The CEO’s Imitation Limitation

 

When you imitate your competitors, you limit your company’s growth, investment potential, visibility, and profitability — essentially trapping it in a box.

Is this the outcome your shareholders expect or want? Is this the legacy you desire? I doubt it, on both counts.

So, why do you keep imitating your competitors? Why do they keep imitating you?

How quickly you forget!

In my book, Be Unique or Be Ignored: The CEO’s Guide to Branding, and in so many of my other articles, I posit and reiterate that imitation, the bane of branding, stems from laziness, lack of imagination and ability, and the universal fear of standing out. That pesky jargon addiction is a killer.

As the CEO, you must forbid imitation — unless you manufacture paperclips or toothpicks — from employees, consultants, ad agencies, PR firms, and yourself. If you gleefully stand on stages at industry conferences, bragging about your version of cloud computing, you’re an imitator.
 
In No Mood to Entertain Confusion

Watch this memorable “mirror scene” from the Marx Brothers’ 1933 movie, Duck Soup.
 

 
Harpo, at first, and Chico cleverly imitate Groucho. We laugh because they can confuse us, and because we’re watching to be entertained. When observing vendors futilely play the imitation game, I believe I’m watching the Marx Brothers in this scene.

Remember: those buying from, investing in, or writing about your company are in no mood to entertain confusion.

When asking people to identify their cable-TV carriers, invariably they can name Comcast, maybe U-verse, but have trouble with DISH and DirecTV — because the latter two start with the same letter and compete mostly on price: they’re interchangeable imitators.
 
Parting Advice to CEOs

My biggest consulting challenge, post engagement, is keeping CEOs from receding back into the “comfort” of the imitation game — after exclaiming that they must exit said game.

Fight the imitation tendency with every fiber of your being! Your goal is to be unique.

Imitation is your limitation, for it is to branding as gravity is to the arrow. The bottom line is simple: How badly do want to hit your target?

 

About the Author

Marc Rudov is a branding advisor to CEOs,
producer of MarcRudovTV, and author of the book,
Be Unique or Be Ignored: The CEO’s Guide to Branding.

 

© 2014 Marc H. Rudov. All Rights Reserved.

 

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