Smart brands know when to innovate and when to copy

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In business, innovation is often over hyped. Here is a universal fact: Most businesses succeed by copying most of the time. You cannot keep reinventing the wheel. Smart brands know when to innovate and when to copy. An example of a smart brand in the app world is Facebook.

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Facebook The Innovator

There is no question about Facebook’s ability to innovate. It has been proven over the years. But in recent times, we have seen a different side of the brand: an all out copy job on another brand. Facebook has copied Snapchat’s Stories feature and implemented it in Instagram, Messenger, WhatsApp and now the main Facebook app itself.

And contrary to all the gripe that many commentators are throwing around, it is a brilliant move. Facebook knows when to innovate and when to copy. This is not a time to innovate.

Like I have said a zillion times over the years, most successful businesses became so by copying what another business was already doing. Many already successful businesses become even more successful by copying what a new entrant is doing.

When Smart Brands Need To Copy

Facebook belongs to the latter category. It is already a successful business. Facebook is a leviathan beside Snapchat. There is no competition. The Facebook empire rules supreme. But when a nimble upstart shows up and you see lots of young people talking about it, no matter how big you are, you pay attention.

You pay attention and copy fast!

Because as big and successful as Facebook is, it started out in a different generation. The Snapchat generation is a younger, fresher one. If this new generation likes Snapchat, there has to be something about it. And the smart, bigger, older, successful platform knows it is time to copy. Simple.

Make no mistake about it: I would like to see someone give Facebook a run for their money. As it is, Facebook is already ubiquitous. They have their tentacles everywhere. Some competition will be good. But this quick reaction to Snapchat before it becomes a real threat to them is a smart move. It is straight out of the best strategy books.

Did You Say Copy? Isn’t That Illegal?

When I talk about copying, I do not refer to illegalities like using your competitor’s intellectual property. If you run a blog, it is wrong to copy and paste another blog’s content. If you run an app, it is wrong to copy any patented processes or techniques that a competing app uses. So, what kind of copying are we talking about?

If you produce a coco drink and your competitor adds vitamins to their beverage to appeal to health conscious people and you observe that it is catching on, add vitamins to your drink too. No intellectual property violations in that. If video is becoming the in-thing on competing blogs, start adding videos to your blog too. No intellectual property violation in that.

You get the picture? There is right and wrong copying. A huge chunk of commerce, industry and all business in general thrives on good copy work. Innovations are far in between. The key is this: do not copy stuff that is intellectually protected. Simple. If something is intellectually protected, you need to either create yours or license from the creator.

Be Like Facebook

Smart brands know when to innovate and when to copy. Facebook knows that this is no time to get into the labs to cook up something new. This is the time to copy the hell out of the new guy. Facebook is a smart brand. Be like Facebook.


  1. You have a point, Mr. Mobility, but Facebook shouldn’t forget its core values, missions and visions. Facebook is now trying to be like Twitter, still be like Ebay, still be like LinkedIn and Snapchat at the same time. As I have written on HOWTOTECHNAIJA on What Next After Facebook Messenger Day, I wouldn’t be surprise if Facebook Spectacles is also release.

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