Funny business

Seriousness is the new provincialism

Ana Andjelic
5 min readJul 29, 2022


At the couture week, Daniel Roseberry, creative director of Maison Schiaparelli and l’homme du jour, shared that in his designs he wanted to avoid that “dreary self-seriousness.”


There is little worse that a fashion brand taking itself literally. Earnestness in following traditional luxury codes veers dangerously in the bourgeois territory, reserved for premium brands, aspirants, and aging American fashion executives. Pathos is often mistaken for elevation, gravitas. Look at the high-end US legacy brands and their mass market imitators, and you get the Euro luxury vibes of the 1980s — or their idea thereof. It’s understandable: nothing masks provincial taste better than self-seriousness.

Self-seriousness is not just dearth of creativity, but also a losing strategic proposition.

Serious brands are dead brands.

It is infinitely easier to be earnest than to be playful — but playfulness and humor build and protect brands. GOOP’s ability to poke fun at itself is the reason for its business longevity, despite the setbacks. Take “this smells like my vagina” candle seriously, and you are the butt of the joke.

On brand level, playfulness and humor are expressed through: a) brand identity, b) brand aesthetics, c) creative direction, d) audience management, and e) strategy.

Brand identity. The best brands are known for the role they play in culture: Apple is a creator, Harley Davidson is an outlaw, Patagonia is an explorer, Disney is a magician. These roles are defined as brand archetypes, and they organize all brand activity into a coherent identity. All brand decisions are tested for consistency with the role/s that a brand wants to play. But a playful identity is not a fixed identity: rules and roles may be reversed, turned upside down, and mixed together. Roles riff on reality — Gucci is a Renaissance gender-fluid psychedelic…



Ana Andjelic

Brand Executive. Author of “The Business of Aspiration.” Doctor of Sociology. Writer of “Sociology of Business.” Forbes most influential CMO.