I just coined that phrase.
OK, that’s not true, it’s actually from Pablo Picasso, who stole it from Oscar Wilde.
Or Stephen Morrissey.
Well anyway, I’m pretty sure it’s from one of those guys with fairly low Klout scores.
But I digress.
It’s a great quote. Yet it does not quite explain Cisco or Intel’s latest advertising stunts.
I stole this example from Brad Spychalski (@bradspy), who mentioned it in passing in his latest post, Customer Service Bowls a Perfect Game.
Like most people, I had completely missed the campaign when it ran, in the summer of 2010.
Quite surprisingly, I might add, as it borrowed all the attributes of the most succesful viral campaign of 2010, the Old Spice Man: a bathroom setting, a man in a towel adressing the audience directly through the camera, and video responses to questions asked through Twitter.
Except it featured ‘Ted from Accounting’ rather than the great Isaiah Mustafa. And it was not that funny.
Or rather, it was, but not in the way Cisco intended to make you laugh (at versus with).
Take a look at the video below to judge for yourself. Funny enough, it answers a question by none other than Mitch Joel, author of Six Pixels of Separation. It was viewed exactly 775 times on YouTube.
And the overall campaign it belongs to, was not exactly a success.
WILL.I.AM “DIRECTOR OF CREATIVE INNOVATION” AT INTEL.
Perhaps not such a blatant copy, is the recent announcement that the rapper and member of Black Eyed Peas, Will.I.Am, was to take a job at Intel as Director of Creativity.
I can attest first hand that Will.I.Am’s creative juices flow well beyond his core music expertise, having had the luck to sit in a couple of meetings with him a Pepsi. But doesn’t this remind you of a similar move by Polaroid, who recently named Lady Gaga Creative Director?
The idea is the same, and sure, its’ a big one.
Bringing in an outsider superstar creative left thinker to overhaul your creative processes beyond your internal talent pool and practices. Or at least, claim you are, as cynics will say you’re just reframing what rest of the world knows as a celebrity endorsement.
While so far, Gaga’s visible input has not dramatically transformed Polaroid (camera-enabled sunglasses aside), I can at least see a strategic brand fit there. Gaga’s fame is built on powerful imagery, she is the stuff great fashion photography is made of.
This fit completely escapes me in the case of Intel. In Will.I.Am’s own words to explain the Intel connection: “nearly everything I do involves processors and computers”. Big deal, that’s also true of the folks at H&R Block.
The net result feels more like a second mover PR stunt.
OK, I’M BEING FACETIOUS.
Copying is not so uncommon as an advertising practice, that these two brands would deserve to be called out for plagiarism. In case you’re not convinced, head over to Joe La Pompe, the site dedicated to hunting down ‘similar advertising ideas’ around the world. Hundreds and thousands of examples there. Any successful idea will have its copies, and the wildly successful ones will turn into marketing juggernaut fads, which only the next one can stop (how many “flash mob” videos did you see last year?).
There is no genius in these examples because we’re talking about Copying, not Stealing.
Two very different things.
THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN STEALING AND COPYING
It’s actually quite a simple one.
Copying is looking at the surface of things, and reproducing their visible attributes. The towel, the bathroom set, or the job title. No one gets kudos points for copying the ‘remarkable’ of someone else. Once it’s done, it ceases to be remarkable… especially if you follow it with a clearly lesser-than-the-original execution.
Stealing is something else altogether. It’s about understanding principles, not surface attributes – understanding why something worked, and how you could apply that to your brand. Polaroid recruits a creative rockstar to bring new perspective to their innovation plans? Great idea! Find your own way to bring outside blood to your innovation department, not the same as them with another star… Old Spice shoots real-time video responses to Twitter fans? Great idea! Find some other story to tell with social media interaction.
DON’T CUT & PASTE, STEAL & IMPROVE!
This is where genius comes into action.
Not just copying, but taking the fundamental core of an idea, and improving it:
- making it bigger
- making it more entertaining
- making it funnier
- making it more exclusive
- making it more unexpected
- or making it simpler, faster, cheaper, more convenient…
Stealing is good practice.
But it does take genius – the genius to look past the surface, understand why things work… and make them better!