When you begin from a position of true innovation, it doesn't really matter what you used as a starting point – even if it was someone else's breakthrough – because your end goal is different. That shows you are thinking in different directions, which lays the foundation for a creative solution… or at least creative uses of existing ideas.
One way of looking at this is that every great human achievement is built upon the achievements of the past. Another, less generous interpretation would be that new and successful ideas are copied again and again, with only a small percentage being worth the time and effort.
Both viewpoints are valid, but only one can help you take what you've seen elsewhere and use it to build something worthwhile. So, are you enhancing something great, or just emulating it in hopes of finding your own success?
The easiest way to find the answer to that question is to ask yourself another one: Why am I interested in copying something that my peers or competitors do?
If the true reason revolves around jealousy, laziness, or a pure financial motive, you probably stand a very small chance of achieving any real success with the effort. In other words, you're likely going to produce a copy of something that's just a little bit worse, less inspired, or commercially unsuccessful.
There's actually a very simple reason for this phenomenon. The one thing copycat marketers always miss is passion. You can duplicate actions, but not motives and inspirations. That's why the very best work hard to innovate and refine. They care. Most of those who come after are just trying to imitate, and it shows.
If, on the other hand, you’re recycling an idea because you want to test the assumptions, stretch the limits, or make it unique in a way that adds value to your specific group of followers or customers, you might be on to something. Beginning with the right intentions doesn't necessarily guarantee you'll be able to innovate and enhance successfully, of course, but at least you're getting started on the right foot and paving the way for progress.
Before you think this is all academic, and I'm just waxing philosophically about the different ways we can approach life, consider the implications of enhancement versus emulation in real-life online marketing.
When you try to take a successful website or piece of content and simply copy it, for example, bad things happen. Your lack of passion and commitment come through loud and clear, if only because you don't truly care about the end result or think that it adds any value to the world. Even if you develop a campaign that’s profitable for a short amount of time, you'll likely struggle to keep momentum moving forward because the original inspiration just wasn't up to par. You won't have a clear vision, and so the way forward will always be obscured.
To put things in a simpler context, it's very hard to stand out when you're copying others, if only because real innovators are coming up with ideas and tactics that work for their situations, not yours. Trying to make their ideas your own when they don't fit is sort of like hugging a snowman – something that gets harder and less rewarding over time.
Innovation and creativity don't just a matter in the digital age, they matter more than ever. In a world of fakers and copycats, creating the real deal is a competitive advantage that's nearly impossible to overcome.
What's your position? Are you a copycat, innovator or influencer?