Steal this idea

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One of the most difficult transitions for me when I started working in higher education was the idea of stealing ideas.  We even have contests called Steal This Idea!  Coming from working in design and photography “steal” was a dirty word.  I’d had my pictures taken from my Web site, watermark cropped out, and then used on someone’s blog.  When we finalized our book on the branding process we completed, the idea of putting it out there for anyone to do whatever they wanted with was terrifying.  Yet, stealing ideas is encouraged on a daily basis.  So, is it wrong? Is stealing bad? How do we determine when to steal and when not to steal?

Well, yes stealing is bad, but not in all situations.  The idea of stealing ideas in social media and marketing is often encouraged.  I see (too) many blogs and articles saying “This worked for me and it will work for you!”  I do suppose if you’re given permission, it’s not really stealing.  The trick is, you need to take the idea that you’re “stealing” and make it work for you.  Audre Lorde said, “There are no new ideas. There are only new ways of making them felt.”  Yes, there are certain circumstances where stealing and adapting ideas is encouraged, but as marketers we need to think about how we change it and make it work for us.  Just because it worked for someone else, doesn’t mean it will work for us.

Take a look at these three videos.  Each one is different, with a different target, and a different message.  Each one also uses the same concept, but in a slightly different way.  The feelings and emotions are different.  The idea of writing on cards or on our body to convey messages without speaking isn’t new, but the feelings and emotions that compel people to action are.  Each campaign made this concept their own and that’s why they’re successful.  The didn’t see an idea and find a song or person to make it work, they saw a way to bring their message to life and they used it.

The thought that there are no new ideas isn’t necessarily a bad thing.  Does it matter if a customer has seen the concept before? What matters is the bond they create after watching the media and the feelings they experience.  If it makes a difference for them, the concept doesn’t matter, the message does.  What are your thoughts?  Do you have any good examples of “stolen” ideas that you’ve made work for you?

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5 Responses to “Steal this idea”

  1. mandybeck27 Says:

    The Council for Advancement and Support of Education, CASE, is often referred to as Copy And Steal Everything. It’s one of my favorite things about working in higher education communications. It’s an open forum of ideas like the institutions we represent. But I totally agree that we as marketers need to know our institutions and constituents and how they differ from the inspiration school. Rule number one of know your audience still applies!

  2. mandybeck27 Says:

    The Council for Advancement and Support of Education, CASE, is often referred to as Copy And Steal Everything. It’s one of my favorite things about working in higher education communications. It’s an open forum of ideas like the institutions we represent. But I totally agree that we as marketers need to know our institutions and constituents and how they differ from the inspiration school. Rule number one of know your audience still applies!

  3. katshanahan Says:

    Thanks for the comment! You’re exactly right, it is a very supportive community that shares everything. I agree that knowing your audience is the best thing we can do as marketers. It’s been interesting and refreshing to blend the two (at times very different) realms of marketing and higher education. It has really made me look at things differently!

  4. Bill Clarke Says:

    Fantastic overview Kat, some of the best ideas are stolen, or as I like to say re-manufactured for another audience.

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