Copy cat

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The technique was simple: elbow primed, head lowered and a quick bum shuffle 35 degrees to the right as you protectively shield that spelling test from an inquisitive, heavy-breathing peer. That was how to deal with a copy cat. If you were one, then kudos to you and your attempted time-saving ways – no doubt you got to watch more of 80s stalwart Fun House for it.

But on the Internet, an elbow emoji just isn’t going to cut the fiery mustard. Equally, one’s purpose on social media (my mate Toby calls it ‘social needia’; lame but distressingly on point) is to be a veritable foghorn. It’s where you say stuff about your under crackers (I speak for myself and no other) that you probably wouldn’t say to a stranger in the tinned goods aisle of Tesco. As a brand it’s where you get to set up your digital stall and holler, ‘C’mon geddit’ in, perhaps, an East End cockney accent.

But then someone likes it and sticks their own ring on it – or in Nor-Folk’s case (some ballsy Portuguese chap simply lifted their entire branding, including Instagram images of their son, Stanley without batting an eyelid) nick it. Squint and perhaps there’s a slightly different logo, but fundamentally they’ve started singing from the same hymn sheet, pedalling the same wares and asking the same folk to come trotting on over, purse strings flapping.

There’s competition and then there’s copying. For clarity, the former is ‘striving to gain something by defeating others’, the latter ‘to reproduce someone else’s work’. While I’ve not had any major issues – the odd phrase here and there lifted from my blatherings, but really I fear my goods are not fruitful pickings for those wily feline folk. It’s seeing someone like Retro Kids have their entire concept copied and pasted into another name. I’ve been following mother-of-two Joanne for a couple of years now and I, along with her troupe of dedicated followers were like rats out of aqueducts in our attempt to clarify that there was only one Retro Kids. (We were akin to those boozed-up 80s football hooligans after a particularly unfair referee decision; it got a bit primal.)

Why the witch hunt? Because each brand, each blog and each platform that launches has come from a deeply personal, highly motivated – often out of necessity; often to whack food in tiny chirping mouths; almost always for flexibility – place. This isn’t some vanity project; it’s a life project… A project that’s smattered with crippling doubts, moments of despair at another website crash or a rabid email from a customer who probably just needs a Wotsit and Skip sandwich (on Tesco Value white bread) and a cuppa. It’s a financial lifeline with often very little coming out of it in the first year or so. It’s a future that’s bright, not necessarily orange; it’s a dream of a fully-functioning bathroom or a non-dripping kitchen tap and it’s ultimately another life; your life – a life that enables you to be with your kids despite working longer hours and wondering why your face resembles a limp sock.

Then someone swoops in and plonks another nest right beside yours. The same nest with a slightly tweked logo. It’s easy to do and sometimes it’s not even intentional but having seen two big brands go through it and numerous smaller brands suffer in silence, it’s beyond just ruffling feathers. It’s shitting on someone from the tree tops and actually nicking their twigs in the process.

There will always be room for stonking great ideas, but making them yours is where the fun is; it’s where you find yourself among the familial rubble. And if we must quote Fun House’s host Pat Sharpe, ‘prizes will be won’. Just make sure they’re yours.

Image: Miles Aldridge

Anna Whitehouse

Founder of Mother Pukka, Anna Whitehouse likes super hero cape-making classes and dislikes the naming of celebrity couples (TomKat, Brange etc.) She tries (and often fails) to parent the shit out of life.

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