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THE COPYCAT GAME – PART 1 – by Lauren van Rooyen

I was inspired to write this blog not only based on my own personal experience but as an aid to help those that seem to be suffering the same. I have done some extensive research online about the “copycat” game and I am here to submit my findings. You might not like what I have to say (trust me I even find some of it a bitter pill to swallow), but the fact is we all are copycats in some form or another as we draw inspiration from people we follow and look up to. The ugly truth is this – we all must get used to it and get on with it. But hopefully, after you have read this blog you will find some solace. At the end of the day, each of us are an individual, and it is our individuality that will ultimately define us as we conquer the world of business, friendship, and life.

The thing you need to remember is that competition will ALWAYS exist in all markets. Competition is a good thing. Competition keeps you on your toes. AND competition should be the catalyst that fuels your ambition to stay one (or ten) steps ahead!

You cannot avoid copycats, but you can learn how to handle them. This in turn will greatly impact your success as you navigate the world of entrepreneurial chess.

HERE ARE A FEW LESSONS TO LEARN

THE BIG IDEA

There is no greater feeling than coming up with a grand notion. The next BIG idea. Something that is both unique and individual to rock the market. The creators of big ideas often are the ones that have spent long hours, sleepless nights, and all their savings on putting together the puzzle pieces of their vision, just as a sculptor chips away at a hard piece of rock, stripping away all the rough edges to create a masterpiece. It is often grueling, tiring, with many errors and hair-pulling moments. There might even be tears of frustration like the last month of pregnancy when you just want the torture over with. Therefore it stands to reason one might have a “Viking” anger moment when the next person comes along and literally snips your concept with little thought or effort to make it even remotely unique as if it was originally their own. You see when you create something extraordinary people will often come along to copy, mimic, or outright steal it. (Insert a little HUF)

Many of you reading this will certainly relate and trust me when I say I completely understand. This very thing has happened to me on quite a number of occasions in my 35 years, but with sensibility and maturity, I have learned to simmer down and ignore, to pick my battles, OR to go on the defense when necessary to protect myself. There is a time and a place for all these emotions. A good chess player knows when it is better to play the offense or the defense. I will say this (and yes, it is hard to admit) that getting very worked up about a copycat often stems from a sense of insecurity. As humans (and maybe more so as women) we cannot but help to let our emotions get the better of us. If there is one thing I have learned as an entrepreneur is this:  Business is BUSINESS, so the sooner you stop taking things too personally and get those big girl panties on, the sooner you will end up saving yourself bucket loads of anguish.

IMITATION IS THE MOST SINCERE FORM OF FLATTERY

Ahh the age-old saying! How often I have wanted to tell them to stick it! However, it is undeniably true. When someone comes along and draws inspiration from you or your brand in some form or other, they are in essence paying you a compliment. If we are very honest with ourselves, we have ALL drawn inspiration from someone or something. I find that most people are not too worried if someone comes along and imitates with a touch of their own flare. Allow me to let you in on a secret. There is plenty to go around so just let this one slide like water off a duck’s back. In essence, you must be doing something right, which leads me to my next point…

KEEP ON PUSHING

Do not let copycats rain on your parade. If you are being copied, then you are the leader of the pack. In business, it is imperative that you challenge yourself by raising the bar and staying ahead of the game by constant innovation, adaption, and implementation. I read this article once saying it hardly mattered if you were the FIRST to come up with an idea. What really mattered is whose idea was the BEST. This now leads me to the next lesson…

NEVER COMPROMISE ON QUALITY AND VALUE

The most important thing you need to focus on is your CUSTOMER! Don’t get so blindsided by the copycats that it ends up consuming your energy. Keep your head down and continue to provide value to who is important … the consumer. Paying attention to your audience, engaging them, and understanding their needs and desires is the key to building a successful brand. The copycats will struggle to keep up with your constant innovation, which leads me to my next point…

SMILE AND WAVE

Wasting your precious time and energy getting all hot and bothered by the copycats is a futile exercise. It is much better to just ignore it. As I mentioned earlier, we are all unique and it’s our individuality that makes us special. Even when someone copies you, they will NEVER be you. It is next to impossible to copy another’s personality. Nor can someone mimic the individual experiences you have with your customers. The focus must always be on your customer and the experience you are delivering. I know it’s difficult to ignore a copycat, especially when it comes from someone a little closer to home but remember this… the more copycats you have, the more “fans” you actually have. Lastly, we have one more lesson…

KNOW WHEN TO DEFEND

There is a time and place for everything. So when someone blatantly copies you down to a “T”, sometimes it is necessary to call their bluff and have a word. You can still conduct such in kindness, being professional, and keeping it “business-like”. I find when there are difficult or uncomfortable conversations to be had to execute them over an email. Sometimes the copycat is completely unaware of the effect their actions are having and the situation can be amicably resolved. There are also instances where it is perhaps best to distance yourself and block a copycat from your social media and your life. If they are causing anguish and stress, cut them off.

The business world can be brutal. It can serve you some hard lessons and test your resilience. But there is nothing more satisfying than building a legacy so keep your focus on that and let the rest scurry along as they attempt to keep up.

In conclusion, to Part ONE of this series, I leave you with this quote:

“What I will say is that business is not a nice area. And you might say that I am a business woman, but I’m not into cut-throat business moves”. — Cheryl Cole

With love, admiration, and kindness

Follow Lauren on Instagram @mombosslauren_

1 Comment


  1. Amriene Lamuye

    Thank you for writing this amazing piece nd inspiring us to continue to focus on the good and ignore the bad vibes. Personally you inspire me everyday.

    Reply

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