When I was in my late twenties, I was a Marketing Director for a very large family-owned consumer products company. The septuagenarian owner/CEO of the company, while an absolutely brilliant businessman, had a hard time appreciating truly novel, breakthrough marketing ideas. Instead, he preferred what he considered to be the “safety” of knocking off marketing ideas that appeared to be successful for other companies. Once, in the middle of an important meeting, he took a competitor’s magazine ad out of his suit pocket and asked, “Why can’t we do this?” I responded, “With all due respect, sir, because they’re already doing it.”
I can’t prove it, but I have a hunch that the CEO or VP Marketing of T-Mobile recently asked their ad agency, “Why can’t we do advertising like Apple?” And the result is this shameful knockoff of Apple’s classic “Mac and PC” ad campaign. I’ve seen several ads from this campaign, and I can’t recall a single thing these ads have said. I’m too busy wishing I were watching a “Mac and PC” ad…and thinking that I would never patronize a company that can’t think for itself.
Imitation may be the sincerest form of flattery, but in marketing, it’s also the surest sign of creative and strategic laziness.