Ever tried to be cooler than a teenager? It just doesn’t work. By the time you hear and learn the meaning of the latest expression or newest tidbit of slang, it’s ancient history. The first time you try to use it in front of said teenager, you’ll get a withering look that will add decades to your age.

The same holds true for advertising concepts. When a major national campaign captures the public’s interest, it’s usually because of an amazingly clever or innovative approach. Unfortunately, many company decision-makers are too lazy or unimaginative enough to come up with their own clever or innovative approach, so they simply copy the popular approach.

Remember “Got Milk?” What a great concept, although it did lose its punch after the first few ads. But that didn’t stop companies that had nothing to do with dairy projects from attempting to be every bit as clever.  So we end up with “Got industrial transmission belting?,” “Got Ribs?,” “Got Antidiarrheals?” and a host of similar knockoffs that aren’t cool and innovative. They’re tired, unfunny, and annoying.

More recently, we have people trying to one-up the “Most Interesting Man in the World” campaign with all sorts of second-rate copies. “I don’t always use industrial surfactants, but when I do …” You know what I’m talking about. You’ve seen it too many times.

Yes, the originals are great, attention-getting concepts. But they belong to someone else, and when you try to copy them, you come off as an unfunny imitator. Plus, you don’t do anything to make your own image accurately reflect what makes your organization unique.

So what do you sound like? Imagine your CEO walking up to a group of teenagers on a street corner and asking them, “What up, Dude? Got my 411?” Yep, it’s that bad.