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Imitation is the Sincerest Form of Identity Crisis 

June 2, 2017

A lot of clients talk to me about this. About other people imitating their brand or their work so I wanted to address this in a blog post and explain why imitation is a problem… and not for those who are being copied. 

I can write from experience on this one. I’ve been copied for as long as I’ve been copywriting. A few months ago, someone attempted to imitate my brand, complete with a photo of her on the beach writing in a notebook at sunset (she doesn’t even live near a beach!). She had a hand lettered logo and even tried to use some of the same words but here is the problem: she’s not me. Best of luck to her and there’s more than enough work for all of us but by copying someone else’s brand all she really achieved was an appearance like the person she admires. But where is the depth?  Where is her truth?

Here’s the thing: I am not that picture on the sand. I am not the beautiful website or even the wording.  I am a writer, a person, someone with soul and depth. I then hired experts that I trusted in design and photography and asked them to paint what they saw. I didn’t ask them to make me look a certain way or to set me up so it looks better, that’s genuinely where I work and how I work, it’s not just for show.

Anywhere you cut me you will find my brand. Everything I stand for is reflected in who I am and how I work and THAT is why my brand is so strong, because it’s authentic. Because it resonates with the clients who are looking for me. It’s easy to create a pretty website or a logo or to portray yourself a certain way on Instagram but the client will see the truth when you work with them. This is why, when I hear a client complaining about their ad campaign being copied, their strapline being used with the most minor of tweaks or their wording or imagery being mimicked, I try to explain to them – not that it’s a form of flattery (because what a crock of shit that is.) But I explain that the person copying them hasn’t yet found themselves. When they do then they will find their version of success, then they will step into who they are supposed to be.

As long as people are imitating they won’t be truly happy in themselves and what they offer.  They haven’t yet uncovered their own identity.  I don’t create pretty wording to make people like the person I’m representing, I write what I see. I get to know the person I’m writing for then I tell their truth. So anyone can take those words and they will sound wonderful wherever they are written. But they won’t be authentic. They will be hollow.

I want to point out here the difference between imitation and influence. All of us are inspired by others, we all take creative influence from people and places and apply this to our lives and our work. But for those being blatantly copied, you have to move forward and remind yourself you don’t become the leader by following the leader.  I’ve had people take my business card to a designer and ask for replica. I’ve had copywriters hire me to write their adverts to attract customers as if that was their style of writing (for real!). It’s those who are imitating who need to question their intention. All it really means is that they haven’t found their path yet. When they do, when they can get deeper than comparison and competition and how a brand appears on the surface, when they can embrace their truth, their own brightness (and their shadow), that’s when they will be ready to create a brand that, instead of imitating weakly will ignite with their strength of identity and light the fire from within.

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