One of your challenges as a copywriter is to be as original as possible. But what if I told you that there are some scenarios in which stealing isn’t only a good idea, it’s the best idea? And that your boss will applaud what you’ve done? Read on to find out exactly when and how you should add stealing to your arsenal of tactics.
Today’s question comes from Robin M. who asks, “Is it wrong if I take something one of my competitors has done and riff on it? I mean, if I see something they do and then try to do it better, is that a problem?”
There’s a theory that there are really two kinds of creativity, or two ways of creating. The first is what many people think of as quintessential creativity: The act of creating something out of thin air. This kind of creativity is coming up with entirely original ideas—the kinds of things that make other people (and the creator him/herself) think, “Where did that come from?”
But there’s a second kind of creativity that’s actually far more common. The second kind of creativity involves synthesizing all kinds of different ideas, concepts, solutions, and elements to create something new. People may still think, “Where did that come from?” but the creator can identify the things that inspired and influenced his or her new creation.
You’ve probably already figured it out, but when I talk about “stealing” from your competition, I’m talking about taking what they do well, synthesizing it, improving it, and making it your own.
And not only is this okay, it’s one of the best ways to do your work.
You should regularly be watching what your competition is doing, noticing what they’re doing well, and then trying to figure out if there’s a way to create something new by doing it even better.
And I don’t mean just in their ads, either: Look at their copy all over. Do they have a particularly good message on their subscription opt-out page? Do they feature their CEO in an interesting way? What are they doing that works?
You also need to be looking outside of your competitors, your industry and your general wheelhouse to find interesting ideas to iterate on. As our Academy members know from our interview with Marshalls Creative Director Jennifer Gowasack-Fisher, inspiration is literally all around you. The best and most creative copywriters are those who are open to being inspired at any time and in any place.
Some of the biggest, most world-changing ideas have come about because of synthesizing other ideas. By keeping an eye on your clients’ competition and staying open to ideas from other sources, you increase your own chances of creating something truly mindblowing.
Your turn! What ideas have you synthesized into your own? Let us know in the comments below!