The Style Of The Unoriginal

Fall 2013

Back to the Spin66 Studio Circular


Today it seems like everyone "borrows" one-another's ideas. Recognized, successful business models appear to be the key targets of this phenomenon.

However, what happens when you go toe-to-toe with your competitor and copy everything about their product model and marketing? A perfect example of this is Toms® and Bobs shoe brands.

In 2006, Toms shoes came up with this great idea to create a shoe out of natural materials touting an environmental feel. The marketing program surrounding these shoes also integrated a give back program – for every pair of shoes you buy, one is donated to a child in need. Now they also help with eye care for children in need. From the beginning they have been transparent about the donation program and it's been a huge success.



Four years later, Sketchers® shoe company took notice of the Toms program and thought it was such a good idea that in 2010 they decided to create the exact same shoe style and marketing program. They did not simply do something similar to the Toms brand, to keep an element of their own unique style. They copied every detail from the shoe style, to the donation program, even the similar three letter male name, Bobs. On the Bobs website they have a link that leads to "their story", told in the same manner as Toms story.

Recently, I overheard a young girl in a shoe store say, "Mom, these guys ripped off the Tom's shoe." This made me wonder, how many others have noticed? I did some digging on the web, and as it turns out, it's been a heated topic of discussion. In fact, one on-going survey provided by Ecouterre, showed that out of the 7,443 people who voted, 6,827 people felt this was a total rip-off and 616 people felt that it was ok and didn't infringe on any brands or patents.

Though Bobs may have taken some of the market share away, Toms still continues to have customer awareness and dedication that shows in their market share. Bobs may be doing a good thing with their donations, but unfortunately it will always be known as the copycat brand with an uphill battle to attain any sort of solid reputation. Maybe Sketchers thought people wouldn't notice.

There is a fine line between understanding a successful business strategy in order to help develop your own, and flat out copying a business vision, brand and products at the same price point. This will not show well for any business.

I have personally worked within companies and had clients who have asked me to create an ad campaign that was in line with all their competitors. My question to them has always been, why spend the money if you don't want to stand out, be differentiated, and be the leading brand? It's clear that the "me too" model limits business and awareness opportunities.


Written by Charlene Moore