I like attorneys…some of my best friends are attorneys…and I also know many “recovering attorneys” as well who I like a lot too.
This is not a post about bashing attorneys–far from it–but it is a post about how to rise above the litigious society we live in and not “go legal” as your first move when you believe you have been wronged.
Believe it or not there are better ways to do business…and I want to share a story with you today that I hope will resonate with you in some way.
But first, if you are one of those people who will die on a sword over “the principle of the thing,” you might want to stop reading now…this is not for you…
Well…now I think about it some more… if you tend toward not letting go to prove a point, maybe you shouldread on so I can try to convince you that this is no way to live.
Consider this before I tell you today’s story:
When you die, everyone at your funeral will be very sad.
They will cry, talk about what an awesome person you were, how much they will miss you.
However, when the funeral ends, I guarantee that someone in the room will look at the person next to them and say:
“I’m hungry. Let’s go to Denny’s.”
That’s the context…here’s the story:
As many of you know, a little over a year ago, I hosted the epic event which I called the “Titans of Direct Response.”
One of the first things I needed to do early on was to create a logo…so I went to an online design site and held a contest.
I ended up with something I loved, colors and a font that fit the magnitude of the event and a “titans shield” that was powerful yet subtle. You may have seen it before:
Since then, I have launched a new business called “Titans Marketing,” created a “Titans Mastermind,” sold “Titans DVD’s” and I will soon create “Titans Master Classes.”
Do you sense a theme here?
Anyway, one day I get an e-mail from a friend who tells me there is an up and coming online marketing company called “Titans of Marketing.”
Well…I don’t own the word “Titan” and the term gets around: It’s used by NFL teams past and present, by various gurus in other industries and even by the company that places advertising at bus stops in New York City:
But “Titans of Marketing?” That sounds too close for comfort.
I go to the website for “Titans of Marketing” and lo and behold, their colors and font are identical to mine…and instead of the shield for a logo there is a Spartan helmet.
(Ironically, the helmet was a design given to me as well which I rejected.)
Seeing is believing. So you can see what I saw, this is what they were using
What to do?
Well…my attorney suggested we send a cease and desist letter which I considered.
Others suggested I sue them outright (and not all of those folks were lawyers, mind you).
And still others told me to forget about them…that anyone who would show such little imagination and ingenuity would not stand the test of time and they would be gone before I knew it.
The fact that I had bigger fish to fry at the time led to me simply ignore it…not a great strategy perhaps.
But it was one I was comfortable with given what I knew about these things.
That is, after 30+ years of watching people rip off promotions, copy, titles (and more) from under my nose, I knew that chasing every little infraction by taking some kind of legal action was only a distraction and never part of the main event in my life or my business.
And of course, pursuing stuff like this is a great a way to add to the billable hours of your friendly attorney…often with little or no satisfaction.
So I forgot about those other Titans until one day I realized (by accident) that one of the partners in that business was a friend of mine on Facebook…and he even “liked” a post of mine!
Was he taunting me?
I finally reached out…directly to him… no lawyer required.
Just BFF to BFF on FB. LOL.
I wrote to him with a pointed but friendly (and free!) Facebook message…asking why he would be so lazy with the naming of his company and especially with the development of his typeface and logo.
And I wrote to him assuming he had heard of my epic event and that it was obvious he wanted to cash in on the tsunami that was the Titans brand in direct marketing!
Once we connected and I showed him what I was talking about, all I can say is what I said to myself:
“Brian…get over yourself!”
The guy didn’t know who I was and was shocked when he saw my logo and branding.
Together we figured out what happened and here’s lesson #1 for today:
When you go to a public site to get designs from designers who are not getting top dollar (understatement), don’t assume they are being 100% original.
It was clear that that someone took a good design that won a previous contest (mine) and figured it could win another contest without changing very much.
As I’ve always said:
“Stealing is a felony; stealing smart is an art.”
Of course it’s only a “felony” if you want to prosecute…and then we are back to paying lawyers.
I guess this was neither a felony nor art…but it was lazy (albeit opportunistic) on the designer’s part.
But not on the part of the “Titans of Marketing.”
They were simply caught in the crossfire.
Jumping to conclusions–and jumping to “legal action” without the facts–is a waste of time and money.
I joked above that the guys are now my BFF’s…which is a bit of an exaggeration…but I felt there was now lemonade to be made from these lemons.
I scheduled a call to learn more about them, their business, their overall mission, and their future plans as fellow Titans.
What I found were two, young, ambitious entrepreneurs…full of enthusiasm for the marketing and direct response business we both love.
The call resulted in them making plans to change everything (their suggestion before I even asked).
They said they would be going in a completely new direction with their branding, their logo…and they seemed inspired to now raise the bar higher for their business.
I also offered up my consulting services at no charge to help them with their re-positioning.
Those of you who have read “Confessions of a Wannabee” know that I may not be a world class copywriter but I do play one in this blog!
I also began asking more about what they offer to their clients (i.e. products and services) and I come to find that what they offer may have value to folks I work with as well.
We didn’t stop there…I then thought of a way to turn lemons into lemonade even more…and turn our adventure together into a public service.
I asked them if they had a list and/or a tribe that knew them beyond their list…which they did.
Of course I have this list.
I suggested we both warn the industry about the dangers of using designers and writers who submit their work on sites who will have you believe that what they created for you is unique.
I’m sure many are super talented and are not borrowing from other designers…but without checking out what we approve, how would we know if someone is simply “stealing dumb?”
Consider this post your warning about this…and I hope it’s helpful.
And coming full circle to the “Titans of Direct Response,” I offered them the opportunity to sell the materials (from my event).
I went from “the guys ripping me off” to affiliate partner.
My thinking was that they could use a little money to help with their re-branding, basically paying them something for the time and effort they were taking to do the right thing.
Much better than me paying legal fees and them paying damages (not that it would have ever come to that).
What ended up was we both wanted to do the right thing and any proceeds from sales to their list will be donated to charity.
While this story is interesting on a number of levels, the last point I want to make is something I have emphasized my entire career:
Competition is coexistence.
We all know this from all the affiliate deals we do and all the sharing we do in our mastermind/accountability groups, big and small.
All boats rise when we share at a high level.
But this has an additional theme.
It’s about knowing when to put your ego on back burner.
News flash: Whether you like it or not, 50 to 75 years from now (no matter how young you are today), we will all be in a box, in the ground, with lots of dirt on top of us.
I don’t mean to depress you…just inspire you to stay calm and not live every minute to prove your point or stand on principle.
And when possible, try to create opportunities out of what looks like, on the surface, a mess.
I remember sitting with my mentor Marty Edelston one day many years ago when we had a tricky legal issue to deal with…and he said:
“I don’t want lawyers running our business. I just want reasonable and intelligent lawyers helping us do the right thing. And suing will never be our first option.”
I have had many experiences over my career that speak to this theme…many don’t involve legal issues or lawyers…but they all work on the premise that looking for the worst in people as the first reaction is not a winning formula for a peaceful life.
You’ll never lose sleep when you take the high road.