Start-Up Marketing (Guest Post – Six in a Series)


My good friend Jeff Berman has agreed to contribute a series on marketing for startups to the Scratchpaper community. This is the sixth in the series (table of contents here). Stay tuned for more.

How to Botch Marketing #5: Just Copy What The Category Leader Says

Hey, if it works for the #1 brand in the category, it will work for you, right?

Before deciding on a me-too marketing strategy, try this thought experiment: Consider a time when you were faced with a brand decision between the category leader and the copycat. How many times did you choose the copycat?

The Difference Between Brand and Commodity

Virtually every marketer who positions his brand as an acceptable alternative to a category leader is playing a losing game.

The me-too strategy works only when you can compete on price, such as store-brand alternatives to name-brand cosmetics. If you have the volume to produce at lower cost than the category leader and you’re willing to commoditize the category, feel free to disregard this post.

For everyone else, think about your message and design as tools to distinguish your brand from others. The valuable brands are those whose users see them as different from competitors for good reasons.

The Difference Between Operations and Marketing

Operationally, it might make sense to play the copycat. Following in the footsteps of someone who has built an efficient organization can spare you from making your own costly mistakes.

But marketing works by different rules from operations. When your message mimics that of the category leader, you only remind your audience that the other guys are #1 and you’re not.

Your Unique Message Already Exists

Where does your distinct, ownable brand message come from? It comes from the very reason you’re in business. Read the next post for more.

Jeff Berman is the founder and principal of Berman Creative, a creative agency focusing on brand strategy and marketing solutions for early-stage and redirected companies. You can reach Jeff at We’re grateful for his contribution. 

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