Ok, there are rarely truly new ideas- more often, ideas are reinvented. But, I have been in the fortunate (or unfortunate, depending on your perspective) position to see many folks over my lifetime who have preferred to copy instead of being inspired.
If you aren’t sure of the difference, I think of inspiration as seeing something that someone else is doing, and letting it inform you; you figure out what about it is interesting and how you can put your unique spin on it with your own brand and customers. Copying is seeing something, being lazy and doing the exact same thing. No originality, no personal flavor. As the Lexus folks say, you don’t innovate, you imitate.
When I was growing up, there were many who tried to copy the clothes I wore and other elements of my personal style. As I have gotten older, the copying attempts have switched to business and marketing strategies, my writing style and more. I am not the only one- I constantly see business owners and entrepreneurs blatantly copying (and in some cases) stealing from their peers.
Now, you may say that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, but I contend that copying is bad because:
It dilutes the efficacy for everyone: If someone has an innovative strategy or tactic, as more people jump on, it becomes less and less interesting.
Your brand is different: Each company’s brand should speak to their customers based on their values. That means that your strategies and tactics need to have your own spin on them to really be authentic and effective.
You want to be ahead of the curve: By the time you get around to your emulations, the world is moving on to something else. Just because a strategy or tactic worked in the past, it doesn’t mean it will work in the future.
You’re not fooling anyone: If you are an imitation, people will know you are an imitation. And customers that are worth a hoot want the original- not the imitations. Customers who will accept a “faux-lex” over a Rolex are bottom feeders. Plus, don’t you want to be seen as a leader, not a follower?
If you are inspired by something that a competitor is doing, take the time to figure out why you like it and how you can change it up to work for you. Or better yet, blaze a path to something new and exciting.
Does copying bother you? Weigh in below.