Have you ever wondered why you could imagine wearing the new Tiffany & Co x Nike Air Force One shoe but not the ‘upside-down gown’ that debuted at Fashion week recently?
We, humans, are complex creatures; we love new things but not too new. It pays to critically examine our appetite for novelty and the threshold of acceptance for mainstream success.
Take, for example, the Tiffany & Co x Nike Air Force Ones. There were mixed reactions to the collaboration online. Some independent artists’ versions of the collaboration went viral (they’re dazzling), and so did some ‘AI art vs. the real shoe’ memes (I’m down for a diamond-encrusted Nike Swoosh). But others admit that given the reputation and timelessness of both brands, there wasn’t a lot of wiggle room for “crazy” ideas.
It’s easy to think that there are no groundbreaking innovations anymore, just sequels and video game adaptations (!). But when we zoom out and consider our position in our collective creative lineage, it doesn’t seem like a bad idea to improvise on top of something that already works. Change, to be palatable, needs to be gradual. If ChatGPT had been launched 50 years ago, it might not have been the explosive meme generator it is today.
Late American designer Virgil Abloh, who had done his share of Nike collaborations, called it the 3% rule - alter an existing product by 3% to create something new. The key to success is finding the sweet spot to balance our competing desires for familiarity and novelty - for your industry or vertical.
Snapchat took the concept of messaging and made them disappear. BeReal augmented the idea of a daily (Snap) streak and added the authenticity angle to it. TikTok leveraged short videos but made the UI more immersive to feed their algorithm. Can you think of any other examples? What could the 3% rule look like for your business?
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In another example of combining familiarity and novelty, Instagram founders launched Artifact - an app that uses AI to recommend articles to readers. If you’re like me and you’ve prayed for a TikTok-but-for-text app, rejoice, for the Silicon Valley Gods heard us.
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