derivatives are boring

Jay Clouse creativity, inspiration

In 2012, Dollar Shave Club created one of the greatest videos of all time with their Our Blades are F***ing Great ad. Michael Dubin, the company founder and star of the video, produced the video for only $4,500 and in the first 48 hours of being on YouTube, 12,000 members signed up.

Dubin himself has been quoted since as saying that the key to the video was to be unexpected.

“Don’t give them a video they could have written themselves,” he said.

And yet, since then, I’ve seen countless knockoffs of that video – literally the opposite the exact advice Dubin gave.

It’s easy to see something successful, reverse-engineer it, and create your own derivative version. But derivatives are boring (yes, the financial kind too but that’s not the point). Derivatives are, by definition, unoriginal and therefore pretty uninteresting.

I’m sure there are exceptions. I love a lot of musical covers, but rarely are they as notable as the original (Jimi Hendrix’s “All Along the Watch Tower” actually inspired Bob Dylan to never play the song again).

But as derivatives pop up, the strategy becomes less valuable. For just about anything, the first movers capture the majority of value and copy cats grab the scraps. When information is no longer scarce, it is no longer valuable.

We are drawn to the new and to the unique. Columbus natives Saintseneca made a music video using a fish eye lens and it’s one of the coolest things I’ve seen recently.

Be weird. Be unique. Be you. No one else can do that better, and it’s your best chance at breaking through the noise.


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