Understanding The Backlash Cost In Copying Someone Else's Work
from the thinking-things-through dept
Earlier this month, we wrote about a neat marketing campaign put on by the Eepy Bird guys using tons of Post-It Notes. It wasn’t clear if 3M, the makers of Post-It Notes was actually involved or not — but it appears the company is busy at work on its own viral marketing campaign, though it’s off to a poor start. As a bunch of folks have sent in, 3M apparently decided to make make its own car covered in Post-It Notes photo after the company failed to license the original photo that was made famous a few years ago.
Now, I find the people who claim that 3M was “stealing” the concept just as (if not more) silly as those who claim that downloading an unauthorized song is “stealing.” 3M tried to license the photo and couldn’t agree on a price, so it made its own. It didn’t “steal” the idea, it just found it more cost effective to do it on its own (the classic buy vs. build decision). However, it does appear that the company didn’t take the backlash cost into account in figuring out that buy vs. build equation.
This is actually quite important. Often, when we talk about things like plagiarism or copyright infringement, people insist that others will always “rip you off” and copy your work and there’s absolutely no recourse. Yet, they fail to acknowledge the importance of reputation. If you are caught so uncreatively copying someone else, without doing anything new or innovative on top of that, it’s not surprising that people will call you out, often vehemently, for your uncreative copying efforts. That can have quite a big cost in terms of reputation and credibility, probably a lot more than it would have cost to have reached an agreement with the original creator. So, before thinking it’s so easy for big companies flat out “rip off” someone else’s creative work, just remember that there are some pretty serious hidden reputation costs in them doing so.