The other day, I begrudgingly agreed to watch the latest 'Trolls 2' movie with my 4-year-old. Minutes in, I quickly realized I misjudged the crazy-haired figurine flick. As far as kids movies go, this was pretty darn good. It was the ending scene in particular that stuck with me.

(Spoiler alert for the parents and kindergarteners reading this ...)

Here's what happens. As the drama unfolds across the Troll Kingdom, the 6 musical strings - each one representing a Troll Tribe - get damaged in a fight between the Pop Tribe and the Rock Tribe. Suddenly, thousands of vibrantly-colored Trolls turn a muted gray. They all look the same, their colors disappeared.

No vibrancy, no uniqueness. Blandless all around.

As it turns out, our world - the items and objects in it - are starting to look like the end scene of Trolls movie: gray-toned, colorless, flat, all the same.

Where have all the colors gone?

According to recent AI research, colors are disappearing. The algorithm in the study tracked color changes over time, documenting thousands of items from the 1800s to now. Two centuries ago, there was a mix of different colors, with black/white/gray tones representing about 15% of all items. 

Today, it's all grayed out: Our world is dominated (around 60% in total) by objects, items, and materials that are either black, white, or gray. Not a fuchsia in sight.

Take cars, as one example. Seventy percent of all newly manufactured cars are black, white, or gray. How about interior decor? The most popular carpet color is gray. The most popular paints have names like "fog", "mist", and "linen".

In a data-driven world, everything gets standardized because our algorithms tell us that's what people like on the whole. Our individual preferences 'regress to the mean'. It's even true for our standards of beauty. According to the data involving 'averageness', when you compile a large group of people's personal preferences for attractiveness, we end up judging a 32-image composite as the most attractive. 

So much for beauty in the eye of the beholder.

The importance of color and uniqueness for brands

We see this averaging phenomenon happening with brand typeface and fonts. In the luxury space, the once unique ornamented logotypes have all mushed into a homogenized, simple all caps black lettering, not a serif in sight. 

Surely, Burberry and Balenciaga did their focus groups and market research to justify the change. But therein lies the problem. After all, that's what you get when you take the data-averaging approach: sameness across the board.

For brands and businesses looking to differentiate themselves, there's a valuable lesson here. In his book 'We Are All Weird', marketer extraordinaire Seth Godin pushes us to consider being intentionally different, non-normal ... indeed: weird. As one Google executive says in review of the book, "Godin states that there is only one thing worse than being average - that's being average and passing it off as particular or new."

Data and technology can be powerful tools in the futuristic age we're in. But when we blindly follow the rule of averaging numbers, and use it to override our creative power, we put our brands, our businesses, and ourselves at risk of looking all the same. I say: Let's keep our colors.

The final scene in the 'Trolls 2' movie ends with Queen Poppy from the Pop Tribe leading the stadium of grayed-out Trolls in a sing-along about valuing uniqueness. A wave of vibrant colors enters back into the Troll kingdom. We can only hope the same ending happens for us.