Yes, it's a viable creative strategy to steal (or copy) ideas, if you know the right ways to do it. Let's look at a couple of fun, historical examples of this strategy, including what might be considered a double idea steal via Snickers wrappers. Translated into a creative strategy formula, it’s an example of “Lead, Copy (1 and 2), Swerve, Integrate, Go.” Here’s how this creative strategy formula plays out between two well-known consumer brands.

The Lead, Copy, Swerve, Integrate, and Go Creative Strategy Formula


In 2006, Snickers switched its logo out in an advertising campaign. It replaced the Snickers brand name inside its parallelogram logo with hunger-related words. The key to making it work was depending on the familiarity of shape, color, and type to suggest “Snickers” despite its missing brand name.

Copy 1


In 2011, Diet Coke switched its logo placement on cans, expanding the primary logo beyond the can’s surface, resulting in a partial representation of the logo. Fast forward to 2014, and the Coca-Cola brands introduce the “Summer of Sharing” packaging promotion.  Coca-Cola replaced multiple logos on its packaging with two hundred-fifty first names of individuals or more general descriptors of how one person might feel about another person with whom they are sharing a beverage (i.e., Superstar, BFF, Sweetie, etc.). The campaign continued in 2015.

Copy 2, Swerve, Integrate and Go


In September 2015, Snickers introduced new packaging, replacing its brand name on candy bar wrappers. Instead of using names, however, Snickers replaced its logo with various phrases describing ways people behave negatively when hungry. Highlighting ways people are not themselves integrated with the multi-year Snickers ad campaign featuring unlikely celebrities playing Snickers eaters before eating a Snickers turns someone back into themselves.

Turning this Example into a Creative Strategy Formula

Whether copying ideas was consciously part of what actually happened in this Snickers scenario is irrelevant. Translated into a simplified creative strategy formula, you can consider ways your brand could use a comparable formula to develop a new creative strategy:

  • Is there a creative idea in a market comparable to yours that is gaining attention and buzz that you could copy?
  • How can you swerve the idea in a way that makes it unique to your brand?
  • Once you swerve the idea, how can you further integrate it into strategies you already have in place to make it truly your own?
  • How can fast can you get ready and go with this newly swerved and integrated idea?

That’s an outside-in innovation approach that you can apply as inspiration for new ideas.

BTW, A Word about Personalization

In one creative thinking workshop, we spent significant time discussing how to enable consumers to customize and personalize a product. In the product category in which we were working, consumers say they want customization. It’s difficult to do, though, and the brand suspects that consumers say they want to customize the product much more emphatically than they are actually willing to do.

The Snickers example, however, is a great example of simple customization.

With twenty-one different phrases to choose from, it is easy to find a choice that fits you . . . or the person for whom you are buying the Snickers. I know I took great delight in personalizing the messages for someone who I knew who LOVED Snickers. My “snickers” at giving this person truth-laden Snickers made me feel as if I were living on borrowed time until the promotion ended! – Mike Brown


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