Oh No She Didn’t: A Marketer’s Perspective on Mimicry

Oh No She Didn’t: A Marketer’s Perspective on Mimicry
by Michael Aaron Gallagher

Two girls go to the prom wearing the same dress. Who’s the copycat? It’s not necessarily the one who bought the dress later, even though she may not have had the idea in her mind for months, reserved it at the boutique, and had it specially tailored to fit her perfectly.

It’s the girl who wears it best that deserves to be the star. To the crowd, she is the popular one, the one being copied out of desperation.

In marketing, mimicry is the biggest form of flattery. But it can also be annoying if you’re the one being imitated. How does it feel to be Jaguar when you see a Hyundai? What about the way Louis Vuitton must feel when they see a knockoff designer handbag?

When I first started out in marketing for a small company, I was thrilled that I had the chance to put some of my ideas into practice. Not long after they became public, our competitors were scrambling to respond. Before long, their web site and marketing materials looked virtually identical to ours. I went to my boss out of frustration, and he laughed and told me it was okay, everything was fine. He said it was normal to be mocked. We were doing something unique and creative. We were innovators and we were setting the standard. Our competitors had no original ideas of their own, and they were simply reacting to what they saw on the market.

To this day, I get irritated when someone imitates something I’ve done. But then I sit down and think about why they are doing it. They see an idea that works, and they want to be a part of that. If you get angry with someone for mimicking you, you’re only getting upset because it must be working for them better than it is for you.

Ultimately, it doesn’t matter who came up with the fancy idea. You will be copied. They will try to steal your thunder. They will create knockoffs and imitations and sell them for a fraction of the cost. The goal is not to let them stop you from staying ahead of the curve. You have to guard your ideas from lazy imitator wannabes; but always be growing, expanding your horizons, and innovating. By the time your idea hits the market, you should have another one waiting in the wings.

Most importantly, you have to make sure that when you go out there on the dance floor, the whole room is looking at you because it’s your look and you wear it the best.

Oh No She Didn’t: A Marketer’s Perspective on Mimicry
Copyright © 2008 by Michael Aaron Gallagher

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