Should You Steal Your Competitors Marketing Ideas and Brand Identity?

I recently talked with an old friend a few weeks ago. The last time I talked with him was during the Christmas season in 2005. After a few minutes of catching up on old memories, the conversation turned to owning and operating a small business.

Since the time I talked with my friend in 2005, he and his wife started a small business. They have enjoyed very good success. He and his wife grew their business from zero to over $500,000 in gross sales since January 2006. The problem he is having is a direct competitor is copying his website and stealing his marketing ideas and campaigns.

According to my friend, his company and his direct competitor has a product overlap of approximately 50%. The remaining 50% of product selection are unrelated and do not overlap.

His competitor has been in business for over 5 years and their annual sales are about $1,000,000 per year. My friend has a lot of very good ideas and approaches his business in a very unique and creative way. According to my friend, his unethical competitor has stolen his recent marketing campaign.

The story is, my friend began testing a new ad campaign on one of the leading search engines. After a few days, his competitor took his ad, made a few slight changes and began running similar ads on the remaining search engines. The ads are so close that they could easily cause confusion. Due to confidential business information, I am not going to provide the exact ads, but here is an example of the ads:

My friend’s ad:

Powerful Backyard Tools
Everything you need to get your backyard ready for spring.

His direct competitor’s ad:

Backyard Powerful Tools
Get your backyard ready for spring – Everything you need.

In addition, to stealing his latest campaign, a few months ago this same competitor copied the basic design and layout of his website. When I looked at the two sites, I was easily confused by the layout, design and titles of the two websites.

So back to the question in my title: Should you steal your competitors marketing ideas and brand identity? The answer is Yes! Let me explain. The only reason you should steal your competitors’ marketing ideas and brand identity is for the following reasons:

  • You want to completely destroy your company’s unique selling advantage
  • You want to lose your own brand identity
  • You don’t have any original and creative ideas
  • You want to get sued for copyright and trademark infringement
  • You want to confuse your own customer base

Although we could easily create a list with dozens of bullet points, let’s take a closer look at each one of the above list.

You want to completely destroy your company’s unique selling advantage (USA): If you spent more than one day as a sales professional, you know that sales are made by explaining the advantages of your product over the competition. In addition, you need to explain the differences. By explaining the differences in product features, you present your products as the solution to your customer’s problems. I don’t mean you should badmouth your competitors. I mean to point out what makes your products unique. By copying your competitors, your company will lose its USA.

You want to lose your own brand identity: If you spend all of your time copying your competitor’s ideas you will lose what your company stands for and what your company is about. Your brand will become a carbon copy of the brand you are copying. This may appear to make sense in the short-term, but it will be lethal in the long-term. The reason it will not be good for your company is you will not have the experience of creating original material and content. You will get into the habit of copying and not developing your own creative and critical thinking skills. In addition, if you copy a competitor, you are consciously or unconsciously admitting your competitor is the leader in your industry. This is also very bad for your company.

You don’t have any original and creative ideas: Admittedly, creative and original ideas are very tough to create 365 days a year. If your company is lacking in ideas, the best place to create new ideas is to take a vacation. I find 3-4 day quick vacations work best for me. In addition to a 3-day weekend, you may consider hiring an outside consultant to infuse new ideas into your company.

You want to get sued for copyright and trademark infringement: In the 21st century, intellectual property (IP) is the most valuable asset a company can possess. Since business moves at the speed of light, companies are very aggressive in protecting their IP and prosecuting any infringer to the fullest extent. Infringing of any sort is never a good idea.

You want to confuse your own customer base: My friend laughed when he said the following, “although my competitor is copying my ideas and campaigns, he is actually helping me to grow my business.” Let me explain; my friend’s competitor is larger than his business, so this means his competitor has a larger customer database. In essence, his competitor is actively confusing his own customers by copying my friend’s website and campaigns.

In addition, his competitor is aggressively putting himself out of business. He is spending his time to copy my friend instead if creating creative campaigns to grow his own business. His competitor is more worried about my friend’s business than his own. Again, good for my friend, but very bad for his competitor.

If you have comments or suggestions on how my friend could combat this copying competition, send me a note. I’ll pass along your comments to my friend.

Andy LaPointe

Andy specializes in building brands and developing fully intregrated marketing campaigns. He is the author of 7 books. He writes on the topics of branding, online marketing and strategic brand intergration.

Andy's website site is


  1. I’d combat it by documenting it on a section on his web site. You’ve got to tackle this stuff head on. Big companies throw cash at it via the legal system to maintain the integrity of their brand but small business has to be creative. It would show customers who is the innovative and unique company as well as hopefully embarrass the competitor to stop plagiarizing his ideas.

    I’d pitch it as We’re so good at what we do our competitor copies us then provide screen shots of web sites, ad campaigns and offers with a timeline. Do it in a light hearted way by making fun of the similarities but really emphasizing the differences.

    Good luck to your friend though I imagine it would be a incredibly frustrating experience.

  2. Is it just the adverts that the competitor is copying or is it the layout of the website as well? You briefly mention the website but don’t go into details.

    To me the competitors advert sounds broken so wouldn’t be a major issue for me but if the website is being copied as well then that most definitely is a concern.

  3. I think that part of the responsibility falls on your friend to come up with products and marketing campaigns that are not easily copied. He could make up a name for a product that’s totally unique or establish an exclusive partnership so his competitor can’t join in. It’s a challenge but he should try to sell his brand (including the company name) as well as sell his products.

  4. Hey, good food thought. As you said, it is indeed possible to do so, and you can do it as much as you want (lawfully), but then…there is no point to it!

    Branding and marketing wise, you won’t be getting anything out of it. Actually, you might be losing much!

    HAving a brand isn’t about being as much alike as possible as your competitors to try to ride their wave, it is about seeing them, recognizing them, and then doing it better through a differentiated approach.

    This is silly, and as I’m sure he already knows, tell your friend he has little-to-none to worry about. Copycats run out of ides quick, and their businesses run out consumers even quicker.

    Good post,
    Ron E.

  5. I agree with taking the high road and ignoring what is happening. Concentrate on your brand. Lead don’t follow. The competitor is following. Customers know what is going on. Your friend is actually defining the competitor’s brand. Don’t waste energy on this nonsense.

    I have a windows and door manufacturer customer who’s competitor does the exact same thing as far as themes go. Winter Booking Sale for instance. Since my customer was first to market it 27 years ago, I feel the competitior is simple reinforcing my customer’s sale.

    The only time it was addressed directly was at a social event where my customer told the owner of the competiting company, “Why don’t I save you a lot of effort, I’ll just call you and tell you our plans prior to launch.” He got a little chuckle at the other guys expense. That was the only direct response taken.

    I would take seriously any copy right infringements though, like copying logos and trademarks. That is serious stuff.

    I believe your friend will win in the end. He is obviously scaring the other guy so much he feels he has to take the tactic he has. Just concentrate on growing the company – let the other guy play his games. He’s fooling no one.

  6. Seems to me the competitor has no personality of his own so he has to ‘borrow’ someone else’s. Trouble is it probably doesn’t fit him too well and at some stage it’s going to show.

  7. Andy LaPointe says:

    Thanks Sure! Do it! for your comments. However, I not sure I fully understand your comments. Could you please expand on your comments so I may fully understand your thought process?



  8. Man, it was nice to find this thread. I feel much better knowing that the situation I’m in is not so unique. Also glad to see that there are people who feel that ethics have a just an important a place in business as they do in private life. I’ve got a competitor who makes me feel like I’m being stalked. It’s actually unbelievable sometimes how far these people will go to attempt to assume my business’s identity. At times it’s funny, but often it’s absolutely infuriating. They directly contact all of my customers, copy my website, clone my ideas, naming conventions and promotional flair; they even try to emulate my writing style and sense of humor. It’s disgusting. Every move I make elicits a response of some kind. I don’t even know how they get some of the information they get. It’s almost like they are intercepting my emails and web activities.

    I agree with most of your comments, people who are so devoid of their own identity are pathetic losers, however having a competitor up my ass 24/7 certainly takes a lot of the fun out of owning and operating a business. I hesitate to implement and promote new ideas, and I have so many of them, but I just feel like I’m being violated every time something I created is blatantly appropriated by these schmucks.


  9. Hi T. I can see this would be severely frustrating. I used to have a similiar problem, right down to my exact store fixtures I was using with the exact same product I had on them! I think the best thing you can do is rise above the thoughts of having to deal with this and forget they even exist (to a point) that way you can continue to focus on and build what you’re doing. They are the lost ones, because they obviously don’t know how to develop their own business.

  10. Simply promote a release date to your customers before you release your ideas.
    Then when you release your new idea all your and his/her customers will know the idea was generated by you first. If your competitor copies your customers will know, you’ll find out more about your customers then – whether they’re price sensitive, ethical buyers or just loyal to whoever.

  11. Jim,

    Thanks for the idea, I’ll pass it along to my friend. A quick update on this situation my friend has launched an aggressive YouTube campaign and this competitor is voting down all of his videos and putting negative comments on his video. The reason my friend knows this is his competitior used his real name and them deleted some of the comments but his competitors name is still on his video comments.

    His competitors are wasting all of thier time voting down my friends video instead of growing their business I would venture to say they won’t be in business much longer because if they have the time to vote down his videos their business must be slow. 🙂

  12. very nice article and thanks for sharing