Copying:Playing Clean When Others Play Dirty

I know I said branding was next but I received an overwhelming response to cover a topic and this topic will lead me into branding: What if you know someone is deliberately copying you?

Let me share my experience with this.  A certain designer with quite a following stopped by my page and left a comment hi from…and she tagged her company name.   It was a little odd but since I knew she was local and because I am friends with other local designers I thought she was maybe looking to reach out to connect.  Either that or just fishing for fans.  I went to her wall and said hello back and we got to chatting about how nice it was in HB and how I moved a little inland from there after having Marlise and wouldn’t it be great to meet sometime?  Overall a nice chat.  For the next week she went along liking my posts and making comments.  Then it took a turn for the worse.

She posted a picture of ruffles I am known for in the same colors I offer them.  Actually a picture of the swatch card from the same vendor I purchase from.  The post with the picture read, “Coming soon-what do you think I should make with them?”  Many said a dress out of your tee shirts and one said leggings.  I posted a comment on the thread saying “that’s what I make with them”.  My comment was promptly deleted.  I was outraged!

Sure enough she did make ruffle leggings.  Later I made gold leggings and metallic pink leggings, a couple weeks later so did she.  Coincidence?  I think not.

So what did I do?  Well, first I complained to my husband who reminded me there was no law to prevent this.  “Well she has more fans than me”, I complained.  “People may think it was her idea when it was mine.”  After I was done complaining I brooded.  I thought about leaving mean comments or sending a mean email-but it’s just not my nature.  So, I unfanned her.  Yep, that was my big move.  That and asking my friends not to email me or call me anymore if she copied me.  I could not waste another minute worrying about her and if she was going to copy me.  Copying is her nature.  My focus is designing and setting trends.

There was one small triumph in this story.  When she first posted her ruffle leggings a fan went on her page and commented, “Aren’t those kangacoo designs leggings?”  (Important to note that this was at her own will-I did not send her.  That would be playing dirty and I like to play it clean.)  Her comment was promptly deleted too.  However, I smiled to myself.  Despite the fact that at the time I only had about 2000 fans was still trying to bring awareness to my line I was doing a good job branding those ruffle leggings as a kangacoo design.  People recognized them as part of my label.

So now I really will talk about branding next.  What steps can you take to be sure people connect a product with your brand/company name?

*Note* Notice that I did not name this other designer.  It was on purpose so please don’t try to guess.  The only thing I can control in life is my reaction and my interaction.  Play clean.  Try only to speak good and if you can’t remove that person from your life.  Or just unfan them.

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4 Comments

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4 responses to “Copying:Playing Clean When Others Play Dirty

  1. Jenn Morris

    Thank you for posting this series! There are times I feel plain defeated when I see someone whom I think is deliberately “copying”– but this pales in comparison to the defeat I feel when I have a truly “original” idea- and then discover it’s not original AT ALL!!! (this is what small-town-midwest brings- ha) I eagerly anticipate the knowledge (and courage) I will gain as I read your posts. MUCH LOVE!

  2. This is painful and I’m sorry it happened to you. It happens to anyone if you’re any good.

    This is the thing about copyists, they copy the obvious. And sure, that can give them a leg up, an order of magnitude but after awhile, the reward (for copying the obvious) tapers off and they flat-line. The reason is, they’re only focusing on the obvious and what it really takes to make it over the long haul isn’t obvious. If it’s not something that’s hitting them in the face, they don’t understood it or know how valuable it is because all their energy is focused on your heels. Here’s where I get boring. The stuff nobody sees or values is what we call “best practices“. A standard way to do things well. They’re not doing that.

    I have a friend, an editor VIP in the kid’s industry. Attention from her can make or break a line. She loves new lines but like me, she’s very frustrated that designers go for the obvious, not the best practices (that link above is a redux of our conversation).

    This is the redux: Most people chase flash, what’s big and obvious, you know, a big red easy button or a magic wand; something dramatic that will really turn things around overnight. You run out of those after awhile. Which is why copyists flat-line -they’re REACTING and following you, they’re not leading, trying to stay ahead of you.

    I’ve had people copy me too. I’m embarrassed to say it used to upset me. These days I find it interesting -most of the time. I watch to see what they’re doing, how they’re doing it, what their strengths are -is it video, a different sort of accessibility, social media, voice, market segment or even how they package themselves. The only time I get annoyed is if they copy my content and repackage it as their own. If it amounts to outright plagiarism I have to order a take down because not doing so means I lose the rights to my own material -it becomes public domain.

    However, if they’re just doing a remix, I don’t say anything. After watching so many come and go, I’ve learned I don’t need to say anything because copying means they’re not going to last long because again, they’ve only seen the obvious. They think my money is tied up in the counter tip jar and go after that -they haven’t seen what feeds the till. So they slog along and bottom feed for a year or two, it keeps things lively. I use it as an exercise to see which of my assets has the most appeal and value for them. If they can sell it too, I obviously need to pay more attention to it.

    Summary: Just continue to put stuff out there. It will blend after awhile, so seeing what other people copy is a sort of feedback service in that you don’t need a focus group to know what customers like and how to repackage it yourself to be better still.

  3. Thank you for posting this series. I didn’t have items copied, I had my entire business plan copied by a close friend (like bridesmaid in my wedding close). I eventually learned I had to just walk away from the drama of it all and keep doing things my way, in my time. Thank you for helping me stay with that decision, and see that it’s the best practice in this situation.

  4. Tami D. in Ohio

    Loving this series too! I just found out recently that my main item, my niche item, had a copycat from another shop on Etsy, one much larger than mine. Boy did that hurt when I first found it. I will give her credit though, she didn’t copy me exactly – she at least put a little of her own spin on the item, but her basic design concept is mine. I am not sure how much of her spin was just because she couldn’t find the resources for my signature part of the design – it is slightly rare which gives me an edge. After stewing for a little while about it, I conceded to take it as a compliment that I am indeed on the right track with my look and concept. I am also proud that my signature is becoming recognized by others. My design popped up on a girl shown in a video on Good Morning America not too long ago and I was impressed by the number of people who left comments and sent messages asking if it was indeed mine.

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