Imitation vs. Inspiration: You’re Doing it Wrong

In the marketing world being “the first” is an incredible thing. Whether it is being the first brand in a niche product category, the first to use a new media strategy or the first to make a creative new ad claim, people take notice. Firsts also provide tremendous competitive advantage. The only thing worse than being second is blatantly copying the brand that did it first. We’re talking to you Dairy Queen!

If you haven’t seen Dairy Queen’s latest campaign – take a look. For me, it’s a little too close to Old Spice’s campaign. We all know how popular and successful Old Spice’s use of the sarcastic new icon was with the over-the-top irony of their spots. They scored a huge “first.” They came up with a creative strategy that really worked to grab (and hold) the attention of their target audience. It was so popular many of the spots went viral, topping the most watched YouTube video charts. So I can certainly understand why someone in a board room at Dairy Queen must’ve thought – let’s do that! And granted, the two brands aren’t even in the same product category, but still – did they really think the copycat campaign wouldn’t be obvious? And the worst part? Others (like Edge Shave Gel) have starting shamelessly jumping on the bandwagon.

Lesson learned: do your own thing. Sure, plenty of people say there are no more new ideas out there; that everything we come up with has probably been used in some way, shape or form at some point over the past 100 years (even if we don’t know it). Maybe that’s true in many cases, but that doesn’t mean we’ve lost our ability to create new and impactful advertising. And I’m not saying we shouldn’t use creative ideas and strategies from great campaigns that are already out there. We should be inspired by the great advertising around us, not take the easy, copycat way out.

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