Copy that, copy cat!
There is nothing (much) new under the sun.
Your intellectual property is valuable and important but probably not for the reasons you think it is.
Many people get upset when they come out with a new product range only to find someone else do the same a few months later – sometimes using similar packaging and ingredients. As maddening as that can be it is really important to separate the copy cat from those competitors who just happen to have similar taste to you, use the same suppliers or watch/ read the same stuff.
Straight out copying is bad. I’ve come across people so brazen that they will call up and ask a brand where they got their ingredients and packaging from before going out and re-doing it themselves.
If your brand is on the receiving end of this kind of attention it is absolutely OK so say ‘no, that information is not for sharing’ although, depending on the size of the supply market it may not take too long for them to find out anyway. That’s just the way it is. However, if you feel you are seriously being stalked then replicated that is worth getting legal advise on. There’s a line of decency that should not be crossed.
But back to the similar and annoying type of ‘copying’.
From where I sit I see enquiries for products come in waves – micellar water, charcoal teeth whiteners, papaw balm, beard oils, coffee scrubs…..
Things like the above become popular because they capture or tend to a fashion of the moment. Coffee scrub is actually a great example. There were tonnes of coffee scrub brands about before one particular brand make them ultra-sexy on Instagram. The ‘original’ coffee scrubs (of which there were hundreds) were probably (and rightly) annoyed to find this newbie selling out by the bucket load while theirs was still plodding away. This can and does happen a lot in an industry that is predominantly driven by fashion and lifestyle.
And that’s where your brand IP comes in.
Your formulation and ingredient choices are only one part of that – it’s the part I spend much of my time in my business creating/ working on but even so I’ll readily admit it’s not the be-all-and-end-all of a brands IP.
Brand value encompasses all of these things and it is because of this list that we shouldn’t stress out when a ‘competitor’ cottons on to the fact that we are using native pea juice in our serum now (or whatever happens to be the next big thing).
- Our recipe or formulation.
- Manufacturing instructions.
- Ingredient supplier.
- Packaging supplier and specs.
- Marketing strategy and how we implement it.
- Brand look and feel.
- Brand dynamic – how it interacts, the language we use, the platforms we inhabit.
- Business reputation including time in business / business standing.
- Personality of staff/ contact points.
- Accessibility of product – can I buy it, how long does it take to get to me.
- How ‘good’ the product is.
- Customer relations.
- Shopping experience.
- Recommendations/ Endorsements/ Testimonials.
- Functionality – is the product usable? Does it last? Does it do what it says it will?
Have I missed anything?
The long and short of it is it is very likely that other people will use the same packaging as you, similar ingredients and even share the same suppliers as you (especially here in Australia where choice is limited). That doesn’t necessarily mean they are watching your every move and nor does it mean your customers will be too.
The best brands (in terms of how satisfied they are with their business and how happy their customers are ) that I work with are the brands that focus all of their attention on what they are doing and what their customers want and only occasionally look out to see what’s going on in other places. The most unhappy brands I come across have that ratio flipped right around and feel like everyone is steeling their ideas. Some brand owners are so scared of copy cats they won’t even open up to have other people help them – I’ve certainly felt that before.
If you are in any doubt as to whether you are being blatantly ripped off do get some professional advise as the negative focus will not help your business grow but if you are just sharing a vibe with others that’s pretty normal. In fact, as a brand you can take some comfort from the fact that other people are doing/ using the same stuff as you – you obviously have popular taste!
And for those cases where you want to put very firm boundaries in place to protect your investment see an Intellectual Property Lawyer and invest ahead of time.
Good luck guys x