A while ago one of my clients wrote me an email saying that one of her competitors was printing their logo on clothing and selling it online. They were not in the clothing business and they also were not a well-known brand.
“Should we do that too?” she asked. “Do you think people will really wear them?”
It was funny she asked because for a while I had been thinking of situations where competition does something, and we often think that means they’ve discovered a secret that works. But we could be hugely mistaken. This could very well be their experimentation, or, even more likely, the result of someone who knows nothing about marketing looking at a big brand and saying “they do it, that means we should do it too.” Truth be told, that person who knows nothing about marketing copied a big brand in the wrong way. (First you have to be known, and loved like a cult, before people will wear your silly logo, dude).
So coming back to my story, I answered, “Just because competitors are doing something doesn’t mean they’re doing it right.” And no, I did not think anyone would wear the logo of my client’s product on their clothes, let alone pay to do so.
But to those of you who know me, you’re probably wanting to interrupt me right here because I always say:
“If it’s working for your competitors, that means it’s gotta work for you too.”
It sounds like I’m contradicting myself but I’m not. The key phrase to note above is, “if it’s working.” In other words – you must first determine exactly what it is your competition does to secure customer loyalty and garner initial purchases from its clientele. That is what you copy. Not someone’s dumb idea to do marketing the way they guessed it would work.
Real marketing is based on research. But behold, I can tell you a story of one company that did do their research, and applied it in a totally wrong way (by the way, this is also an example of ‘just because you’re competitors are doing it, doesn’t mean you need to do it too’).
It was a restaurant – but I won’t say who (I considered saying the name, but didn’t want to be mean….). They probably figured out that their target demographic is young people, and that these young people have smart phones with QR scanners on them.
This nation-wide restaurant is a pretty big company. How big? The size of company that, when you see them do a marketing campaign you would naturally think, “That must have cost a lot of money. I wonder what marketing genius thought of that.” (Ok, maybe you don’t wonder those things, but I do all the time….it’s my ‘thing,’ ya know).
So since everyone is going crazy over QR codes these days (often to a fault, and exposing how deeply many people DO NOT understand today’s smartphone generation), this restaurant did their due diligence and, while creating a TV commercial, did not forget to include that handy QR code.
The QR code flashed on the screen for less than ten seconds when I saw it. And then it disappeared.
What the hawww?
You expect me to get up from my couch, wake up my phone, start up my QR reader, walk up to the TV screen, position my phone properly and scan your QR code…all BEFORE you make it disappear?
Not only would I not have the time to make the decision to get off my couch in the first place, even if I wanted to run up and play “I spy with my QR code”, I would totally lose at that game because the QR code is going to vanish before my eyes.
I wonder how much that commercial cost them…
Now imagine if the dude who doesn’t know marketing went and said, “this restaurant is so admirable. I’m going to copy them and put a QR code in my YouTube video.”
Oh man….just the thought of it makes me cringe. And you know it’s because this type of thing happens all the time! (Are you with me? I know all you marketing amigos are).
So my friend, this concludes my discussion on why you should not always copy everything your competition does. Chances are if you spend a bit of time to do your own research (yes, spend TIME doing it), you will come up with a way better marketing tactic that will totally crush the dude who is busy printing his logo on t-shirts thinking they’ll be worth more money that way.