Is it ever OK to steal?

Before your business idea is finalised it is imperative that you carry out some form of competitor analysis. This will help you to understand the market, work out your pricing strategy and to formalise your USPs. But in terms of digital marketing, is it ever OK to steal ideas from your competitors?

Some of the ideas you might want to steal, or at least be influenced by include website design, content strategy, social media strategy and imagery. Before decide on how much you want to be influenced by your competitors when creating your digital marketing plan, here are some of the pros and cons of stealing from your competitors:

Pros

Consumers like what they recognise. Being original is fantastic. Building something totally unique will stand you apart from the crowd and impress the savvy consumer. However, unfortunately that isn’t a great strategy for fast growth. Having your website designed to look a bit like the main competitor’s website will help your customer to understand what it is you offer.

Similarly, consumers associate certain colours, styles and fonts with certain products, services and market positioning. This may mean that you are forced to mimic your competitors and end up with a similar looking website and branding.

Pay close attention to your competitor’s content strategy. Outright plagiarism is illegal and definitely not recommended. However, it will pay to keep a close eye on competitor’s content strategy. It may give you inspiration to do something totally different or it may let you know what types of things your target market is interested in. It can give you ideas to contradict your competitors and to highlight your USPs. If you do steal your competitor’s content ideas then it gives you a great opportunity to improve on what they have done.

Your competitor’s social media strategy can provide you with the perfect working example of shareable posts. If you regularly check your competitor’s social media profiles you will soon work out what gets shared around your target market.

Cons

Beware the trademark. You need to be exceptionally careful that you don’t use a competitor’s trademark. It can sometimes be surprising what your competitors have got trademarked so do your research before stealing specific phrases.

Don’t create enemies. Following your competitors too closely will make enemies of them. They will find out and then start to work against you. Everybody expects new competitors to enter their market, but you don’t have to be enemies. If your competitor is well established then they will be able to use their influence to damage your brand.

Putting a price on your brand equity. Being just like everybody else does not create for a strong brand and will not make you memorable. Being bold and standing out from the crowd in everything that you do can pay you rich rewards in the long run.

Brand associations aren’t always favourable. If everything from your website to your social media posts look like another brand you will be associated with that brand and not just because of the products and services. You will also be associating your customer service, your pricing and your quality. This is something that you may well want to avoid.

Being completely original is very difficult and may not be necessary. Do your research before you decide if it is ok to steal or not.