Do a Google search for the phrase "there are no original ideas anymore" and you will find 57 million results explaining how the world has run out of ideas.
Can it be true? Has the world truly run dry of new concepts and ideas?
Although I've heard a few people make such statements, I never gave it much real thought until the summer of 2013. There were a lot of big changes that inspired me to write a Nugget detailing how SEO is dead
, but not really.
As an analyst, I'm always trying to figure out the how's and why's things happen, and as I realized that SEO was turning more into traditional USP marketing
, I decided to investigate the origins of the USP, or Unique Selling Proposition.
This led me down a never-ending rabbit hole, and I was surprised what I had found; the marketing concepts we use today are no different than the marketing concepts pioneered in the 1950's and 1960's. The only thing that has changed is the medium.
Granted, the messages used 60 years ago now seem quaint by today's standards. The messages of today are either politically correct or overtly sexual; although, the messages from 60 years ago were also considered overtly sexual for their time.
So maybe it's true that there are no new ideas in marketing, or in Hollywood. The only difference between today and yesterday is better technology and different advertising mediums.
When I first opened my business in 1994, I knew very little about advertising. I thought that advertising and marketing were the same thing, and back then no one was using the word "brand" yet either. I started as a computer consultant and I attended every tech trade show in New York City that I could get into. Before long, I was signed up for hundreds of mailing lists and magazines. My mailbox (my snail mailbox) was filled every day with tech ads, service provider solicitation, and several magazines.
At the time I studied everything I got, and I saved all the ads and post cards that got my attention. I had a box labeled "ideas to steal," and I did.
I swiped advertising ideas from many companies, but reworked the headlines, message, and photos to make them my own. But when you held my "remakes" next to the original, you could easily tell where the idea came from.
Through the years. I was always saving ideas from other companies when I thought they were good. Sadly though, I never felt the ads were successful when I used them myself.
As the internet evolved, I then started to save many of the attractive bulk emails I received.
Apparently many other people use the same process of stealing ideas from others to the point where there are applications and websites that will help you build your own "Swipe File." I suppose the phrase "swipe file" is easier to say than "ideas to steal."
According to Wikipedia, a swipe file
is a collection of tested and proven advertising and sales letters. Except that there's no way to know if the ad is "proven" unless you are the one running it in the first place.
Over the last 20 years, I've learned that the swipe file can create poor advertising results when you copy from other people. The truth is that you don't know if their ads are successful or not, and more importantly, if their ads would have been designed to target only their specific audience.
If you swipe someone else's ad, how do you know if that ad will correctly target your own local demographic? You simply don't. As I learned the difference between advertising and marketing, I also learned that swiping ideas from other agencies is useless, and always leads to a lot of wasted money and very poor results.
I don't use a cardboard box to save ads in any more, and I don't save bulk anymore emails either, but I do have a Microsoft Word document into which I copy things I should read. I'm always finding good blog posts to read, or whitepapers with great business advice. Most of the time I save the website URL and a note to myself as a reminder of why I should go back and read it.
So from my little fireside chat today, what I'd like you realize is that the traditional idea of a Swipe File is not really good to follow unless you are saving copies of your own previously successful marketing. Don't swipe ad ideas from others.
On the other hand, you should use a Swipe File to keep notes of things you should return to later and read. It's like a to-do list of educational reading.