“Success makes so many people hate you. I wish it wasn’t that way. It would be wonderful to enjoy success without seeing envy in the eyes of those around you.” – Marilyn Monroe

“Of the seven deadly sins, only envy is no fun at all.” – Joseph Epstein

What great quotes, right? I obviously didn’t say or write them, but I guess you could say I’m “envious” of them. Envy is the desire to have something you don’t or be someone you’re not.

The fact is there is always someone luckier, more attractive, or seemingly better than you. They have more money, better tattoos (although I don’t have any – I can sometimes be envious), or were in the right place at the right time, and you missed out. Or, at least you may think so. It’s what leads people to gamble, play the lottery, or have too much aesthetic surgery. It can create bad habits, obsessions, and wreck your entire life if you’re not careful.

The same is true for brands. As a marketer, I hear it often.

“Can you believe they were featured in that magazine!?! And, they’ve never even covered one of our press releases.”

“We work so hard, and yet [insert competitor name] doesn’t spend anything in marketing and continues to grow. Why can’t we do that?”

“How do they have such a large marketing budget? We’ve got 1/10th of that. It’s really not fair.”

Fair is unfortunately something you only occasionally see in elementary school. And even when it is fair, we’re still envious of the kid with the cool lunch box who’s mom cut the edges off the sandwich for them and had the Capri-Sun. Or, like my youngest daughter would say a few years ago – whoever brought Takis to school today is the most popular.

In my experience, envy is rampant in marketing. Whether it’s envy of success, of wins, or even of design, we see it quite frequently. When we complete new logo designs for clients, or place ads – clients can sometimes ask “Well, can’t we be more like [insert brand name]?” Or, “can our ads look like [insert company]?” The definitive response should always be “No.”

For instance, the fashion brand Zara is constantly accused of copying high-fashion brands like Gucci and Prada. They claim, they don’t copy, they just “modify.”








Or take the case of Starbucks Coffee and the Korean-based Starpreya Coffee. Starpreya and Starbucks both opened their first stores in Korea in 1999. To say the Starpreya mark isn’t a play off of the Starbucks brand would be, um, likely a lie. However, since Starbucks wasn’t a household name like it is now, Korean courts supported the native company. Starbucks appealed until 2007 when the final appeal was struck-down. To this day, Starpreya still is using “their” brand mark.

Many mental health experts connect social media to increased anxiety, depression, negative body image, and many, many other societal issues. Why? Envy! On average, we spend more than 2 hours a DAY on social media platforms. The constant visual stimulus forces us to compare ourselves and our organizations to others. That’s a dangerous precedent to set for an organization if we’re focused on the wrong things. They have more followers. They have better content. Their images are nicer. On and on the cycle continues. It can force us to become obsessive over measures that don’t matter and things we have little control over. And, many times, those factors are not the ones that drive revenue or sales.

In the end, organizations, just like us as people, have to be comfortable in our own skin. Be happy with the blessing and resources you have. That’s not to say you shouldn’t aim to be better – quite the contrary! Use all of your tools to your advantage. When we’re not comfortable with who we are and what we have, we want what others have. That’s the case of Starpreya and the case of Zara. It’s also the same when we want to copy or imitate another company’s messaging or designs.

So to prevent envy leaking into your marketing strategy – be who you are, state that and show that consistently – and don’t stop. I know that sometimes organizations get “tired” of seeing the same colors, words imagery and looks over and over – but your audiences haven’t. It’s ok to be you. And maybe – just maybe – you’ll find that other companies are actually envious of your work rather than the other way around.