There’s Nothing New Under the Sun – Or On Twitter

Media Frenzy

Social Media Kerfuffle Is a Carbon, A Clone and a Copy

Wise old newspaper hacks will tell you there’s nothing new under the sun. Every story has been told before.

In the accelerated, amped-up world of Twitter, this has been amplified and exaggerated to rather ridiculous extremes.

If you’ve picked up a newspaper or surfed the news blogs today, chances are you’ve come across the latest social media firestorm, involving schoolgirl magnet Claire’s Accessories and the trendy jewellery designer Tatty Devine.

It all kicked off when the social media savvy folks at Tatty Devine blogged on Wednesday asking ‘Can you spot the difference?‘ – and laid out a series of their clever jewellery designs alongside, er, remarkably similar-looking trinkets being flogged by Claire’s.

When the design team at Tatty Devine came up with necklaces that looked like the contents of Top Cat’s trashcan (fish bones, half-peeled bananas and curly, comedy moustaches), they probably didn’t expect they’d be calling Officer Dibble to investigate allegations of intellectual property theft.

To the casual observer, it seems a pretty cut and dried case of the big, faceless corporation ripping off the edgier and way cooler small business to cash in – and that’s why the social media world has lit up with this story. Everybody loves an underdog, especially when the ‘wee guy’ comes out fighting against a villain of pantomime proportions.

In fact, Tatty Devine’s latest blog post yesterday (Thu) confirmed the company intends to take legal action, while offering thanks to its army of social media supporters:

We want to say a big thank you to everyone who commented, and for all the support on FacebookTwitter and Pinterest too. We are truly heartened and impressed by the amazing response on this issue.

Here’s the thing though. If you’ve been around in social media for a while, this whole stramash (that’s Scottish for ‘kerfuffle’) might sound remarkably familiar.

That’s because it is almost a year since one-women jewellery designer Stevie Koerner took to social media to highlight how faceless fashion giant Urban Outfitters had magically come up with silver trinkets which looked exactly like hers.

Indeed, in May last year I pulled together this wee zooming, video thingy (check it out, it’s on Prezi, which is waaaay cool!) to show how the whole thing turned into a massive PR disaster for Urban Outfitters.

you can view it here: http://bit.ly/xmM3AU (last I looked it had been viewed 2116 times).

Last year’s case in America was driven by Twitter, Tumblr and Etsy. The Tatty Devine brouhaha (I think that’s French for ‘kerfuffle’) has been fuelled by Twitter, Facebook and … Pinterest. That in itself is very telling indeed.

Pinterest is the scorchio , shiny new social media darling – and what it tells is that the media team at Tatty Devine are no slouches, especially since the insanely fast-growing site is still ‘in Beta’ and accessible by invitation only.

Tatty Devine on Pinterest

And the point is? Just a whimsical thought that copying jewellery designs is a very naughty no-no that will get you a nasty knuckle-rapping. But copying (and let’s face it, this really is a carbon, copycat, clone) a social media guerrilla strategy against a bigger rival is … well, PR genius.

Congratulations to the very smart social media team at Tatty Devine on a public relations success story.

They’ve managed to give a bigger rival a reputational bloody nose for shameless imitation, while pulling the same trick themselves yet somehow passing it off as the sincerest form of flattery.

2 thoughts on “There’s Nothing New Under the Sun – Or On Twitter

  1. Hi Scott

    I’m the journalist who wrote about Tatty Devine and Claire’s yesterday morning on handbag.com, with the aim of helping them fight their case. I just read your thoughts on the whole situation and have to say, I think you’ve somewhat ignored a glaringly obvious point.

    Perhaps the ‘PR storm’ as you called it is exactly the same as last year’s incident (which I was aware of) not because the people at Tatty Devine have engineered it to be so, but because it’s a carbon copy case of a massive retailer doing something unscrupulous to a smaller brand? Of course there is going to be the same amount of backlash, because it’s an equally offensive action. It’s not like Tatty Devine created the naff copies of their own work and planted them in Claire’s stores, just to generate publicity. They have simply reacted in an appropriate way to the problem – they are a small, independent company that has a big fan base, so why not defend their work?

    I’ve no doubt that there will be more and more cases like this, because social media makes things so much more obvious. Years ago Claire’s would have got away with this (and probably did) But I’m sorry, I’m not sure how you can claim that Tatty Devine are ‘copying’ some sort of PR stunt. That is being cynical for cynical’s sake.

    • Thanks for the comment Georgina – and well done on the reach of your handbag.com article.
      Hopefully nothing I’ve written suggests I have anything other than contempt for Claire’s (and for Urban Outfitters before them).
      The congratulations I offered to the Tatty Devine PR team were also sincere. They did a fine job.
      My point is that I strongly suspect some smart cookie in the Tatty Devine team sat down and posted that original blog after very, very carefully studying last year’s case.
      Your use of the word ‘engineer’ is rather apt as my view is the TD team quite deliberately and rather cleverly engineered this.
      Which most certainly is not a crime, nor any sort of copyright breach – in fact it’s a rather stonking PR success story.
      What tickles me most is the rather delicious irony that to catch a copycat in this instance involved a rather nicely finessed form of imitation.

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