Ooohhhh me too. Me too. Me too.

When a brand so closely resembles another in communications, logo, name, or colors that it causes confusion in the market and to its customers, it is called a copycat brand or as I call it, a “Me Too Brand.”

I once met with this tech company whose whole strategy was to intentionally be a Me Too Brand. Their plan was to confuse the market so they could steal their competitor’s clients. They even went so far as to rename their company. They took the company’s two word name and reversed the order of the words. They had a similar logo drawn up and even mimicked the company’s website and marketing materials.

At first this strategy worked, they were successful at stealing clients from the competitor. Clients would call thinking they called the original company. They were able to grow really fast because of this. After a few years the owner of the original company was arrested for fraud. Not only did his company suffer and go out of business, but so did the Me Too Brand. You see, when you create confusion in the market to steal clients, your brand is no longer your brand. You will have to deal with ALL of the effects of your own actions AND another company’s. The Me Too Brand tried to explain to its customers that they were not the original brand, but the clients didn’t believe them. They were forced to do a complete rebranding and establish credibility with new clients…they basically had to start over and do what they should have done in the first place, build their own brand.

I won’t lie to you, there are short-term benefits to copying a successful brand. It gives you instant visibility, helps you grow fast, and gives you perceived credibility in the market. But the short-term benefits never outweigh the potential costs of the long-term effects. These can include lawsuits, a forced rebranding, an inability to build true brand equity, and confusion of your own clients and the market as a whole. After all, if you choose to take the route of being a Me Too Brand, what got you here, won’t take you there and just as easily as these actions can benefit you, they can hurt you.

Here are a few tips to consider and help you prevent becoming a Me Too Brand:

  • Do your customer and prospects confuse you with other brands?
  • Legally protect your brand where you can—trademark and / or copyright logos, taglines, and original IP. Interesting bit of information about this: consumers’ preference is, in order, color, shapes, symbols, and then finally text. But our legal system protects text as a top priority and color is least protected.
  • Be aware of the adjectives that you use in your marketing: state of the art, full service, and most advanced are a few examples. These phrases are so over broad that they end up meaning nothing to the customer.
  • Do a comparative assessment of your competition. What is their core message, look, sound and feel? Is it similar to yours?
  • Do you have the same marketing strategy or use the same channels as your competition?

Before you can beat your competition, your customers have to be able to tell you apart. The opportunity to work with an audience is a privilege, don’t take that for granted.