Innovation Vs Imitation - The Right Strategy In Today’s Competitive World?

Posted in Marketing & Strategy Articles, Total Reads: 3514 , Published on 07 September 2012
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Innovation is all about developing new things by developers with their own ideas and creativity , and Imitation is all about using the already developed things in one's own way . Innovation is something which creates value for the product . A copying machine build by " Xerox Corporation" today is commonly known as Xerox machine worldwide.

Steve Jobs , is the name which is linked with innovation . He said " Creativity is just connecting things " . He was the man who build Apple and took the technology to another level globally . He build Ipod and changed the way world used to think about music playing devices . Ipod could save your music library in a compatible manner but the memory device due to which it became successful was not made by Apple, it was developed by Toshiba and Jobs came with the idea of developing music players present in market from long time and build a great product . Apple’s real genius is not in how it creates new technologies but in how it synthesizes and packages existing ones.


It reminds us of a flattering thought by Bennett's  "perhaps some creativity is just well packaged imitation". Invaluable though innovation may be, our relentless focus is on  may be obscuring the value of its much-maligned relative, imitation. Imitation has always had a faintly disreputable ring to it .But where innovation brings new things into the world, imitation spreads them; where innovators break the old mold, imitators perfect the new one; and while innovators can win big, imitators often win bigger. Indeed, what looks like innovation is often actually artful .

Creative people do new things but they say they didn’t really do it, they just saw something. It seemed obvious to them after a while. That’s because they were able to connect experiences they’ve had and synthesize new things. Globalization has contracted the world . It has also given rise to customized imitation of various innovations happening around . We even see lots of government policies and bodies which are made following other countries models . Various Government and private projects are also just used as per on requirement . The economic policies of our country  are just followed from other models .

In today's fast moving and highly competitive world, innovation and imitation are both working at a very rapid rate . There are companies like IBM and Apple which thrives on innovation whereas new companies entering the market are just doing the same things and are doing great. IBM got into computers as an imitator , Holiday Inns, into motels as an imitator , Lytton, into savings and loans as an imitator; and Playboy, into both its major fields (publishing and entertainment) as an imitator. Today, we see private brands in markets like packaged goods and new products are imitated a lot. In fact, imitation is endemic. Innovation is scarce. Even in the promotion department , companies are trying to build their brand by showing that they are innovative . A latest commercial by Air Asia just proves that.

Today , spending on R&D is a very typical question for companies as they know others would come to know about the technology soon . It is a big dilemma , a company doing R&D needs to care about these major things : R&D is not always certain , different strategies have different risks and costs . There is also a considerable competitive pressure regarding the first entrant which can lead to many mistakes . Even imitators tend to copy soon which sometimes don't give time to get the returns for the research.

There is also another story that imitation at best results in duopoly whereas innovation gives the benefit of monopoly . It is a very important factor for firms as it leads to different types of profit levels. There is also one new problem with this amount of expense for a new product in this highly competitive environment.

Consumers demand regular innovation which can backfires like in the present scenario of Apple's Ipad 2 which is losing its sales as people are waiting for the next Ipad 3 and are not ready to buy it.  Apple build the market for the smart phone products which is generally the case with innovators but then Samsung came with their smart phones which really capitalized the market situation and even sold more than apple's product in U.S. Market.

They understood the market well to gain advantage. Apple IOS came with new things and Android came brought a change with its applications . IOS provides a lot of more applications which are mostly paid as they work hard for that whereas Android provides most applications for no cost by just developing the already developed things . . The main problem with Innovation is that there is a huge amount of Cost which is put into to develop new things whereas imitation just uses the benefits of the already developed things .


Creativity requires the courage to let go of certainties and in a competitive arena on needs to upgrade frequently to survive . Innovation for most businesses is thought to be an activity that is complex, costly and with very little promise of a return on investment. Even though successful innovation can increase profit margins, global competitiveness and enable a business to experience high growth, the risks and costs involved in developing innovative products or services can be too high a price to pay for some business owners.

The market which strive son imitation is the Fashion Jewelry Industry in India which is close to Rs  2000.crore for now . It was just the need of the market and the gap was fulfilled by this . It is an innovation in an imitated product.  Facebook and Google are examples of companies that allowed their predecessors to establish a market before swooping in with, say, improved technology and business models to take control.  They allowed the market to develop and also learn from the mistakes of other providers . Companies using imitation save on R&D costs and also have a prior knowledge about the market .

Harley Davidson is also  a different example which came with the innovation of its bikes and still is ruling the market worldwide . Many tried but failed to compete with them .This again puts up a new question : Can Brand Equity stop Imitation to flourish . Will people stick to the brand while buying products or they would just go for the Value For Money Concept. "If there is no innovation , then there won't be any imitation" . In many sectors where patents are ruling the highly competitive market .

The present fiasco between the Tech -Gods Microsoft , Samsung and Apple regarding the patent issue just proves that . Pharmaceutical  sector lives on  innovation . It  made the companies to survive in various sectors . Toyota Motor Corporation is highly successful due to its capability of constant innovation .General Electric came with the idea of Six Sigma but we know that everyone benefited from it . Starbucks and 3M still work on betterment of their products and there are many firms just following them . Innovation is the specific tool of entrepreneurs, the means by which they exploit change as an opportunity for a different business or a different service

In the business world, imitators gets a bad rap 'Copycats '. They copy because they have nothing original to offer. We pity their fate: a life of picking up crumbs discarded by innovators striding a path paved with fame and profit. . Imitation today is as critical to prosperity as innovation. Savvy imitators generate huge profits. They save not only on R&D costs but also on marketing and advertising investments made by first movers. And they avoid costly errors by observing and learning from others .

Copycats presents suggestions for making imitation a core element in your competitive strategy . So , to sum up Innovation and Imitation both strive in today's market . Innovation provides an edge by introducing the products but there are imitators who wait for the right time and opportunity to make their mark and they have the edge of trials in front of them but innovators have the advantage being the designer and being the respected owner.

This article has been authored by Rahul Mukhija from IMT Ghaziabad.

Image: FreeDigitalPhotos.net


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