I was watching The Hunger Games with my daughter last weekend and I kept saying the actors’ lines before they had muttered them. “You’ve seen this already!” she lamented.
Sadly, I hadn’t. But I’ve seen enough movies to know what comes next.
Advertising, which is all about finding new ways to sell, suffers a similar affliction. Ideas get re-used, recycled, refried and outright stolen, until media environments are permeated with a feeling of deja vu. Does the customer care? When Lay’s can throw a million bucks at you, do you mind if the promotion isn’t a new idea?
I once read that there are really only 10 ideas in advertising and everything else is a riff off those: a perfect exponential growth curve in reverse.
Do you care?
Actually, you do. You may not care the first time an idea is copied, but you will care the second time. That’s the key.
Lay’s can copy an idea and throw it out there in the chip market and everything’s just fine. But if Ruffles tries exactly the same strategy next month, you will note that. The money will still appeal to you, but the brand’s reputation will take a hit.
That’s because originality matters. It’s not the most important thing, but it matters. It’s a sign of character, of effort, of intelligence. It respects and rewards the audience it’s aimed at. We are the audience, and we appreciate it, even admire it. That builds the brand’s reputation.
Consider Samsung’s fortunes this week. It will be interesting to see the sales figures of their smartphones over the next few months, now that their devices have been found guilty of significant design theft from the iPhone.
Will the market reward or punish the copycat? The answer will tell us much about the question posed in this post.