The Rifeness of The Rip-Off

We’ve seen it time and time again with big brands like Zara, Jeremy Scott, Victoria’s Secret and Disney – just to name a few – plagiarising or not-so-subtly repurposing the creativity of smaller or emerging innovators. Despite many instances of copycats being called out, we note that they continue to pop up, so much so that the occurrence isn’t surprising anymore.

Last week Bri Luna, creator of the online hub for ‘modern mystics’, The Hoodwitch, was alerted to a new advertising campaign by coffee behemoth, Starbucks, for their new ‘Crystal Ball Frappucino’.  The acrylic claws, tattoos and abundance of jewellery / purple colour palette were strikingly familiar.

Despite mysticism and magic being a mainstream trend du jour – hence Starbucks jumping on the bandwagon –  there were just too many similarities to Bri’s signature style to be a coincidence. Down to the composition and lighting of the images, it was clear that The Hoodwitch had been ripped off. Blatant plagiarism aside, these big brands seem to have not yet heard of Influencer Marketing; the collaboration between two brands, whereby mutual benefits can be reaped.

Whether the decision to not collaborate is financial greed or fear that the artist may decline the opportunity, proceeding without consent or consulting is poor form. It never ends well, and Starbucks, like its predecessors, faced a slew of backlash from Hoodwitch fans and sticklers for justice alike. The time, effort and money involved in damage control surely eclipses that which would’ve involved working alongside The Hoodwitch to art direct and style the campaign, and remunerating her accordingly.

Moreover, it’s simply a missed opportunity to make a friend with benefits. The Hoodwitch is based in Seattle, as is, famously, Starbucks. An official collaboration could’ve been a lucrative opportunity for The Hoodwitch, and some major cool points for Starbucks.

But, hope is not lost. For every episode of plagiarism and murky grey areas of inspiration versus imitation, there’s a stellar collaboration between two consenting brands. Dolce & Gabanna X Smeg, Damien Hirst X Converse – and closer to home – Well Made Clothes X Nobody Denim and Banoffee X Pageant, are all shining examples of outreach and partnerships done right.

It all comes back to the cardinal rule of creative etiquette – giving credit where credit is due.

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