Copy Cat vs Creative Cat. What = Fat Cat?
By on Jun 01, 2010

What’s the difference between 90% of affiliate marketers? Nothing.

copying affiliate marketersThere are not many industries that are as incestuous as the affiliate marketing industry. Everyone knows each other’s mom, distant cousin, cats and little rat-sized dogs. This make up doesn’t exactly breed creativity.

This is how I see the breakup of affiliate marketers.

  • 5% creative kittens – too new to know how and where to go in order to copy campaigns (will rarely generate profit).
  • 5% creative cats – know how to copy, but feel that being a pioneer is the way to go.
  • 90% copy cats – range from newbies to super affiliates.

People always yell and shout if they ever see their landing pages ripped and run by someone else. But, does it ever make sense for people to go out and create unique campaigns? Is there an incentive anymore?

Honestly speaking I have been on both sides on the spectrum. I’ve copied as well as pioneered.  I’ve had more profiting copied campaigns than pioneering campaigns. However, I can easily say I’ve made more overall profit with my pioneering campaigns.

first mover

In a previous post I talked about affiliates getting pushed out by ad networks and affiliate networks. If a network decides they like the look of a campaign and decide to run it, they always have some advantage over affiliates. Is it worthwhile for an affiliate to slave for days, developing unique campaigns to profit when competition can just swipe it and run along side it? Networks do have a big advantage but it is mostly affiliates that are the ones to blame.

I might get killed for saying this…but for affiliates just starting out and trying learn the ropes, I would never recommend bothering creating a unique campaign…copy someone else’s. My reasoning is, in the rare likelihood that you manage to get a unique campaign working, it will get duplicated in a second by more experienced affiliates or a network, shoving you aside. The early bird may get the worm, but it is the cat that gets the bird … the “copycat”.

Stoned affiliates

For experienced affiliates, it is definitely worth coming up with unique campaigns you need to pick the right waters to fish in. Most unique campaigns which had a decent lifetime for me, have been launched in non-affiliate invested waters. The campaign that worked well among a tonne of affiliates survived because I used massive scale micro targeting.

Obviously, you can be freely creative if you have something exclusive to you. But most of the time you won’t.

I’m interested to know what percentage of your campaigns have been unique (using a new angle)? Has it been worthwhile for you to pioneer campaigns?

Comments (43)

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  1. I think the most important thing to note here would be to borrow aspects of other campaigns rather than downright copy them. I have had campaigns completely 100% duplicated of mine, but the funniest part is, it wasn't profitable. If the person would have made some changes and worked with it, maybe that would be a different story.

    I have actually had more success building my own than copying. I definitely use aspects of other people's campaigns, but overall, I expand continuously and build it out instead of just copying.

    • Lorenzo Green says:

      Your speed never ceases to amaze me Jeremy!

      Alright so one for building their own.

    • Garrett says:

      Definitely agree. I "copied" a campaign about 1 year ago which was making some profit, but once I changed the headline on the LP and tested the call to action, the campaign rocked.

      Something also worth noting, is that you dont really have a campaign without a traffic source. Brandon (next best blog to Mr. Green btw) wrote a post about why being protective over your traffic sources is much more important than your LP's, which I think is relevant: http://www.brandonadcock.com/dominating-a-traffic

      • Josh Todd says:

        But what you did is ideally what Mr. Green is suggesting. You don't have to copy everything verbatim, but you can certainly be inspired by a lander/ad/image that you see and put your own twist on it. That's how you build up the ability to create your own great ads and be a pioneer someday on a completely original campaign. I actually agree with Mr. Green on this post completely though. There's no need to reinvent the wheel when you are just starting out. There is a lot of traffic out there to go around, and the big fish know how to innovate so they can stay out of the reach of newbies.

      • Affbuzz says:

        ♥ Brandon's blog.

  2. JB says:

    i could agree more look i optimize my "copied" campaigns but i dont see the point of reinventing the wheel.

    Some people have even made a business model out of it like PPCBully etc

  3. Belinda says:

    Thanks Mr. G – it may pay to be a copy cat affiliate but your blogs are always very original, educational and inspirational – hey I learn heaps just from looking at your cartoons!

    Belinda

  4. Quite honestly, all of your posts have been good except for this one. Copying LPs or adcopy is a form of stealing. It's not that complicated.

    • Lorenzo Green says:

      Firstly, I don't think I made it clear enough, I believe that being a pioneer is the thing do.

      However if you are a newbie with a small budget, you have two options.

      1. Come up with your own unique campaigns – Read e-books buy into coaching sessions, whatever you can to learn about affiliate marketing. If your unique idea works then you could be laughing away to the bank. However keep in mind that affiliate networks copy, ad networks copy and affiliates copy. Depending on the traffic source you could get pushed out before the week rolls round because you don't have the skills to optimize your own campaign like other affiliates do.

      2. Copy – unravel what other affiliates have created, and learn from there.

      For experience affiliates the game is different. But for newbies…I wouldn't want to be one these days.

  5. Copycat can only take you so far, and the big problem with copying is often you will never learn "why"something worked.

    Im typically not too paranoid about people stealing my stuff as its rare that they steal every element which is usually the key to success.

    Often its a specific ad matched with a specific lander on 1 set of urls in a particular ad network that yield profit, and unless you uncover everything you'll most likely fail.

    • Lorenzo Green says:

      Sure being a copycat might not make you the top king pin, but it can certainly get you close, especially if you are an experienced affiliate. You can join the dots a lot easier. I must of seen 100's of the same flogs and farticles with very minimal changes sure the guys that started it made more than most the copy cats, but I bet you there would be more than 20 people reading this article that have build their initial affiliate capital around being a copy cat.

      I'm not trying to promote people to be copycats. Being a pioneer took me further. But I'm just pointing out that copying is part of the affiliate world whether we like it or not. If you decide to be a pioneer you are risking a lot especially if you are a newbie, but obviously the rewards are sweeter if you get it to work.

      If people are in the affiliate industry to make a quick buck, there is absolutely no incentive to be a pioneer.

  6. eze says:

    Got any pics of aforementioned little rat-sized dogs?

  7. Iambetterthanu says:

    Any one who claims to never copy is full of it, plain and simple. If you see a campaign that looks like it has legs why start from the bottom. Use what is out there as a baseline and build from it. If you just sit there on the ads you stole sure it will die quick but you can definitely save some time and money starting with what works already.

  8. Sales Juan says:

    So if I am newbie (5% creative kitten)who don't know where to "copy a campaign", ¿Where I Should Go?. OK, maybe not copy but getting ideas from others campaigns………….

    I mean, there are several campaigns in Adwords, Facebook Ads, etc, etc, but it doesn't mean I'm going to copy those campaigns. If I have the critheria to determinate that a campaign you are going to copy its profitable, it means that you have the critheria to create profitable campaigns without copying. Anyways that is another subject…

    In my case is practically impossible to copy campaigns because I live outside U.S, so If i want to promote and inside U.S offer, I will not be able to see others campaigns because geographical targeting.

    So Mr. Green or Anyone, I have a mischievous question: ¿How I can copy a U.S targeted campaign, being outside U.S?

    • Lorenzo Green says:

      Haha I'm not going to teach people how to copy campaigns. There are enough tools on the market to help you do that. It seems like you can speak Spanish which is a huge advantage over the main pool of affiliates. If I were you, I wouldn't bother about the US market, I would stick to promoting offers in Spain, South American etc.

      • Sales Juan says:

        Hahaha. Yes, in fact I'm already promoting offers in those countries, but there a lot of more U.S offers to promote in comparison to spanish speaking contries offers. Thats why I' asking for that.

        ¿Do you know any good network with spanish offers? Nowadays I work with 7Reach(good network, but low quality offers and low payout).

        Thanks for the advice.

        • Lorenzo Green says:

          Most networks have a few Spanish offers here and there. CPALead.com has quite a few. I would go there then go here and search for the Spanish offers you already know of. This should lead you to networks that have other Spanish offers.

        • Sales Juan says:

          Thanks Mr. Green

  9. I think the exception comes in when you do your own product/offer. In that case, you can both copy what the people before you have done as well as pioneer something that might convert even better that they didnt do.

  10. Great article. I really enjoyed and agreed with what you wrote on here. But I also think its better build your own campaign. It takes a great deal of time and effort, but I totally think its worth it at the end.

    • FTC Hater says:

      Looks like JD has been getting some of his ladyboys to do a little blog commenting before hitting the road the morning after.

      • Cheap labor at its finest my friend.

        Doesn't get any cheaper than a drugged up, AIDS stricken ladyboy ho. They'll do anything for a slice of bread my friend. Even write horrible blog comments!

        Woo Woo.

  11. cvanputt says:

    As a newbie I need to piggyback off working campaigns. The reality is that everything ever created is copied. Maybe with a twist. Anyone who considers themselves a creative realizes that a "new" thing is just a spin on something already created.

    I would only get hung up about copying if I believed in scarcity which I don't.

  12. Ben says:

    Great post! Extra points for animal mentions: kittens, cats, worms, birds and, of course, fish :)

  13. Adam Bunch says:

    Solid post.

    I'd say that my earnings have been split between the two. Have banked hard from copying but my best ever campaign was also an original so it can sometimes pay to originate.

  14. Ryan Eagle says:

    Ha, Ha. It pays to be original. No one likes a copycat

  15. d3so says:

    lol nice article, I'm a noobie but I don't even know how to copy a campaign. I get lost trying to come up with my own. Great tips you've shared ;)

  16. Smaxor says:

    Definately my most money is made by taking something that I see which is working for one vertical and bridging it to another. One current example of this is Make My Baby campaigns. They're basically a cartoonize or zwinky type campaign with a mobile path put on the backend. The big money was made from the start before the big main traffic sources banned it :)

    Get in first if you can. But to learn do whatever you can.

  17. [...] Copy Cat Vs Creative Cat. – As always Mr. Green posts quality content and this post is another good one outlining a few different types of people. He also mentions that his biggest profiting campaigns are the ones that he comes up with himself but (at least at one point) has more copied campaigns than the ones he came up with himself. I find the same thing true myself. [...]

  18. Carl says:

    Sheesh, how did I miss this one until now?

    You have made some great points, Lorenzo.

    Insisting on being 100% original with everything you do can be a slow and painful way to die in affiliate marketing.

    In most cases, new affiliate marketers don't have the budget, time, or patience it takes to take a 100% original, virgin campaign and put the money and time into it that it takes to make it profitable.

    While fostering creativity and originality is always a good idea, reinventing the wheel time after time is not.

    On the other side, duplicating the campaigns of others, pixel for pixel and word for word can be a quick way to make a few bucks but it will also eventually lead to failure and is not a good idea.

  19. Slave Rat says:

    Always liked: "The early bird catches the worm, but the second mouse gets the cheese."

  20. [...] Riding waves will allow you to be semi-comfortable, but pioneering campaigns is the way to hit the big time. I’ve written about this argument here. [...]

  21. Being a copy cat is so much easier than the "come up with it yourself" method. I'll admit, I have many of my own products out there and I love affiliate marketing. I learn and HAVE learned (copying) from other people and enjoy the fact that I can learn from other peoples mistakes. Even super affiliates copy one another.

  22. Great article! I think it's safe to say that being a copy cat in this industry is the easiest way to get started, but it can also cause issues for the other parties, obviously. In just about any industry we see the same thing, so it comes down to the old "what makes you better?" factor.

    Even though we're affiliates, most of us are not thinking BIG. We're sticking to what everyone else is doing because it's how "everyone else" seems to be making money. I believe we'll see more big time affiliates move into startup's in the coming years. There's a lot of opportunities out there that are much bigger than these copy cat campaigns (duh, I know…), but for now the majority will stick to what they know. I don't think there's anything wrong with it. Heck, I feel bad when someone spends weeks or months building a campaign – only to have some newbie or 'super affiliate' come in and rob them blind, but it's also just a part of the Business. Protect your assets, do something more 'unique.'

    • Adrian says:

      We have to do what works and it all started somewhere with someone and as long as it is not totally destroying another's campaign then why not share the wealth. I have also learned as I am going along with using other campaigns to change things up a little here and there and give my own spin which works a lot of the time and if not then I try something else. But is I did not start by copying other campaigns then I think I would have failed from the get go! I am not making tons but enough to help pay the bills.
      "Someone stole all my credit cards, but I won't be reporting it. The thief spends less than my wife did." hehe

  23. John M says:

    Gain influence from those around you, but expand upon their ideas (make them better).

    Again, great post.

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  25. [...] Green’s posts are always fun to read and provide an original and honest take on the affiliate marketing industry. Read the full post here: http://www.mrgreen.am/affiliate-marketing/copy-cat-vs-creative-cat-what-fat-cat/ [...]

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