Why Be Creative…

by John Cloonan | Oct 25, 2021 | Behind the scenes, Blog, Innovations, New Ideas

I’ve often joked with other marketers about using others’ ideas with the question “Why be creative when you can be selective?” While looking at a concept, thinking it’s a good idea, and appropriating it in concept isn’t uncommon, there’s a line that shouldn’t be crossed. Recently, I’ve seen two examples I’d like to share where I think the line has been crossed. 

One of my clients, a professional organizer, recently launched a discount holiday promotion. Using a stock shot of a dining table set for the holidays, we created images appropriately sized for various social media outlets. These were captioned within the photo using a script font, outlining the promotion. There was also a text ad and a blog post 

Recently, while looking to provide a referral to another organizer, my client discovered that a direct competitor who knew her personally had appropriated the concept. The competitor used a stock shot of a dining table set for the holidays, posted them in all the same social media outlets. The shot was captioned using a script font, outlining the exact same promotion – the same discount for the same number of hours.The worst of it was the text ad, which was a very lightly edited version of my client’s ad.  

Luckily for all involved, it seems that a mutual friend contacted the competitor and told her that this was at best a bad idea, and at worst criminal, and a violation of their trade group’s code of ethics. 

In another example, I was at a trade show. I like to walk the floor looking at booths for promotion ideas for future events. As I turned a corner and looked at one booth, I noticed that they had appropriated both the logo and tagline of one of my former clients, who recently sold her company. I took a quick picture of it and emailed it to her. She let the acquiring company know, but they’ve chosen not to do anything about it. The interesting part of that was the company who stole the logo was a vendor to the acquiring company. 

A couple of things strike me. The companies victimized were either seeking to offer business to the violators and even actually doing business with them. They were helping them out, but their intellectual property was stolen anyway. No good deed goes unpunished. 

It’s also strangely validating to have your work stolen. From my perspective, the work we did for the client was good enough not only to be purchased but to be stolen by others. It also illustrates the commonality of this type of theft. My small agency can cite two examples from a relatively short list of clients. I can imagine how often a huge agency comes across it. 

These two examples were relatively obvious because the graphics and text were appropriated. Admittedly, I was walking a show floor looking for ideas when I found the second one. I like to think I wouldn’t cross the line of out-and-out theft, but I’m certainly going to consider that closely next time I find a new idea. 


Marketing Guy & Strategic Polymath | Website | + posts

John’s the founder of Audacity Marketing. When he’s not racing motorcycles, he’s building marketing strategies for Audacity clients and anyone else who’ll listen.

John’s worn all the marketing hats, from consultant to agency owner to executive to university professor. He’s held leadership roles in industries from staffing to behavioral health to capital-C consulting. He’s branded or rebranded over 100 companies.

John buttresses 25+ years in marketing with an MBA from Georgia State University.

John lives with his girlfriend Suzanne, his dog Seamus, and his daughter Annie when she shows up from college.