Don’t Copy the “Top Layer”

Whenever you talk digital strategy to broadcasters, there's a good chance somebody will ask this question: "Can you show us a good example of a website that demonstrates what you're describing?"

This is called "copying," and I have nothing against it.

But "copying" is a bad path to strategy, and the book Rework

Copying in the business arena is…a formula for failure….It skips understanding – and understanding is how you grow.  You have to understand why something works or why something is the way it is.  When you just copy and paste, you miss that.  You just repurpose the last layer instead of understanding all the layers underneath.

When broadcasters are looking to copy the ideas of their competitors, they're looking to take the execution without understanding the purpose.  

If, however, you understand and embrace the purpose first, then your execution could well be better than your competitor's.  And even if it isn't better, it's likely to be different. And in this over-communicated media world, different is often better than "better."

In my own case, I get most of my ideas from synergies or best practices (or interesting practices) from well outside my competitive field (whatever that is).  It's fair to say that lots of stuff I do you can't find anywhere else in the broadcasting/digital hybrid biz, at least not in the same distinctive flavor.

What I do know, though, is that I have a purpose behind everything I do, and you can't copy the top layer and copy the purpose along with it, because the purpose doesn't live in that top layer.

The same is true of great brands.

Just because we copy something Starbucks does doesn't give us the brand depth that that company has spent years building.  Brand depth comes from a commitment to building a brand, not from a search for tactics to graft onto our stations.

So before you go looking to copy somebody else's "top layer," understand in no uncertain terms what you're aiming to achieve and why.

There's plenty of "digital" in this world, but not nearly enough digital strategy.

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