Blazing New Trails Takes NERVE
By Lois K. Geller
Last week I went to an off-Broadway musical called "Hank Williams: Lost Highway" with a friend of mine. Williams was a small town Alabama boy who became a great country singer in the late 1940s.
Jason Petty plays Williams in "Lost Highway." To me, Jason and his backup group sounded better than the great Hank Williams, and I said so to my friend as we left the theater.
"Well, sure" she said, "He was imitating. Hank didn't imitate. He wrote new music, wrote new lyrics, arranged everything by himself and recorded every song in single takes. He did things nobody else had ever done. He was the first, the original, and everybody after him stands on his shoulders. They write plays about him."
And, of course, she was right.
Innovation and Imitation
History's full of people like that. They did things nobody else did—and then along came the imitators. If they're talented, imitators make the original better. Without them, TVs would still be in black and white. But the guy who invented the TV was the genius. The people who came after him merely were clever.
Direct marketing's like that, too. Very few originals—lots of imitators.
Part of the problem is that most people think they're better off being followers. Original ideas startle them. It's as if they've been eating roast beef and mashed potatoes all their lives, and then suddenly someone gives them sushi. They say things such as, "let's not re-invent the wheel" and "we've always done it this way."
Banks and insurance companies are the worst offenders. They get in comfort zones, and repeat the same things. Some examples include: "You are pre-approved," "low APR," "no medical exam required," and "safe driver discount."
But that's changing. AFLAC gave us the frustrated duck, and Geico gave us its gecko—suddenly insurance looks different.