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Whenever I see links with titles like “10 ways to get…” or “6 proven tactics to achieve…” I shudder. Same goes for diet books, career advice sites and any lists that try to tell you what to do. Media conferences are filled with case studies, successful implementations and amazing success stories. When Old Spice works, hundred of copies will be launched a month later. When one movie hit comes out of nowhere, hundreds of quasi-sequels will find their way to the screen quickly. Vampires everywhere, housewives everywhere, American Idols everywhere.

Have you ever copied the copy of a copy of a copy?

It doesn’t look fresh, it’s hard to decipher and feels tacky. That’s how customers feel when you follow the rules and copy the copy of a copy. When everybody copies each other, the original always wins. And the copies are just that: copies.

20 years ago, advertising had only one option to differentiate: through the creative. The channels were pretty much set, not many options to have meaningful impact through radical changes in the media mix.

20 years later, we have millions of options to connect a brand with a customer or prospect. Still, the majority of marketers continue to rely on proven tactics and copying success stories of their competitors. What does it mean to your brand when your competitor was able to lift sales by 50% through a Foursquare promotion? What does it say about your brand that your competitor has 50,000 more followers on Twitter than you? What does it say about your company when your competitor deployed sophisticated, behavioral targeting to lift engagement rates by 25%?

Nothing. Nada. Nichts.

Just because your competitor or any brand was successful with one specific tactic or media plan, doesn’t mean a carbon copy for your brand will produce the same results. More likely than not, the results will be way below your expectations.

I get it: You want to beat the competition, want to win, sell more than ever before. Following your competitors or act based on past learning is a losing game. Next time, you start a marketing initiative with a competitive review, why not focusing on doing the exact opposite? Why not staying away from implementing another average Facebook page and, instead, becoming the leader on a different platform? Why not implement a display campaign exactly the opposite way than your competitor? Following the rules has lead to bloated web pages, irrelevant Social Media initiatives, underperforming display ad campaigns and less than mediocre results.

Following the rules was a winning strategy in the industrial age. Breaking the rules is a winning strategy in the information age.