Look at the above logos...the first, in purple, has been our company logo for the last five years. The second, is our stolen brand identity and the focus of this blog.
When you start a business, you experience all the highs and lows of a parent. The excitement of the idea, the painful birthing process, the teething phase and the sleepless nights (which, I hate to break this to you, doesn’t really ever stop). And then - out of the blue - she's up and running and she’s out in the world, making new friends, making an impact and learning new things as she goes off into the business world.
Excuse me if I sound nostalgic about it, but after five years of nurturing brand Storybook Communications, you can understand that I view her as my exciting, sometimes troublesome, but always rewarding child. Mu business partner and I have put our hearts and souls into this business and its clients - and we still execute each campaign as if it was the only campaign we ever cared about.
So you could imagine my reaction when I found out that somebody had the gall to take our brand name, our logo and the Storybook messaging…our brand identity, and plagiarise on such a scale, that their brand looks like a sister company or subsidiary of Storybook Communications.
The facts are simple - a new marketing agency in Tasmania, Australia, has adopted the name Storybook Communications. They’ve been operating for over a month and their URL is only differentiated from ours by the .au extension. Their messaging sounds like ours - I know, because it sounds like my voice and my tone. The way I’ve spoken about Storybook in countless meetings, elevators, presentations, client pitches and coffee shops for the last five years. The logo is a replica, but for a different colour and the fact that the distinctive bookmark ‘Y” in the word story cannot easily be copied.
Moreover, her website is littered with messaging and phrases we have used in our marketing for the last five years, such as 'What's your story?' and "Telling your brand story".
We made contact with this interloper, shamelessly passing itself off as our business. The woman who answered denied having done her due diligence (she said she really didn’t know that there was ANY other business out there with that name). Surely, it’s one of the first things you do - you check who else out there has the same or a similar name and brand identity. But then again, we know it’s a lie because her whole brand identity looks like ours.
She said we should let it go because she’s just a little business owner in Tasmania and ‘what harm can it do’.
It’s simple. So much harm. On a very basic professional level, her clients should be very concerned about the lack of originality, the lack of creativity and the lack of integrity. All of which are especially important in this industry. As we work with international clients, the fact that a Storybook Communications - with very similar branding and messaging - exists in Australia, is duplicitous and confusing. And when I last checked, we weren’t a franchised business.
And then, on a visceral level, I am outraged. We have worked hard to build a brand into the cranky toddler of today and, despite the tantrums, she is showing promise. How dare somebody try and capitalise on the hard work and sleepless nights?
There’s something really interesting, almost euphoric, that happens when you have a moment of stillness and become mindful of what is really happening around you. Besides the legal intervention and the fact that we’ve now applied to trademark our name in Australia (nogals!), I’ve had a little smile earlier today as I realised that we were cool enough for somebody else to feel the need to rip off our identity and messaging.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s still incredibly crap and very frustrating, and we’ll continue to pursue the legal route to its somewhat inevitable conclusion, but sometimes you need to take a deep breathe and see perspective:
Originality and creativity is paramount if you are going to be an amazing publicist. These two things you can’t live without and you will eventually get found out if you’re plagiarising somebody else’s ideas and copy.
Integrity is like breathing - if you’re doing your job right, you should become your client’s trusted partner, and discretion and integrity are two things that go hand-in-hand in the business of building trust.
There’s always a learning, right?
And if you were wondering about the title of this blog…the woman who has shamelessly stolen our collateral is called Kate and should probably call her business "Copy Kate".