8 popular brands that are accused of being copycats
Famous brand strategist Bernard Kelvin Clive once said, “Strong brands are not built through shortcuts and copycats.”
While this might sound encouraging for those who have original ideas, there are popular brands out there that are widely known for being copycats and making money out of it (unfortunately).
Here are eight popular brands that you might not know that are being accused of being copycats:
Did you know that the Oreo cookie is the number one selling cookie globally in the 21st century?
The sandwich cookie which consists of two chocolate biscuits with a sweet creme filling is popularly known as the ultimate dunking cookie.
Originally from the United States, this sandwich cookie is now available in over 100 countries.
Tracing back its history, Oreo was first developed and produced by the National Biscuit Company (today known as Nabisco) in 1912.
When Oreo was first came out, it was launched as an imitation of the Hydrox cookie which was introduced four years earlier in 1908.
Eventually, Oreo exceeded Hydrox in popularity, making Hydrox look like Oreo’s copycat instead.
So why did Oreo turn out to be more successful than Hydrox?
In an article published by Fortune Magazine back in 1999, author Paul Lukas wrote, “It’s a familiar story: A small fledgling company comes up with a great new product – so great that a bigger, more powerful company copies the idea. The larger firm flexes its superior distribution and promotional muscles, the smaller outfit watches helplessly as its business slips away, and that’s that – another case of the strong running roughshod over the weak.”
As for Hydrox, the sandwich cream cookie was discontinued in 1999 and then was reintroduced in 2015.
Hillary Page was an English toy maker who founded the Kiddicraft toy company in 1932.
After World War II, Page designed and produced the Kiddicraft Self-Locking Building Bricks.
These bricks could be stacked on each other and were held in place by studs on the top.
On top of that, the bricks featured slits on their side that allowed doors or windows to be inserted.
Page filed a patent the basic design of 2 X 4 studded brick in 1947 and marketed it the same year.
Danish carpenter Ole Kirk Christiansen and his son Godtfred were “inspired” by Kiddicraft brick and designed their own version in 1949.
They called it The Automatic Binding Brick which later became known as Lego brick in 1953.
Since the two companies were based in two different countries and it was during the time when there was no such thing as the internet, Page didn’t know there was a rip-off of his creation being sold on the other side of the continent.
In the meantime, Page was having hard time maintaining his toy company. Tragically, he died by suicide on June 24, 1957.
Two years after his death, Lego established their British branch company and almost immediately became a hit among the children.
Did they know the predecessor of Lego bricks came from their own country?
Regardless, it was reported that Page never knew the existence Lego until his death.
Eventually in 1981, Lego bought over to the residual rights to the Kiddicraft brick designs and paid the new owners of Page’s company UK£45,000.
Before you search ‘Xiaomi copycat’ on Google, prepare a bucket of popcorn first.
The result is a whole saga of reviews and news about Xiaomi being a poor imitation of Apple as well as the so-called rivalry between RealMe and Xiaomi.
Speaking of imitating Apple, the accusation against Xiaomi is not only limited to their smartphones, but also laptop designs and marketing strategy.
The company chairman and CEO Lei Jun was also accused of imitating Steve Jobs.
During Xiaomi’s earlier product announcements, Lei even donned dark shirts and jeans, an image known to be associated with Jobs.
When Instagram was accused of copying from Snapchat, its co-founder Kevin Systrom had something to say it about it.
Instagram’s Stories is the very same feature as its rival Snapchat wherein photos and videos shared with friends are deleted after 24 hours.
“Imagine the only car in the world was the Model T right now. Someone invents the car, it’s really cool, but do you blame other companies for also building cars that have wheels and a steering wheel and A.C. and windows? The question is what unique stuff do you build on top of it?” Systrom said.
He added, “It would be crazy if we saw something that worked with consumers that was in our domain and we didn’t decide to compete on it. I think Snapchat’s a great company, I think they’re going to continue to do well, but when you look back – they didn’t have filters, originally. They adopted filters because Instagram had filters and a lot of others were trying to adopt filters as well.”
Additionally, he argued that new products that are launched now are all remixes of existing products.
If one day you have decided to be “inspired” by other people’s original ideas, might as well be honest about it.
According to Miniso’s official website, founder and CEO Ye Guofu gained inspiration for Miniso while vacationing in Japan in 2013.
He came across a number of specialty stores in Japan which stocked good quality, well-designed and inexpensive products that were mostly manufactured in China.
Most people believed that these “specialty stores” Ye visited were Uniqlo, Muji and Daiso.
If Ye took the inspiration and came up something new, Miniso might not be called a “copycat”.
The problem is the Chinese retailer markets itself as a Japanese brand.
From the store aesthetic to brand design, they share too many similarities with Muji and Uniqlo.
Moreover, their Japanese language labels were criticised for being grammatically incorrect.
Later, Miniso management admitted that they used Baidu Translate to produce their Japanese translations.
When Nike filed a patent infringement lawsuit against Skechers in 2019, Nike called them out for copying their strategy.
The lawsuit stated that, “Skechers contends it merely takes inspiration from competitor products, which it calls Skecherizing. However. Skechers’ business strategy includes copying its competitors’ designs to gain market share.”
Nike is not the only footwear company that is unhappy with Skecher’s alleged copycat strategy.
In 2021, Crocs listed Skechers as one of the companies unfairly copying its iconic foam footwear.
If you are going to be a copycat, might as well be proud of it. Take it from Tencent.
The company is one of the biggest investment, gaming and entertainment conglomerates in the world.
Tencent founder and chairman, Pony Ma famously said, “To copy is not evil.”
Alibaba Group’s Jack Ma was once even quoted saying, “The problem with Tencent is the lack innovation; all of their products are copies.”
Honor of Kings, one of the mobile games launched by Tencent Games is inspired by League of Legends.
Another example is in Tencent’s popular app WeChat. What had started as an instant messaging app, some of the features such as news feed and search functions were added to challenge Chinese search engine Baidu.
They then introduced WeChat Pay to compete with Alibaba Group’s Alipay.
Today, Tencent is the world’s largest video game vendor and one of the most financially valuable companies.
Yes, this list is incomplete without the famous, giant social media app Facebook.
CNN called the social media giant a “$770 billion clone factory. The report stated, “Facebook has released a long list of copycat products lifted from Youtube, Twitch, TikTok, LinkedIn, Pinterest and Slack. Facebook has taken on popular dating apps, launched a Craiglist competitor and famously ripped off Snapchat’s most popular feature Stories in 2016, shortly before the latter went public.”
When Facebook could not continue copycatting their competitors, they bought them over. That is what happened to Instagram and WhatsApp.
Earlier in 2021, the court ordered Facebook to pay USD4.72 million in damages to an Italian developer over the social network’s Nearby feature.
The feature was launched months after Business Competence introduced Faround app which was designed to help users find Facebook friends near their location.
Facebook’s strategy of copying their competitors’ products was allegedly inspired by Chinese tech companies such as Tencent.
According to emails dating back to 2012 that were revealed in an antitrust hearing in 2020, CEO Mark Zuckerberg and COO Sheryl Sandberg agreed to a suggestion that the company quickly clone other products “to prevent our competitors from getting footholds.”
This explains why Facebook always comes up a copycat version of their competitors’ products months after they are first launched.