I believe in smart copying. In fact, I believe in it so much so much that I have copied the use of the term "R & D" as something I preach to my employees. R & D stands for Rip Off and Duplicate. Here is a list of some of the things we do that have been R & D'd:
- crowdfunding t-shirts - credit teespring
- Father's Day "DAD You Are" concept of using pop culture characters to represent positive things about a Dad - credit bootlegger advertising on Facebook
- using an unread "Email Notification" icon on the site - credit Beardbrand
- the list is long and distinguished - credit Top Gun
In each of these cases we were not actually duplicating anything. We were using something really cool as an inspiration, but still turning it into our own thing (ok... we pretty much copied Beardbrand, but it doesn't hurt them and I don't think it makes us look poorly either).
What inspired me to write this email was a company called Skubana sending out an email every Friday that was originally called "5-Nugget Friday" and then changed to "Nugget Friday". The idea of the email was a weekly roundup of 5 cool things they wanted to share. It's a great concept. It's so great in fact that Tim Ferriss thought of it first.
The problem for Skubana is I can guarantee that at least 90% of their potential customers know who Tim Ferriss is, and I would guess that a high percentage of them also subscribe to his emails. So now that I know they are just copying Tim's good idea I get a bit annoyed when I receive Skubana's weekly email.
There is a right way to copy, though. For instance I recently added a little section to our homepage called "About the Founder". The idea was to make it clear that people who shop at 80sTees.com are actually buying from real people, not just making it so Jeff Bezos net worth approaches the GDP of Nevada. My friend Ryan from Chowdaheadz.com liked that section and decided to add one to his website too. Check it out, that's the right way to do it. And honestly I'm all for anything that helps us little fish take on the Amazon sea monster.
So definitely make R & D part of your playbook, but be smart about it and make it your own too.