When you’re looking for digital marketing inspiration, where do you turn? It’s human nature to think about other campaigns that made you laugh, or were so powerful they stopped you in your tracks. It’s also natural to want to emulate that level of creativity and execution. But that is a very delicate dance.
Most of us are familiar with the famous quote by the great Oscar Wilde, “Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery…” But do you also know how the quote ends? Like this, “Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery…that mediocrity can pay to greatness.” (italics mine) Kind of changes the tone a bit, no?
None of us want to be thought of as mediocre. And that’s why, when looking for inspiration for a social media, branding, or advertising campaign, we should be careful not to become copycats.
Digital Marketing Inspiration and How Not to Be a Copycat
When our clients come to us with digital marketing inspiration sparked from something another brand is doing, we don’t shy away from it. Instead, we work with them, and determine if it’s the best way to tell their story. If yes, we then craft a strategy that will allow them to flatter, but not copy, the original inspiration.
Here are a few things we determine before moving forward:
Would the same idea work for their audience?
This needs to be asked first because every audience is different. They may not respond in the same way as the brand idea you want to imitate. Or you might not have the same channels or community in place that the successful brand had.
If either of the above is true, how could the concept be tweaked for your specific target and audience?
How much time has passed since the other brand’s great idea?
If you launch something similar too soon after, not only will you look like a copycat, the media and community will be fatigued by the concept…even if your brand is in a completely different industry.
Your own brand’s identity will be watered down and you will always be seen as number two. Or three. Maybe even four! Not where you want to be at the end of the creativity race.
What did they like about the idea?
This can be everything from the tone, to the message, to the timing, to how the branding was used, to the channels used for distribution. What were the strengths of the idea?
What would you have done differently? Think about opportunities for improvement. Yes, even the best ideas can be improved upon.
Brainstorm, Brainstorm, Brainstorm
Wait a second! You’re not finished yet, even if you’ve worked through the steps above. After assessing the target audience, determining the original concept’s strengths and weaknesses, and pinpointing where brand-specific tweaks can be made, it’s time to brainstorm. Clear a room, make sure there are no distractions, and have your team throw out ideas – and be sure they know that anything goes. The “anything goes” part is what I like most about brainstorming. Often, the best digital marketing inspiration comes from what was, on the surface, a really “out there” suggestion.
And voila! You are now ready to develop an informed, streamlined, and brand relevant strategy that tips a hat to the original concept, but doesn’t outright imitate. Oscar Wilde would be proud.
What are your thoughts on copying ideas from other brands? Have you ever done it? Were you ever called out for a concept being a little too close? If so, did you experience success or failure? Would love your thoughts!