Copy-cat advertising

I often have small businesses tell me, “I’d like to have an ad like So-and-so’s.” That’s almost always a mistake. You want to stand out and be different in the minds of potential customers. You certainly don’t want to bring to mind your competition, unless you can do so in a way that shows off your product’s or service’s superiority.

That’s why I was surprised to see this Super Bowl ad from Motorola:

The ad introduces a new tablet computer from Motorola, the Xoom. The biggest problem with the ad? Everything about it reminds you of Apple.

The ad itself is a knock-off of arguably the most famous Super Bowl ad in history, the Apple Macintosh “1984” ad.

The Motorola ad has similar imagery, with identically dressed workers lined up in massive hallways catatonically walking to their destinations, and one lead character who doesn’t fit. That lead character is seen reading George Orwell’s 1984 on his tablet computer.

Even if you haven’t seen Apple’s original ad, when the lead character turns the page of the 1984 e-book, I bet you thought of the iPad. That’s not a great way to launch your new tablet. Everything about this ad reminds you of Apple and does nothing to differentiate the Xoom from the iPad.

It leaves you with the impression that this is just a knock-off, sort of like those watches people sell on street corners. Anyone want a “Roleks?” How about a “Guchi?”

I’ve shared this quote before, but it’s good advice from one the the greatest advertising minds ever:

“In advertising, not to be different is virtual suicide.”

– William Bernbach

You want to differentiate yourself from your competitors? Then don’t copy them. Be original.

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