Naseem Javed, global authority on naming and branding, has submitted a very interesting piece of thought about Global Copycats to our Management Portal. Naseem directs our attention to a phenomenon that is so widespread and commonplace these days, that we hardly notice it and surely don’t think about it very much – the stealing and copying of original ideas, brands, images and other intellectual property. I guess it is worth thinking about these things from time to time.
Naseem discusses three reasons why the global copycats have taken over and I agree with all of them. This issue really caught my attention and so I would like to add my own thoughts to Naseem’s reasons:
With the advent of the Internet and Web 2.0, many businesses lost customers to the long tail or to new players. Almost any industry was affected – car manufacturers, radio and TV stations, book and record labels, retailers, advertising agencies …If you are loosing customers, what is your first and obvious choice? For many of these businesses it was to look at those peers in their industry that were still successful and attracted the masses. What works for them, should work for your business too, shouldn’t it? So thousands of troubled businesses started to streamline their offerings for the widest possible target groups and tried to replicate the success factors of their competitors. From a strategists point of view, this isn’t very creative. The theory of strategy suggests that you should offer some unique value proposition to your customers. However, as a professor in my MBA course put it – “benchmarking is nothing else than to copy with pride”. And isn’t benchmarking a strategic discipline too?
At the same time, a myriad of startups entered the marketplace with the hope to get rich within months. Many of them didn’t have a compelling business model or product. They soon realized that they faced low conversion rates for their online shops and their websites full of referral links for partnership programs. Even worse, with every referral, they earned only cents. So what helps? Attract the masses! Hundreds of thousands of cents make a nice amount of dollars too. What follows is the same as above – the myriad of startups looked at the happy few who attracted a large enough customer base to make money and tried to do the same.
So everybody who isn’t smart enough to develop a unique selling proposition for his business simply copies what works for others.
To borrow Naseem’s words – I think it is time to “ give … a tribute, host a gala dinner and hand out awards” to all those businesses and people who have the courage to stay unique.