and the sight of mashed potato turning brown. The dish is then promptly served to the studio audience as the credits roll up.

We are creatures of routine. And it shouldn’t be too disturbing to have monotony, like a Gregorian chant, be the music of our lives. Those who offer excitement as a desirable goal, as in bungee-jumping or adventure trips, even play up the risks involved. The house with a scenic view of the ocean is not an ideal shelter from the typhoon. The picture windows can easily shatter.

Who cares for the excitement of a pandemic where the contagion count is full of harrowing twists and turns? Give me a boring traffic jam instead.

There are not too many PR firms that boast of turning a candidate’s cluelessness into a selling proposition. Still, there are products born to the role of Juan Tamad, waiting for the guava (or the endorsement) to drop into the open mouth. (It’s always open in awe.) If this generic candidate does not bother jumping through hoops of fire to attract attention, it is intentional. He just wants to be there and let the game come to him.

Dullness trumps charisma. We don’t need fiery denunciations of critics to make our hearts race. A little less excitement from leaders allows us to get on with dining in restaurants that promote physical distancing, and allow rambling conversations… about boring people.


Tony Samson is Chairman and CEO, TOUCH xda

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