Try To Be Original

I’ve grown accustomed to brands taking old ideas, polishing them off and introducing them as new. I’m also used to seeing them copy anything that’s creating buzz instead of trying to create something original.

I get it – it takes more time and effort to be original, and it’s easier and less expensive to take an old idea and introduce it as something new. Just don’t expect us to get too excited about it when it’s been done a ton before, especially if you’re not doing it any better.

I thought of this when I heard that the office supply retailer, Staples, was launching a quarterly magazine in print and online called Worklife as part of its new branding as a “worklife fulfillment company.” I think sometimes brands try to be more aspirational than they should, or in this case, they come so late to the game and don’t understand the game they’re playing, it’s hard to see any relevancy.

Staples sells office supplies and related equipment to businesses, so connecting with businesses in a meaningful way is a good idea, but with so many sources of business advice and information already available to us, do we really need a giant flowchart graphic on “Do I really need to go to that meeting?”

While I give them some credit for trying something different for their category, if they really wanted to be original, they should have done this like 20 years ago when they could have had a shot at establishing themselves as a resource for business information. Now it feels about 20 years too late, and rehashing content that’s already been around doesn’t feel very relevant.

I’m not opposed to taking something that already exists and making it a lot better. Yay for continuous improvement and all that. But in this case, it feels like more clutter. So, while it might seem original for the office supply category, it’s not original for the bigger category of business and that’s where they’re competing if they want to be in the relevant content game.