• The Pepper Shaker

  • September 2010
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Imitation: The Sincerest Form of Flattery

That’s how the saying goes. I have been thinking about this phrase and wonder: aren’t we all just copying what we’ve seen done before? For the most part, I think so. We see the qualities in others and evaluate what we like and don’t like, which then influences us to act in a similar manner. I mean, you like how that person listens, you like how that person does her hair, you don’t like a person’s laugh, you don’t like the example they set for children, etc. – so, you act likewise.

So when someone imitates you, how do you feel? Flattered? I say most people do (so long as it’s a good quality.) I would also say some people feel annoyed. (“Don’t be a copycat!”) When it comes to the communications world,  I would say communicators are the same way. Some companies won’t like that you are trying to copy them. For example, why does Burger King always “invent” and promote the same product that McDonald’s is advertising? I bet that gets annoying for McDonald’s.

But what about imitations that are like parodies? I don’t have statistical evidence, but I think when someone creates a parody of your product or advertisement, it usually boosts visibility of the original product. It creates the thought in mind that if they are doing a remake of that song/commercial/video/show/etc, that original product must be have been popular in the first place.

To get what I’m saying, I’ve included two videos below. The first is a parody of the recent instant-classic Old Spice commercial, created by students at Brigham Young University in promoting use of the university library. This ad wouldn’t make sense on it’s own – audiences must know the original work. The parody then strengthens the awareness of the original (and the product, too!) So, not only is it flattering for Old Spice, but it brings in more awareness and more $$$.

And this one: imitation at its most basic natural tendencies. But to get why this is so funny, people must be familiar with Beyonce’s “Single Ladies” video, right? (OK, this one may be funny either way.) Copycats bring in the ratings not only for themselves, but for that which is being copied. Interesting, right?


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