Emulation Is Not a Product Strategy
If something worked for one company, that doesn’t necessarily mean it will work for yours
Recently, YouTube announced significant changes to their subscription platform, YouTube Premium (formerly YouTube Red). They are stepping away from subscriptions and will be opening up their premium content for free, with ads, to all YouTube users. USA Today published an article about the change, titled “Not Everyone is Willing to Pay for Subscriptions. Just ask YouTube.” According to the article, people are burnt out on subscriptions — or, as the article put it, “The people have spoken. Enough with all those subscriptions.”
There are a lot of subscription services out there and, yes, it is possible that we may hit a saturation point. However, I don’t believe this was the problem with YouTube Premium. People will pay for almost anything that delivers what they deem to be valuable and that fits into their view of the world. They’ll even go into debt to do it. It’s why there are endless credit card offers.
I think the actual problem with Premium is that YouTube decided to play “me too” with other streaming services.
YouTube built their strategy around what everyone else was doing, and now they are coming to grips with a truth that is all too frequently ignored: Emulation is not a product strategy.
This kind of emulation happens all the time. As designers, developers, entrepreneurs, and product managers, we look at best practices, analyze the competition, and then, often, we take a copycat approach to building our product. We think that if it’s working for them, it’s got to work for us too. The problem? It frequently doesn’t — at least not the way we think it will.
Your product, your use case, and the space you occupy in people’s minds is unique. There are so many factors that come together to create the perception people have about your brand and your product. No two brands have the exact same fingerprint; they never will.
When a company copies another product, they assume that what they’re copying is actually successful for the company they’re emulating, and that original…