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Copying Your Competition Can Backfire← back
Advice from our Creative Director on why copying your competition is a risky marketing strategy. While borrowing from the competition has been a popular strategy over the years, it rarely works; it can even backfire and hurt the strength of your own brand.
A Creative Director’s advice on copying the competition
Recently, a client asked me if misleading consumers into thinking they were a larger competitor would be a good way to bring in new customers. While mimicking your competition has been a popular brand strategy for years, and is seemingly harmless, it rarely works; it can even backfire and hurt the strength of your own brand.
At Imagery, we hear it all the time. “Our competitor, X, is doing Y, so we should do it, too” or “We want our website to look like X since they are the market leader.” It is very tempting to replicate marketing efforts from a larger, more successful brand. The problem in mirroring another brand’s advertising, design style, messaging or benefits is not simply, innocently that you’re copying a blueprint for success – it becomes more about the rather dangerous and careless prospect of mixing someone else’s marketing strategy in with your own. This approach will create confusion (and often mistrust) within the marketplace, making it difficult for consumers to know who you are and what you stand for – weakening your brand.
Even if you borrow something that works well for a competitor, it doesn’t mean the same formula will work for you. Plus, you don’t really know what contributes to their success. Most brands are successful because of the people behind the idea. It’s more than just having a cool website layout or bold color palette. Copying the competition is like playing the lottery, which is all about hope and luck. It’s a poor marketing strategy and it will not grow your business long-term.
It might be interesting to note that your competitors don’t always make calculated, well-informed decisions about strategy. We have redesigned a lot of websites over the years and talk to people about their website challenges. It surprises me how many of these companies’ marketing strategies are driven by opinions and not by actual data. In most cases, businesses themselves don’t know which part of their website is working and which part is failing. Your competitor’s navigation, homepage layout, checkout or menu setup could be completely random – all driven by the opinions of a designer, who pieced it together from a bunch of ideas he/she collected from looking at other websites. There is just no way of knowing which factors are correct. That is why it is important to develop a strategic plan of action that highlights your brand’s strengths, rather than blindly ripping off something that doesn’t have your best interest in mind. Remember that your brand represents you – you are the brand, your staff is the brand, your marketing materials are the brand. What do these factors say about you and what you’re going to deliver?
Fortunately, we live in a time where you can measure almost everything and make smart decisions based on actual data. We have the ability to track user activity on your website; what they click, where they click, how long they stay on the page and where they decide to exit the site. All of this collected data will help you identify what’s working, but more importantly what’s not, allowing you to fix problem areas to improve the overall user experience and increase productivity. That’s called data-driven design and it is a far more intentional, thus successful approach.
The moral of the story: Your competitor is not a mastermind. Stand strong and give your brand its own stake in the marketplace. People are drawn to leaders that serve a purpose, not followers that copy someone else’s.