Have you met someone who looks just like you? Just like our ideas are not that unique most of the time, despite our own pride. What do we do despite having fierce and similar competition?

I went to a recently opened cafe on a Saturday morning and was greeted by the friendly manager. The manager took a look at me and said he saw me at a gym downtown. I replied that I was not there. He kept saying he swore he saw me there just an hour earlier. The truth was, I was never there, and have not been a member of that particular gym network for nearly a decade, and I was certainly not even downtown in that same morning. I was home and in bed before I was at the cafe in the business district.

That was not the first time something like this happened to me. When I was much younger, someone commented they saw me in a disco one night. The reality was I was never there, and I was home as usual (I am not a night person). When I was much older, someone called me by a different name, and I was certainly not that person.

Therefore, the logical reason is that someone out there looks very much like me (at the very least) or could even be a dead ringer for me. I am not arrogant enough to imagine my looks are that unique (my fingerprints might be, but my looks are not). The legend of the Doppelgänger is age-old, which means “double goer” in German. These days, it just means having someone out there who look just like us.

What do Doppelgängers mean to us in business and marketing?

Ideas are not that unique, because many similar ideas and expressions can co-exist, developed independently, having similar functionality, and even look-and-feel. Rather than imagining that we must fight tooth and nail over the straws of originality we imagine, we as business leaders and marketers must simply move on, and fast forward.

First, ideas can become dated when the time is over. We have created an effective marketing and promotional campaign some years earlier for a client. The campaign was a resounding success. However, a few years later, the client decided to rehash the same idea with a different wrapper. Unfortunately, the climate has changed and consumers were no longer interested in long, tedious promotions. We advised the client against such an idea even if it worked the first time.

Second, we must keep abreast of trends even if we are leaders today. If there is a particular trend, whether it be fashion, food, technology, or media, this trend will not last. This has been proven time and again. We must innovate, invent, re-invent, and go back and revisit the drawing board all too often with gusto and passion. Time waits for no one, and certainly, the marketplace and our competition would not wait for us too.

Third, let us put our ears to the ground and listen hard. What are consumers seeking in terms of real needs (rather than mere desires)? What are their pain points and challenges? What would make their lives better? The best inventions, the best technologies, the best products, are often those that serve real needs, solve real problems, and work simply and confidently, without putting hoops and hoops to confound our consumers.

Be not afraid of Doppelgängers, but rather, of our own inaction and inability to move on and forward, to invent and innovate. Spend more time listening to the ground, spend more time hard at work to create and refine, and spend less time looking back and biting others. Those who lead and those who win, look confidently to the fore.