Why would you trust a copycat?
Unless you’re looking for something cheap, shoddy, and just waiting to crumble, you probably wouldn’t buy something from one. The discount brands you find at dollar stores are intentionally trying to look like copies of better-known brands—and before long, they fall apart.
When trends evolve, copycats lag behind, looking for something new and flashy to rip off. The worst ones are outright frauds, like fake universities, or airlines that suddenly go under and strand their passengers or restaurant chains that drain investors but never open.
There’s probably not a faster way to undermine your organization, discourage your team, and break trust with your customers than being a copycat.
When it comes to branding, the high road is also the best one.
Rather than going superficial, whether that’s scraping something together arbitrarily, mimicking whoever leads your industry, lying, or outright copying—doing the work of discovering your authentic identity gives you the foundation for a brand and look that will connect and resonate with those around you.
After all, you’re remarkable.
And your potential clientele needs you as you are.
Stealing from Another Brand is… Stealing
You’re not a criminal.
You wouldn’t steal someone’s laptop, car, purse… or even an Amazon package leaned against your neighbor’s front door (besides, there’s a good chance that one’s got a glitter bomb with a camera inside).
But when it comes to superficial branding, ripping off logos, color schemes, concepts, or whole stories—well, that’s different, right?
Even if you don’t face charges for it (and you might).
Copying someone’s brand comes quick and easy, and probably masks an organization’s insecurity about itself, its values, or what it offers. It gives the impression of having solved something, but just like that knock-off denim from the dollar store, it fades and frays real fast.
It’s often easy to produce “copycat creative” — ways of expressing your brand that are duplicates of whatever seemed to work for somebody else. Imposter syndrome expresses itself through copying, rather than being genuinely creative.
Because you’re not comfortable with your organization’s real identity, you try to shield or deflect people from it by displaying an identity that you think they’ll like better.
You’re Different. Act Like it.
“Copycat creative” might mean using a variation on a color scheme that a company you admire uses. It might mean trying to write in the same voice and tone and that your competition writes in. It might mean using a certain template you’ve seen somewhere else, or choosing images that you imagine your competition using.
It’s googling, “what brands do millennials like?” and forwarding the results to your marketing team with the message, “do that”.
If a certain brand expression is working for your competitor, it isn’t as though they have a magical logo or website layout. What’s working for them is that their brand matches the reality their employees and customers experience, and so it produces trust.
You’re different from your competitor. Maybe it worked for them, but it probably won’t work for you.
Tell Your Own Story
Let other brands tell their story. It will get exhausting trying to keep up appearances and live out a story that doesn’t fit you. Your identity has a grain to it, like a piece of wood, and it will wear you out to constantly try to cut against the grain. Tell your own story.
Other companies are just as capable as you are of copying and pasting whatever the industry leader is doing. Copycat branding is as easy for your competitors as it is for you.
All things are as valuable as they are rare, and so people only pay a premium for preeminent products. If you look and feel basically like all of the other competitors you have, then the only way you have left to compete is on price. You think: “Since every brand is fake anyway, ‘who I am doesn’t matter; customers only care about their pocketbooks.” And the industry descends into a long war of attrition: which business can survive the longest while charging the least?
The surest way to lead isn’t to follow the leader.
Rather, it is to head somewhere with clear intention and purpose in mind and to communicate the value and importance of what you are doing.
Superficial with a Straight Face
Would you want to work for a company that’s perpetually lying?
Nobody wants to work for a company that’s deceiving its customers, telling a false brand story and actively faking it.
Maybe the lie isn’t intentional. Maybe the company intends well, but it has a bad case of imposter syndrome and so it’s trying hard to be something it isn’t.
But how do you approach a conversation about that?
It’s awkward. Nobody wants to say anything.
So instead, your employees may begin looking for a new place to work. One with a story they can believe.
When an organization’s employees often wish they could explain that the brand just doesn’t fit, that the choices don’t feel right, that the look and feel of the company don’t match, it’s an awkward thing to talk about. They don’t like it, and maybe find it a little embarrassing when friends or family look up where they work, and a little annoying when customers always approach them with strange misconceptions.
It’s hard to bring up. Sometimes it’s easier to look for something new.
Superficial Branding is a Corrosive Practice
Externally, when talking to customers, employees may try their best to express your brand in a way that is positive, even if it’s hard to do so naturally with a straight face. But internally, no one buys it. It doesn’t resonate within the team, because it isn’t real. The constant switching back and forth starts to get confusing, like a manager acting like a CEO one minute and then like your best friend the next. Business in the front and party in the back isn’t a good look, and eventually, even he’s going to mix them up.
Superficial branding undermines your team. It forces them to put on a show for your customers.
That means they can’t relate to customers in a fully honest and sincere way, and can’t build authentic relationships with them. So, by undermining your team, superficial branding undermines your relationships.
You can pour as much money as you want into marketing, but if the way your brand expresses itself is all for show, you’re undermining the future of your own business.
On the other hand, if you empower your team with your authentic brand that resonates with them, then they can help that brand resonate with your customers. That builds loyalty and strong relationships, which create trust, allowing you to work less while profiting more.
Honest and Confident
Authentic branding takes work, but it means not fighting yourself, not undermining your team, and bringing the best version of your authentic self to those around you.
Along with non-branding and arbitrary branding, superficial branding contradicts the core values of honesty, transparency, and trust, both within an organization and among those who interact with it.
If you want to grow your business while serving customers, clients, and even team members the best you can, don’t copy. Learn from them, but don’t mimic those you admire.
And don’t use your brand expression, look, or website to make promises you can’t keep.
And if you like the idea of being honest and confident, and the goal of building sincere relationships based on trust, then give the Resound team a call.
We’re excited to help B2B organizations discover their authentic brand identity and express it thoughtfully in their look, visual presence, and all of their interactions. We know it takes work, and that’s why we’ve developed a ton of online resources for those looking to develop their authentic brand.
Give us a call, or check those resources out at resoundcreative.com.
We know you’re remarkable. The world needs remarkable brands like yours. And they need you just as you are.