Generally, I think we don’t mind when the companies we patronize engage in a little “borrowing” from one another. We get combinations of the features, designs and values we like in various products. If Men’s Wearhouse carries a suit that looks suspiciously similar to an Armani and fools inexpert people on the street, who isn’t happy to pay $200 for it? My watch is a citizen, but looks a fair bit like several models of Tag I’ve seen. I don’t mind that it’s an attractive watch; maybe I’m a weird guy for bragging about how inexpensive my car is, but I like to get the value.
When I walked down to the convenience store a couple of days ago, I passed my car in the parking lot. For the last eight months, I’ve driven a slate gray Hyundai Santa Fe, and I found that someone had parked an Acura MDX of almost identical color next to it. That led me to post a picture juxtaposing the two to my Facebook page, noting how similar they were, except that I’d paid half as much for mine as the unknown owner of my car’s neighbor.
General reactions were that people liked the Santa Fe, but the one I enjoyed my friend Jen’s comment that it looks like Hyundai almost-but-not-quite copies the designs of more expensive automakers. I replied that I didn’t care if it’s a knockoff because it was affordable and has treated me great.
I thought that the point of doing a knockoff, though, is to provide value without admitting that you’re straight up copying someone else. That’s why I’m struck with the new Burger King commercial. Ads with “The King” have been creepy since their inception, but not they’re not even making good sense … the latest is for a Sausage McMuffin, right down to the King breaking into McDonalds headquarters and filching the plans, then knocking something off the price. It’s like their competitors’ products so good that BK has to to reassure their patrons, “We can do that, too.”
Am I taking it too literally? I think not. The commercial say, and I quote:
It’s not that original, but it’s super-affordable. Egg, sausage and melted cheese on a toasted english muffin: the new BK Breakfast Muffin Sandwich for a buck, now at Burker King.
Seems to me that this is going to make the trademark infringement case by McDonalds awfully easy. It may only seem like breakfast sandwich wars, but I think the King is doing the Hamburglar proud.