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What exactly does one mean by the phrase “monkey see monkey do”?

Monkeys are fairly intelligent creatures. They pick up on things rather quickly and can be trained to do nearly anything. One might assume that this saying implies a model of intelligent conduct.

That, however, would be a completely incorrect assumption.

It is indeed true that monkeys are agile and can rapidly learn new skills. What they’re really doing most of the time, though, is mimicry.

If a monkey watches someone eat with a fork for long enough, that monkey will then use a fork to grab its own food. This is learning, and yet it isn’t. The monkey is copying a behavior that it sees without questioning why it is actually doing it.

Hence, the term “monkey see monkey do” refers to a foolish person copying the actions of another without putting any thought into what it is that they are doing. Don’t be that monkey.

All too often this applies to marketing. People will copy their competitors’ advertising, sites, or marketing strategies. The competitors of the people doing the copying will in turn copy what the people doing the copying are doing.

Then even more companies follow suit, and before you know it, it seems like you are seeing the same advert over and over again. Precisely because you are.

It’s a scary cycle.

It seems like these days there is nary an original thought to be had. By the time the last person doing the copying has done their copying, no one is certain why exactly they are doing things in this manner. It has become “just the way it is done”.

I know a story that illustrates this complete lack of original thinking and is much less confusing to follow:

A woman is preparing a ham for a dinner party that she is hosting in her home. Her friend is over helping out. The woman slices the end off of the ham and places it into the pan for baking.

Her friend is confused by this odd method of pork preparation.

She asks, “Why did you cut the end off of that ham?”

The woman, sensing nothing amiss, shrugs. “I don’t know. That’s how my mother does it.”

Days later, the woman starts to ponder this routine. So she asks her mother why she removes the end from the ham.

Her mother in turn replies, “I don’t know. That was how my mother did it.”

Determined to get to the bottom of this ritual ham slicing, the woman calls up her grandmother.

“Grandma, why do you cut the end off of the ham before you bake it?”

Her grandmother says “Well, otherwise it would never fit into my baking pan.”

Such a small thing, really. But this is how behaviors are learned.

We see someone doing things in a certain way and it appears to be legitimate, so we use this as a model for our actions. Before you know it, this small thing has become a habit and is ingrained into your routine.

If we don’t stop to question why it is that this someone is doing something in a particular manner and simply copy them mindlessly, then we may very well be throwing out perfectly good ham when our pan is more than adequate enough to bake the entire thing.

Which brings me to my point.

MonkeyDo is all about not assuming that monkey see monkey do attitude, particularly with regard to marketing.

You don’t want to fit in and become part of the pack, especially when it comes to advertising. You don’t want your product, brand, or service to get lost amid the shuffle. You don’t want your voice to be lost in all the clamor and find yourself reduced to background noise.

This is not the time to be part of the “in” crowd.

Think for yourself! Chances are, if you have something that is worth marketing, you are a person that has ideas. If you’ve made it this far following your ideas and listening to your instincts, then why quit now?

You have not worked this hard on your project just to brand it the exact same way that everyone else is branding theirs. Be unique, make a stellar impression that will not be forgotten by the wayside on the path to the next Big Thing.

Test everything to find out what works for you. Then run with that.