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.

  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!


  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.

  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.

  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?

  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.

  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.'

  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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