Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past twelve months, you can’t have missed the explosion of the Keep Calm and Carry On meme.
Personally, I wish I was under the aforementioned rock. At least then I could have avoided the worst that the “creative” (note the ” “) industry could dredge up.
Let me lay a bit of background here. I first came across this meme in Toronto back in 2009. I can even remember the store in the Kensington Market area that I first saw one of the posters (at the back, roughly in the middle of the store, second racked-out alcove from the right).
“How quaint,” I thought. “A bit of the old country”. Scarcely could I have known that two years later, it would turn into a fully fledged internet sensation.
In a way, I’m not surprised.
After all, we’re living through a level of global financial tumult not see or felt for 30-odd years.
Keep Calm and Carry On is a perfect message for our times.
Or is it?
Actually, it’s not.
We should be carrying on, yes. But I believe that we should also be raging against the decisions taken by individuals and organisations higher than ourselves which have put us in this mess.
Keeping calm and carrying on will only get us more of the same.
But I’m not here to argue about the banking crisis or the actions of elected politicians. I’m hear to talk about something far more pertinent than that.
Something which you and I – as creative industry professionals – can do something about.
Keep Calm and Carry on is a perfect example of why the internet is A Bad Thing.
Suddenly, creatives without a clue have spotted a rising trend and said “Ah-ha” very loudly, while rolling the neck of their black turtle neck sweaters away from their beards.
“This is getting popular. I want to be popular. Our client wants to be popular. I’ve done a bit of research on the internet and found something that other people think is popular.
“By god – I’ll use that!”
And so we have the most nauseating remixing and redrafting of the Keep Calm meme into a hundred different things.
Take this, for example:
In its defence, this image rocked up in June 2010, so was slightly ahead of the main meme-curve. But there are more versions coming out daily…
And, for crying out loud – there’s even an instant meme generator for anyone too creatively challenged to come up with their own ideas.
What this points to is a severe – and I mean SEVERE – drought of new, good ideas.
Every time the Keep Calm meme is used, the “creative” is basically saying:
“I have no more good ideas. This is it.”
It’s giving up.
It’s a complete lack of energy or interest in developing something new, something which might be the next meme.
It’s cashing in on the current Big Thing without worrying about whether the work’s any good or not.
You and I need to change this.
We give a damn about the creative industry and the quality of the work that’s coming out of it.
We care about connecting with out customers and making great work, work which might be remembered in ten years’ time.
We need to be ahead of the curve, not joining it when the wave’s broken (to mangle metaphors).
So for the sake of all that’s good in the world, put down the Keep Calm meme and step away from the keyboard.
Think up something bigger, better, fresher. Something that you can all your own.
Because if all you can do is ride on someone else’s coat tails, you’re never going to get anywhere.
Keep Calm and Carry On? I don’t bloody think so.
And yes – I am fully aware of the irony of the above, before you point it out.
Neil Hopkins is a Marketing and Branding Theorist at heart, and a Marketing Communications Manager by day. His blog – interacter – is the primary location he shares insight and information relating to marketing, branding and advertising strategy.
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