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Avocados Are Violent: Don’t Build Your Brand On A Fad

May 14, 2020

Mexican gangster with duffle bag full of money gun in waistband has arm around frightened avocado wearing cow tee-shirtblank vertical space, 16 pixels highAvocados? Violent??blank vertical space, 16 pixels high

There must be more to the story.blank vertical space, 16 pixels high

You’re right– there is.blank vertical space, 24 pixels high

I did the above illustration for a Wall Street Journal article about food fashions. Here’s how it begins:blank vertical space, 24 pixels high

“You can’t be a vegan if you eat avocados,” said a teenage brother to his sister in a family that I know. “Avocados are violent.”blank vertical space, 24 pixels high

His point was that her supposedly ethical decision to replace butter on her toast with avocado was hypocritical: The avocado trend has made life dangerous for many Mexican avocado farmers, thanks to the rise of violent cartels that control the business.blank vertical space, 16 pixels high

My first thought: you can never be 100% pure in your choices. There’s always a wrinkle, and there’s always someone ready to
say: “Gotcha!”blank vertical space, 24 pixels high

The author goes on to mention almond milk and quinoa, both hot food trends in recent years. Turns out there was a catch with both.blank vertical space, 16 pixels high

Demand for almond milk meant a lot more almond trees got planted in California. Thirsty almond trees. Which contributed to the state’s drought.blank vertical space, 16 pixels high

World demand for quinoa pushed up the price six-fold. Result: the Bolivian farmers who grew it could no longer afford to eat it. They had to switch to cheaper, less nutritious carbs– like instant noodles.blank vertical space, 24 pixels high

Which made me think of the law of unintended consequences: actions always have unintended effects. Sometimes good, often bad.blank vertical space, 16 pixels high

Negative effects can put an end to fads: almond milk drinkers and quinoa eaters started feeling guilty and making new choices.blank vertical space, 16 pixels high

A brand can get lucky and turn a huge profit on a fad, but it’s a mistake to build a brand on a fad. Fads come and go.blank vertical space, 24 pixels high

Fads also come and go in social media marketing. The Shiny Object Syndrome. What Andrew Davis calls FOMOOASP: The Fear Of Missing Out On Another Social Platform.blank vertical space, 16 pixels high

I’d put podcasts in that category. The most successful ones seem to center on news, politics, comedy, entertainment. The usual suspects. I don’t see them as a particularly good choice for brands. And yet a lot of solopreneurs have started podcasts.blank vertical space, 16 pixels high

They wind up interviewing their friends, and promoting each other. I think their time would be better spent identifying and pursuing new clients. Just my opinion.blank vertical space, 24 pixels high

A more subtle danger with fads: they can distort your brand voice and confuse your target audience. Suddenly you’re trying to be something you’re not.blank vertical space, 16 pixels high

Case in point: when I first acquired Photoshop and was learning to be a digital illustrator, I got smitten with photo-illustration: using bits and pieces of photos to construct an illustration, and blending it together seamlessly.blank vertical space, 16 pixels high

I got pretty good at it. You can see some examples at the bottom
of the Portfolio Thumbnails on the right. Like this one for The Partner Channel Magazine.blank vertical space, 32 pixels highparody of Singing In The Rain movie to show importance of trust in business

blank vertical space, 32 pixels highI still like it. It’s cool. I remember how proud of myself I was when I got the rain effect. But it took so much time. And looking at it now, I’m sure there are copyright issues since I lifted Gene Kelly from a famous movie.blank vertical space, 16 pixels high

Sometimes I’d have to abandon a good idea because I couldn’t find a photo that would work. I was suddenly losing my edge because I was trying to do what a lot of other people were doing. So I gave it up and went back to real illustration.blank vertical space, 24 pixels high

So beware of fads. Keep your brand voice consistent. You’re trying to become an easily identifiable and authoritative source.blank vertical space, 16 pixels high

And don’t waste your time trying to be perfect. There’s always a wise-guy teenage brother out there waiting to say, “Gotcha!”blank vertical space, 16 pixels high

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About Mark: I’m an illustrator specializing in humor, editorial, branding, social media, and content marketing. My images are different, like your brand needs to be.blank vertical space, 16 pixels high

You can view my portfolio, and connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.blank vertical space, 16 pixels high

Questions? Send me an email.blank vertical space, 40 pixels highRecommendation testimonial for Mark Armstrong Illustration from Daniel Reed, Creative Director, Square 2 Marketing

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blank vertical space, 40 pixels high

8 Comments leave one →
  1. May 14, 2020 4:40 PM

    Amen, Brother Armstrong, amen. As with your photo-illustration experimentation, I once toyed with podcasting, but to avoid chattercasting (mere conversations with friends), I had to invest a surprising amount of time into planning and coordinating. So after two published episodes, and one that went straight into the digital rubbish heap, I retreated to writing.


    • May 14, 2020 7:51 PM

      Chattercasting… ha! Hadn’t heard that one before. Sums it up nicely. You speaketh truth, brother: namely, that any sort of social media marketing– anything– anything done right, I should say– requires a lot of time. Which explains all the churn, I guess, stuff that’s just pushed out the door using templates, automated scheduling, and the like. Does any of it get any real traction? It seems so unlikely. Ah, well. I’m all for experimenting, trying things out, making mistakes– I think there are just some lessons one has to learn the hard way. Many thanks for sharing your experience, I really appreciate it, and I’m sure other readers will, too.


  2. Sarah Elkins permalink
    May 14, 2020 5:36 PM

    “And don’t waste your time trying to be perfect. There’s always a wise-guy teenage brother out there waiting to say, “Gotcha!””
    Especially when trying to get started on a project you think will be good for your brand, it’s easy to procrastinate putting something out there in an effort to make it perfect. To use your podcast example, I’m not sure I really got into a good groove with mine until I had at least 50 episodes. But I had to start somewhere, and practice has improved my work substantially!


    • May 14, 2020 8:47 PM

      Perfectionism– it’s a curse! I’ve been fighting it my whole life (not that anyone’s noticed!!). Better to make a thousand mistakes than to be stuck in place. And you’re so right: perfectionism and procrastination go hand in hand.

      Thanks for sharing your podcast experience, ditto the reminder that you don’t master something overnight. I once read a great quote from B.B. King: “It seems like I always had to work harder than other people. Those nights when everybody else is asleep, and you sit in your room trying to play scales.” Doesn’t matter what it is, you have to put in the time. Thanks for your comment, and for being one of the most supportive people I know.


  3. spookster01 permalink
    May 14, 2020 11:42 PM

    Hi Mark…. I was in that same predicament wondering how far I could go with photo-bashing and combining that with my art, and still avoid that copyright issue. It was better to depend on my own work, or join sites that were royalty free. Good article. Stay safe.


    • May 15, 2020 12:15 PM

      I thought that might strike a chord, John. You can force yourself into some foreign mold, and sorta make it work, but you always lose something in the process, something uniquely you. At least that’s been my experience. A lesson we all hafta learn, I guess. Always great to hear from you. Onward, amigo, and take good care of yourself, see? 👍😊


  4. May 15, 2020 9:51 PM

    ” law of unintended consequences” – kind of like the covid lockdown…


    • May 16, 2020 3:45 PM

      No doubt about it, Margy: a trip to a Chinese wet market can have unintended consequences. And I worry that a prolonged COVID-19 lockdown could have some pretty severe unintended consequences, too. At least you and I will come out of it stronger and better than ever!! Uh-oh… that could have unintended consequences, too… 😬💦😊


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