C&T Q&A ~ Can I talk about copycatting without sullying my brand?

great-artists
{Picasso’s take on the subject}

Today’s question is from Megan, and she writes:

Hi Jess,

I’ve been loving the Create and Thrive blog so much as you may have guessed! This afternoon while posting some product images on Facebook, a topic for discussion arose that I thought might be best questioned and thrashed out on the C&T blog if possible.

My question is:

Should you feel bad about promoting the quality of your brand? Sounds silly put like that, but I mean getting into the nitty-gritty facts of it. Is it perfectly acceptable to say in a cutesy way your products are original designs by yourself, made to the highest quality and seen elsewhere may in fact be cheap imitations? Without attacking any individuals or businesses, can you boldly state this to say you are proud of what you do, work very hard to create something different and don’t appreciate copying?

In a climate where this issue is often at the forefront, is it better to tackle it head on and stake your claim before it happens to you? Does being confident in your products in this way produce a feeling of stability among your customers or does it stir up trouble and dirty the waters? To be honest, I added this sentence to claim original work as I have frequently been copied from to see what results it does bring! And I felt bad doing it, even though I did not put anyone down in anyway..so is it right to show outward confidence in your brand? Big companies do it, so is it okay for small biz to do as well?

A bit of a long one, but I am really seriously curious as to the answers and discussion on this topic!

Thank you so much!

Megan

Thanks so much for your question, Megan!

I think, honestly, that this question boils down to ‘should I talk about the fact that I think someone has copied my work?’.

Being proud of and promoting the quality of your brand is actually a completely separate issue from coming out and saying ‘the first and original’ or ‘beware of imitations’ or ‘someone has copied me, let’s burn them at the stake’.

Slight hyperbole there, but really, that’s what some of these copying discussions can feel like – a witch-hunt.

So, let’s get the first part of this out of the way quickly.

Yes, absolutely you should be proud of your work!

Absolutely you should discuss what makes your work good quality and unique!

For sure you can say ‘this item was designed and handmade by me’.

However… you can be proud of and promote the quality of your brand without ever referring to possible copycats.

I have discussed this issue before, but I think it’s important one to get out in the open – but not, perhaps, for the reasons you might think.

You see, I’m a big believer in focussing on your own brand, and not worrying overmuch about what others are doing.

Sure, check out the competition, keep an eye on what they’re up to… but in the end, your brand should be driven by your own vision for your business, not driven as a reaction to what others are doing.

Given that, it follows that I pretty much completely ignore the whole ‘copying’ issue in my own jewellery business.

Have I been copied? I’m sure I have.

Do I care about it? Not one whit.

Sure it’s a bit of an uncomfortable shock when I stumble across an Etsy store that started way after mine and they have a whole lotta designs that look terribly familiar. Sure it gives me a moment of pause. Sure I’ve had people contact me privately to tell me about someone else’s work that looks suspiciously similar to mine. {Thank you for caring about me enough to do that, lovely people!}

 

But you know what?

1. I can’t be sure they copied me. There are only so many ways you can bend and hammer sterling silver wire to make a pair of earrings or a pendant. There are instances where it’s completely obvious that someone has been copied – a piece of artwork, for example, used without the artist’s permission. However, most of the time in the handmade scene, it’s nigh impossible to know for sure if we’ve actually been copied, or if it’s just coincidence. Don’t make accusations on a hunch, without 100% solid proof. It just makes you look petty and unprofessional.

2. I’m not concerned that they’re ‘stealing’ my customers. They might charge half of what I do for a similar design, but that’s okay. Even if they sell twice as much as me… I’m making the same amount of money for half the work. And the people who value my work – my years of experience, my skill, and my brand – will shop with me. It’s up to me to make it worth their while. It’s up to me to provide an excellent customer experience that brings people back to me over and over again.

3. They aren’t impinging upon me or my brand in any way unless I let them. Nothing can bother me unless I let it. I have the power to choose where I put my time and attention. And I’d much rather put it on making new designs, growing my customer base, and thinking about my business than focussing on someone else’s.

The only exception to this that I would possibly make to this stance is if I had a ridiculously specific design and I saw that a big corporation had stolen it.

But even then? Bringing attention to it won’t stop that corporation, and I sure as heck don’t have the money to mount a legal battle against them. I could look at it as a way to get publicity, if I followed the old ‘even bad press is good press’ belief (which I don’t).

So, even in that case, I would probably leave it be.

Megan makes the very good point that handmade designers, “work very hard to create something different and don’t appreciate copying?” Of course we don’t – no-one does! It’s one of those things that goes without saying. Literally. You don’t need to say it. People know.

Also – “Does being confident in your products in this way produce a feeling of stability among your customers or does it stir up trouble and dirty the waters?”

Being confident in your product is COMPLETELY different to stating that yours is the original and beware of copies. You can do the former without ever alluding to the latter. And yes, I believe that bringing up the copying issue in public almost always has a negative effect on your brand.

In short – don’t do it. It’s not worth the negative light you put onto your brand through complaining or bringing attention to the issue in most cases.

Also – why would you want to bring attention to another person’s business when they’re copying you?? Because even if you don’t name them, people will get curious, people will talk, and they’ll figure it out.

 

The internet is a very big place. There will always be someone selling something similar to what you make cheaper than you. It’s not your job to capitulate to the threat their business makes to yours – it’s your job to make your brand and business so awesome on so many levels that people won’t even think about going elsewhere.

 

People don’t buy a thing – they buy a feeling… an experience.

Give them the best one possible, and you’ve done your job. Don’t bring any sort of negative emotions into this business-customer relationship, because it will only dirty the waters, as you said.

 

That’s my perspective on this whole issue. I’d love to hear your thoughts on this, too.

Thanks for being brave enough to ask this question, Megan!!

I know this should go without saying, but please refrain from any specific examples or calling people out.

Thanks, you rad thing, you.

Pin It on Pinterest