Is duplicity ever the finest form of flattery?

One of the few drawbacks of being a published writer is that at some stage or another, you’re going to bump into yourself. By floating your considered thoughts, stories and approaches into the literary stream of consciousness, you create a sort of alternative reality in which they take on a life of their own and generate new stories as a consequence of how readers interpret and then use those materials.

That double-dip creative process can be extremely rewarding when your insights help clients and colleagues improve the engagement and sustainability landscape one company or one brand at a time, as you intended, especially when they acknowledge your contribution. Occasionally, however, someone over-steps the mark and shamelessly cannibalizes your content. And there’s nothing quite as tragic as coming face to face with a desperate doppleganger.

We’ve had the misfortune of encounters like this a number of times. On one occasion a client proudly presented a programme they had previously developed with one of our competitors which clearly contained our distinctive models and approaches. It had floundered when they ran out of steam. And a former colleague has frequently re-branded ours and other practitioner’s materials . In the latest raid, he not only lifted a concept from Brand Engagement but he included the unique and very distinctive first line and listed the book in the online tags. Bless him!

There’s more than a touch of Talented Mr Ripley about it all. He has, however, reminded us of a very useful tool developed “back in the day” and which Marketing supremo professor Phillip Kitchen featured in his book Marketing Metaphors and Metamorphosis in which Ian explored the importance of adapting engagement approaches to the differing needs of internal vs external stakeholders. So as we enter the Q 4 strategy and event season, let’s share it again.

BS (that’s “bullshit” for the adults), Bingo was developed over a decade ago as a lighthearted way of “keeping it real” at business conferences and events. You know how easy it is for senior leadership figures in particular to inadvertently slip into using Orwellian “double speak”, especially when they’re dealing with complex and potentially emotional subjects? BS Bingo provides participants with a fun way of applying gentle peer pressure by spotting and calling that non-sensory “double speak before it sends the participants into a trance. You should try it at the next event you attend. Just draw up a list of clichéd phrases, share them amongst a group of players and award prizes. It soon makes a difference.

As for the Doppleangers, well, we’d like to say we’re flattered, but can’t quite bring ourselves to. So we’ll give the final word to Mr Ripley, as we really can’t put it any better:

“You never meet anybody that thinks they’re a bad person.”

Come on folks.  A simple acknowledgement would be nice. More importantly, surely you have approaches, developments and case studies of your own to share….don’t you?


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