Stop trying to be Coke.

I get it. Coke has a fantastic aesthetic. They also have a killer brand. They have innovative marketing campaigns and crazy customer loyalty. So it’s natural you want your ads to be reminiscent of theirs. Truthfully?

Regina is tired of you being a poser.

No matter what you do you aren’t going to be Coke. Nor frankly do you want to be Coke. They have an origin story, an evolution, that you will never have. That story, all the people that contributed to that story? That isn’t your story. You don’t have the advantages they do. Your product will never be special in the same way that theirs is.

Why did I go on this rant?

First off, this isn’t some shot at Coke (mostly). You could insert any company that people are envious of in this category. In the past, I’ve talked with folks (especially teams at startups) that see an ad campaign from a more successful competitor and instantly want to copy it. This is foolish for a few reasons:

1. You have no idea what the performance of that ad is. It could be killing it or they could be lighting money on fire. Outside of corporate espionage, you won’t ever know either. Don’t assume that if an ad exists, or that you like it, that it’s performing well.

2. Any attempt to copy will come off as disingenuous no matter how well you pull it off. Even if someone is a direct competitor, they have a different origin story. Their motivations are different. The people running the company are different. You are not them.

3. Best case scenario is you’re a derivative, and no derivative ever made it big. Do you really want to be Uber for X? Or Airbnb for Y? Hell no! You want to be the one that people compare themselves too. No one calls Airbnb ‘Holiday Inn for X’.

You don’t want to be them.

The thing that really kills me whenever I have this conversation is that it always comes from a place of insecurity. I just wish it was as easy as one of those scenes in those cheesy teen movie where the girl takes off her glasses and suddenly realizes how beautiful she is. It isn’t though. I have empathy though. Business, especially startups, are hard and can be really scary.

You have values. You have goals. Your story matters.

I guarantee something in your goals, your values, who you are as a team will speak to a customer demographic. Finding that story and utilizing the right tactics is important to be sure. However, copying someone else’s story is a sure fire way for people to feel like you’re giving them a bunch of corporate BS speak (Because you are). Besides, people love a genuine person. Especially if you’re an underdog.

Take calculated risks. Don’t copy people. Tell a real story.

Stop trying to be Coke. was originally published in Multimedia Marketing.

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