Copy Cats

One of the most amusing ads I have seen in a long time is that of the Burger King King sneaking into the McDonalds’ headquarters and stealing the Egg McMuffin recipe. The first time I saw it, I backed up the DVR to watch again – a rarity with any kind of commercial. 

Burger King was basically saying to the public, “Oh, we’re offering the same thing, but it’s cheaper.” Here’s why it is such a great advertising campaign: it’s honest. All companies “borrow” ideas from others. If something is really popular with one company, another will want to duplicate that success to their own client base. 

Look at what recently happened with the search engine Google. They allowed for background pictures in a mimic of the Bing search engine.  How did people feel about it? Well, they weren’t too pleased about it. One of the draws of Google has always been the simplicity of the search page:  enter your text, hit search, and you’re good to go. 

Google’s attempt to mimic something a competitor was doing didn’t take off the way they hoped, so last night, they pulled the background pictures, citing a bug in the system. There’s no indication if Google will be trying that again. 

Competition is all about watching what the others are doing and trying to do what they are doing even better. Its hit and miss – BK managed it, with a sandwich just as good, but cheaper, but Google couldn’t make it happen – and by doing so they alienated some of the customers. 

So you tell me – Google never made it official that they were testing out the similar background settings as Bing, but BK came out and said “here is what we are doing”. What makes the difference in the situations? Is it honesty, loyalty, or simplicity that had Google users displeased?