Copying your way to increased innovation, creativity and competitive advantage – Interview with Mark Earls


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Today’s interview is with Mark Earls, a writer and consultant to business and government on marketing and communications as well as being a leading thinker on brands and behaviour. He joins me today to talk about his new book: Copy, Copy, Copy: How to Do Smarter Marketing by Using Other People’s Ideas.

This interview follows on from my recent interview: Customer experience: UK brands are 2-3 years behind the US – Interview with David Conway of Nunwood – and is number 141 in the series of interviews with authors and business leaders that are doing great things, helping businesses innovate and delivering great service and experience to their customers.

Highlights of my interview with Mark:

  • Mark has recently published a new book: Copy, Copy, Copy: How to Do Smarter Marketing by Using Other People’s Ideas.
  • Do people copy each other or are we all acting independently?
  • It turns out that copying is our greatest human gift and it lies at the very heart of what it is to be a creative person.
  • When Mark says ‘copy’ he doesn’t mean steal or plagiarize something.
  • We have all sorts of ways of covering up how we feel about copying something when we talk about ……an homage to…..or….a sample….or……hat tip to…..or… learning.
  • We often confuse innovation with invention (i.e. creating something new new).
  • Innovation is, in fact, copying as it takes a previous idea and builds on it.
  • But, it also creates ‘error’ in the act of copying but the ‘error’ is a a good bit and a good change and not a mistake.
  • So, the book builds on this and helps people understand how to use ‘copying’ to create something new.
  • At the beginning of the book there is a call to action that says ‘Learn to code or learn to copy’.
  • Decoded, the people behind Code_in a Day, talk about how copying is at the heart of being a good coder.
  • Mark gives a great example of this in practice and of how hospital operating theatre teams learned from Formula 1 pit teams about change-overs and the transfer of patients from the operating theatre to recovery or ICU.
  • The key here was how to learn a lesson from another domain and apply it in your own domain.
  • To identify and better understand what sort of problem you have….ask yourself this question: What kind of thing is it I am trying to deal with? What kind of problem is that I have in front of me?
  • In the hospital example they were able to identify that they had a hand-over problem so they could then ask: who is the best in the world at hand-overs and what can we learn from them? That was how they got to Formula 1 a pit change crews.
  • Asking the question: What kind of thing….? forces you to think about a typology of the thing that you are dealing with.
  • Mark has also created a set of cards for all of the 127 strategies in the book that he has boiled down to 52 playing cards. You can check them out and grab a copy here or from the book website:

About Mark (taken from his HerdHQ bio)

Mark EarlsMark Earls (aka HERDmeister) is a pioneering and award-winning writer and consultant on marketing, communications and behaviour change.

He has written a number of highly influential books and articles like HERD and I’ll Have What She’s Having which apply insights from contemporary behavioural science to modern business and behaviour change challenges.

In particular, his work on the emerging social models of behaviour (social influence and social decision-making) are probably only 2nd by that of Young Mr Zuckerberg in making “we” vs. “me” popular and useful.

While Mark spent the first half of his career working for creative businesses like the revolutionary St Luke’s and the unstoppable Ogilvy, he now works independently in collaboration with others (Alex Bentley and Smithery).

He is a fellow of the Marketing Society, the RSA and an Honorary Fellow of the IPA. He is also an ambassador for The School of Life, having been a strong supporter since the start.

Pick up a copy of Mark’s book here: Copy, Copy, Copy: How to Do Smarter Marketing by Using Other People’s Ideas, connect with him on LinkedIn here, check out his work and blog at and say to him Hi on Twitter: @herdmeister

Photo Credit: Perfectance via Compfight cc

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Adrian Swinscoe
Adrian Swinscoe brings over 25 years experience to focusing on helping companies large and small develop and implement customer focused, sustainable growth strategies.


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