Last week I read a fascinating blog post on this site written by an old colleague, Muzaffar Manghi, in which he broached the subject of plagiarism and inspiration. To quote from the blog post: “Everything, in essence, is plagiarised. Everything.”
So there you have it – that universal truth. A truth not acknowledged by many due to ego driven lack of acceptance, but a truth all the same. As people, you and I strive to be different, to be original. Fortunately, this is a lost cause. Yes fortunately. We can never be truly original (or to use another much bandied about word – creative). So what can we do, what can we achieve as marketers, in this blood thirsty arena of peers who demand to be not only entertained but thrilled by our individual skills and performance in slaying the lions of profit and the beasts of innovation?
For one thing we can be honest with ourselves and exercise our abilities to think and importantly, to be kind to others. Not quite the Key Performance Indicators you were expecting, are they? Currently, social media is awash with Be like Bill and Be like Basheer, etc., memes. Well here is a tip: don’t be like Clark. Clark, is as you probably don’t remember, is the smirky Harvard student who gets his come-uppance from Matt Damon in the award winning film Good Will Hunting.
Here is the scene...Ben Affleck’s character Chuck enters a bar and tries to pass off as a Harvard student in order to impress a couple of girls. Clark sees an opportunity to have fun and humiliate Chuck in front of the girls, so he walks over and tries to engage him in an ‘intellectual’ conversation. No doubt Clark feels he is a superior person to Chuck and his friends and behaves in a snobbish way. Unfortunately, Matt Damon’s character Will steps in and exposes him for the fraud he is. It’s obvious that Chuck lacks any real knowledge and is just parroting stuff he’s probably read somewhere and passing it off as his expert view.
Sadly, this is exactly the situation we see in marketing circles, globally (yes it’s true) and in Pakistan. We have become an industry that is comfortable in faking it until we make it – and in my opinion, one of the causes of the plagiarism that we see. We (some of us) believe erroneously that copying an idea from an international campaign is both smart and justified, as it is helping the fraternity to progress. No it’s not; it’s helping the fraternity to regress, plain and simple.
Another dimension to this issue is the desire for complexity as if it were an elixir. Complexity expressed by using jargon and buzzwords that mean nothing. Or complexity in the form of a strategy that is nothing more than a contrived substitute (perhaps a short term profit generating one) for a simpler and more effective solution. To go back to the much quoted and even more misunderstood C word – creativity is perceived as something that has to be elaborate and highbrow. The litmus test of an idea is that if a layman can understand it, it is really not up to scratch. This is a flawed and dangerous mindset as (in most cases) brands are selling to people who do not hold marketing degrees but are no way as dumb as they are made out to be.
There will come a day (maybe sooner than we think) when Pakistani marketers will square off like Clark with an empowered, informed and intelligent consumer resembling Will, a consumer with the ability to face up to and silence the self proclaimed expert. Failing to appreciate the customer and developing condescending and stereotypical, if not plagiarised campaigns, justified by the logic that they are the norm, will eventually leave many marketers shamefaced. Their jargon and ability to complicate the simple will not serve them in good stead as they struggle to stay relevant.
If local marketers want to save themselves and their egos from a rude awakening, they need to stop acting like know it alls; patronising consumers with their advertising and annoying them with their almost non-existent service. In the quest for creativity, they have forgotten some other important Cs- clarity, courtesy and crucially, last but not least- culpability. These Cs will help them win over the most important C- the consumer.