You can’t imitate your way to innovation. Here’s a good example of a brand that imitates the strategies and tactics of one its biggest competitor. On my way to an Apple store, I walked by a Microsoft store. It was stunning how similar both stores looked. The one big difference: the Microsoft store was completely empty.
Microsoft copied the concept. Apple stole it.
Steve Jobs mentioned the famous Picasso quote (”Good artists copy. Great artists steal.”) many times because its at the core of Apple’s philosophy: Don’t just copy: steal and make it your own. Computer stores used to be messy and fairly uninviting. The inspiration for Apple stores didn’t come from those chaotic experiences, it came from the world of luxury boutiques: expensive materials, inviting street presence, bright lights and friendly employees. They stole and imitated; but not from their competitors.
There are scenarios where it makes sense to plainly imitate: Ask Zara, a low price imitator par excellence. When you have an expensive product and can deliver a comparable experience for a disruptively low price: That’s a winning strategy because you’re opening up new markets.
Generally, mindlessly mimicking the direct competition is a race to the bottom. Making ideas your own and transforming your industry can turn you into the most valuable company in the world.