Happens a great deal in politics and religion: the specific actions of a successful historical leader are emulated, forgetting the principles and reasons behind them. Some Mongol leaders after Genghis Khan sought to reestablish the Mongol Empire, but only to the borders the empire had at the time of Genghis Khans' death. A Christian cult in Uganda wants to ban bicycles because they didn't exist in Jesus' time. Some Muslims in Africa refuse to use toothbrushes, opting for sticks with the end chewed soft, because toothbrushes didn't exist in Muhammad's time.
Humor websites are often guilty of imitating Cracked.com's list format. One notable offender is buzzfeed.com, which just lists photos with captions along a vague theme.
And The Onion has spawned a number of satirical news sites, many of which don't bother being funny enough to keep people from believing their stories.
Several video uploading sites have cropped up since the rise of YouTube.
For that matter, video uploading sites make it quite easy for any schmoe with a video camera to imitate junk they saw on the Internet (or, for that matter, junk they saw in any other visual medium).
The 2003 book Moneyball (subtitle: "The Art Of Winning An Unfair Game") described the unorthodox methods of the Oakland Athletics baseball team. Oakland's ability to succeed despite financial disadvantage inspired other major league teams to copy their approach.
American football coaches are notorious copycats, even at the NFL or elite collegiate level. Whenever an innovative offensive or defensive scheme is unveiled, it will quickly be adopted by other teams... until someone figures out how to stop it. The spread offense is king at the moment, as well as the read option offense (as of the 2012 season); past trends (most of which still exist in some form) include the Run-and-Shoot, the shotgun formation, the West Coast Offense, the 46 Defense, the wishbone, the T-formation, and especially in the 2008 NFL season, the Wildcat formation. There's a reason why the NFL is often called a "copycat league".
If a player hits it big for an innovative niche, the next 1,000 guys at that position will all be compared to him. Before Michael Vick, the mobile quarterback was something of a rarity, and every halfback that catches passes will inevitably be compared to LaDainian Tomlinson. There's probably a bunch of guys looking to draft the next Devin Hester.
Some of the oldest techniques were even more pronounced instances of Follow the Leader: in 1892, Harvard introduced the Flying Wedge and trounced Yale (under the modern scoring system, they would have won 42-0). In 1893, nearly every play was a flying wedge. In 1894, it was banned (largely because it was EXTREMELY dangerous).
The modern T-formation appeared in 1939. In 1940 Stanford won the Rose Bowl using it, and the Chicago Bears won the NFL championship (73-0, still the most lospsided GAME in NFL history). Within 10 years only one pro and a handful of Colleges were still running the single-wing.
Motorsport is rife with this at the top levels. A skilled engineer/aerodynamicist develops a new device. Said device results in their car utterly destroying the rest of the field. Cue each other team developing/copying the new device, sometimes failing to get it to work, other times refining it. Assuming they aren't petitioning the governing body to ban it, if it isn't already. The list of examples could fill it's own page.
In a literal case, a few minor league associates of Big Four teams have the same colors or names as the "headquarters".
Interestingly, the first wiki was not Wikipedia but the Portland Pattern Repository, whose goal was to catalog the patterns used by programmers—really, the programmer version of tropes.
To be fair, they encourage and support this; the MediaWiki software is under a Free Software license.
Ever since Webkinz thought of virtual pets, it's very hard to find a stuffed animal without a virtual code. Technially Neopets did it first, though the Plush toys were based on the pets already on their site you can get without buying anything and the codes only give items.
While not the very first Machinima series, Red vs. Blue cleared the path for dozens, if not hundreds, of followers, especially using Halo 2 as a game engine. Many of them tried to copy Red vs. Blue to the letter and failed miserably while doing it. Or simply weren't very good. Others though, were pretty darn good in their own right.
The Newgrounds series Madness Combat has spun off countless imitators, some of which are quite popular and impressive, like Bunnykill and Maximum Ninja.
Newgrounds encourages this, they made a "Madness Day" (Sept. 22nd) so fans could make flash games and movies, popular series include Xionic Madness, and the aforementioned Bunnykill and Maximum Ninja.
Same to Xiao Xiao which inspired countless stick figure fighting animations and largely Madness Combat itself.
It was arguably the popularity of the Andrew Lloyd Webber take on The Phantom of the Opera (itself inspired by a campier version by Ken Hill) that spurred the unsuccessful Vampire Musicals trend, and gave a boost to Jekyll and Hyde. In fact, since the novel is public domain, quite a few musical adaptations sprung up in the 1990s for community theatres and whatnot, as well a new lease on life for Arthur Kopit and Maury Yeston's Phantom, which was actually developed around the same time as Webber's take but got lost in the shuffle.
The restaurant industry apparently loves this trope. Think about when various chains started offering (or offering more of or emphasizing): angus, chipotle, salads, chicken, sliders, chipotle chicken salads…
And chicken sandwiches with only pickles and a buttered bun, a la Chick-Fil-A.
The GameFAQs Character Battles had long been dominated by Link until 2007 (he only lost one contest where he entered, to Cloud), when voters fed up with him winning every year propelled L-Block (yes, from Tetris) to victory. When the 2008 nominations came along, many, many people tried nominating a bunch of random joke characters in an attempt to recreate L-Block, without considering why L-Block succeeded in the first place.
The Weighted Companion Cube from Portal admittedly did very well - going farther than the returning champion - but proving no jokes are forever, Link still won.
Similar to the previous one, the popularity of Ray's Pizza in New York led to a number of ripoffs like Ray's Famous Pizza, Original Ray's Pizza, Ray's Original Pizza, etc. According to That Other Wiki, much of the other restaurants with "Ray's" in the name ended up becoming authentic Ray's restaurants after Ray's became a chain of restaurants and much of these restaurants' owners bought franchises, with one oddly retaining the name Not Ray's Pizza after doing so, though it didn't say if there were any ripoffs still out there after the original restaurant's expansion, so checking whether they're real Ray's Pizza restaurants would be a good idea for someone not from NYC. Conan O'Brien briefly mentioned Ray's Pizza and other pizzerias with "Ray's" in the name on his eponymous TBS show during a week of shows in New York City, but he ended up going to Joe's Pizza rather than any of the Ray's pizzerias because he had a fondness of Joe's when he was in New York doing Late Night.
Likewise with Tommy's Hamburgers in Los Angeles. A glut of Tommie's, Tomi's, and similar wannabe-clones came and (mostly) went.
Southern California has any number of "fast Mexican" joints named something-berto's (Aliberto's, Eriberto's, Umberto's, Roberto's, etc.), all with very similar menus. Which is the "original" is a little obscure, but Alberto's is probably the largest and most popular chain.
Over the last 35 years, the National Hockey League has seen its overall style of play change and develop whenever a given team begins winning with a new style of play, which the rest of the league begins emulating in an attempt to catch up. Whether the rough-and-tumble tactics of the Philadelphia Flyers in the 1970s, the high-scoring Edmonton Oilers in the 1980s, or the tight and defensive New Jersey Devils in the 1990s (specifically their use of neutral zone trap), all three teams helped define their eras as their opponents began copying them.
Gaia Online, Gaia Online, Gaia Online. It's nigh-impossible to find a forum featuring customizable avatars that doesn't imitate it in some way. At the best, it's simply having a similar feel, at the worst, it's copying forum names, items, and events.
The video "8-Bit Gratuity" inspired a slew of similar videos like "Kirby is a fucking monster" (though most of them leave the original game audio intact instead of giving it a spooky echoing effect like in the original video).
ChipCheezum and General Ironicus' retsupuraes, although Slowbeef and Diabetus have also made guest appearances in their videos. Chip has also done the inverse, Let's Recommend.
After the emergence of Paris Hilton's infamous sex video (and before that, Pamela Anderson and Tommy Lee), you couldn't spit without it landing on a "celebrity" claiming to have been sold out by an ex or robbed, with the resulting porn video ending up on the Internet and giving said celebrity his/her fifteen minutes of fame before they slid back into has-been/never-will-be territory.
The site, The Million Dollar Homepage, has caused people to despair a bit because it's simultaneously an idea that was so damn obvious and will never be possible again. It's inspired hundreds of different sites, and all have fallen short of its glory.
One advertisement for Burger King's breakfast sandwich lampshades this, having the King breaking into McDonald's headquarters and stealing one of their recipes.
Announcer: The BK breakfast muffin sandwich with egg: it's not that original, but it's only a buck.
Before the Japanese stock bubble burst in the early 90s, you would have tons of American businessmen reading Sun Tzu and The Book of Five Rings in the hope of boosting their business acumen somehow. Naturally, this extended to fiction, with characters like Geese Howard showing people that a little aikido and some cool war god statues can really aid in your criminal conquest of America.
Two whole networks owe their existence to this. When the Fox network became successful in the early 1990s (mostly due to The Simpsons, Beverly Hills 90210, Melrose Place, winning the rights to the National Football League's National Football Conference in 1993, and signing a deal in 1994 with television station owner New World Communications - which Fox would buy in 1997 from Ronald Perelman), Time Warner and Paramount started The WB Television Network and the United Paramount Network, respectively, in early 1995. The two even have similar origins to Fox, as all three had their roots in a group of independent stations (Fox had the six Metromedia independentsnote in New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago, Dallas-Fort Worth, Washington, DC and Houston, The WB had the seven Tribune Broadcasting independentsnote in New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago (this station, WGN, was a huge boon, as it was broadcast nationally), Philadelphia, Boston, Denver, and New Orleans, and UPN had the independents of Chris-Craft/United Televisionnote in New Jersey/New York City, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Phoenix, Minneapolis-St. Paul and Portland, OR and Paramount Stations Groupnote in Dallas-Fort Worth, Washington, DC, Houston, Detroit and San Antonio (which was a Fox station before UPN knocked it off). Both networks are gone now, as they missed that Fox had grown so quickly because of chance-taking (something the Big Three were not big on) and investing in popular, profitable sports programming (most of Tribune's WB stations dropped their sports programming roughly midway through the network's run, ironically to boost the network), though they live on as The CW, which may head in the same direction as its forebears.
After Freeman's Mind became popular, now there are scores of adding-narration-to-gameplay-footage series, almost all of which are called [character]'s mind. Most of them also use the same intro, the same characterisation for the player character, and sometimes even the same jokes. Similarly to the abridged series, very few are worth watching.
On a similar note, after Brental Floss got popular making "X with lyrics" videos (videos of him singing a song in sync with video game music), many others have attempted to follow in his footsteps with their own video game lyrics videos.
When it first began to get popular, Facebook did so by copying things from Myspace. And now that Facebook is the top social networking site, Myspace has been slowly becoming more and more like Facebook.
Take a look at a good portion of smartphones out there. Odds are, its features (either in UI, software, design, or all three) have some resemblance to the iPhone.
And every tablet released since 2010 will likely share similar resemblances to the iPad.
Baskin-Robbins' "31 flavors" trademark which was based on Howard Johnson's restaurants and their claims of "28 flavors". Then Bresler's 33 Flavors copied the idea as well.
Similarly, Howard Johnson's (back when it was both a motel and restaurant chain) was known for the unique designs of its Motor Lodges and restaurants: the former had massive A-frames, and the latter had a modernistic streamline design with porcelain roofs. Both were copied strongly by local businessmen.
Also, Holiday Inn's huge, flashy motel signs with a yellow chase arrow were copied endlessly, even by other motel chains.
Stuckey's pioneered the concept of a gift shop/restaurant/convenience store combo. As a result, many other chains such as Nickerson Farms, Horne's and Dutch Pantry copied the concept; Horne's was even started by a former Stuckey's owner. The competitors all fell by the wayside in the 1970s (largely due to the gas shortage), and although Stuckey's is greatly reduced in numbers, it still exists in the Southern states. Even Cracker Barrel copied the concept in its early years, but it was able to escape this trope by ditching the gas station/convenience store parts entirely in favor of a restaurant/gift shop.
In 1519 Hernán Cortés sailed to Mexico with 600 men and conquered a big and unbelievably rich empire in a single campaign. In 1527, his second-degree cousin Francisco Pizarro sailed to Peru with 169 men and conquered an even bigger and more unbelievably rich empire in a single campaign. Soon there were thousands of tiny Spanish expeditions looking for even bigger and richer empires to conquer from Kansas to Patagonia, most of which came back empty-handed... or didn't.
The British advert for Burger King's new Chicken Tenders lampshades the fact that they're pulling a Follow the Leader on McNuggets. A husband goes "I wonder what they taste like?" and his wife sarcastically retorts "I bet they're REALLY different".
Firefox 4 followed Google Chrome's lead when it came out, eliminating the toolbar except for the URL and back and forward buttons.
In 1962, the dime store chain S.S. Kresge started a little discount store called Kmart. Meanwhile, Sam Walton opened the first Walmart, and Dayton's department store of Minnesota opened the first Target. Kmart was so successful that by year's end, competing dime store chain F.W. Woolworth had its own discount arm called Woolco. Fellow dime store chains J.J. Newberry, W.T. Grant, G.C. Murphy and T G & Y rolled out their own discount stores (Britt's, Grant City, Murphy's Mart and T G & Y Family Center). Even Montgomery Ward got into the fold briefly with its Jefferson Ward division. The chains that were spun off from the competing dime stores all failed between 1976 and 1985, with Grant City, T G & Y and Woolco even selling many of their locations to Kmart. Ultimately, Kresge gave up on the whole dime store thing in 1987.
And it happened again. When Walmart opened its first Supercenter in 1990, Kmart and Target both began superstores of their own (although the concept was Older Than They Think, having started by Michigan-based Meijer in — you guessed it — 1962). By aggressively expanding so that nearly every town now has a Supercenter, Walmart has pounded Kmart flat. Meanwhile, Target has distanced itself by abandoning the supercenters and going for a more upscale design. The Supercenter binge also had the side effect of knocking out nearly every remaining discount chain, which again fueled Walmart as it bought many locations from the fallen Ames, Caldor and Jamesway.
Once Beanie Babies took off in the late 1990s, many other collectible plush toy lines came into being as well.
And speaking of 1990s toys, the popularity of the Tamagotchi flooded the market with virtual pets in the late 90s, one of the most prominent being Giga Pets.
Lowe's started out as a traditional hardware store chain similar to True Value or ACE. They adopted the big-box superstore format in the 1980s once The Home Depot started opening in Lowe's home base of North Carolina.
After Barnes & Noble released the Nook Color, an Android-based color e-reader by an established ebook company out come the Kindle Fire and Kobo Vox, also Android-based color e-readers by established ebook companies.
Happens occasionally in firearms development. For instance, the M16 came with a combination carry handle/rear sight that was copied by many other weapons since. Including the British SA80, which otherwise started the alternate trend of rifles without traditional ironsights at all, like the H&K G36.
Reddit has been bastardizing memes from The Image Board That Shall Not Be Named, most infamously, though not limited to, rage comics. It's everything now that 4Chan makes that they steal and proclaim is original, and that they made it up, despite some of them having existed since long before the site's creation.
Pillow Pets are getting a simply unfathomable number of knock offs, the most popular of which seems to be the Happy Nappers, and the most ridiculous being the Pillow Racer.
If McDonald's has done anything in fast food, chances are that other chains will follow. Fish sandwiches, chicken nuggets, kids' meals, on-site playplaces, upscale coffee drinks, you name it. And if they weren't the first to develop something (the defunct Burger Chef was actually the first chain to offer kids' meals), nearly every other chain will at least copy their example.
The Hard Rock Cafe restaurant chain was established in The Seventies but took off in tourist towns worldwide in The Eighties with its combination of hearty, familiar food and fun, authentic music memorabilia as wall decor. In The Nineties, a theme restaurant boom arrived as a slew of rivals applied the Hard Rock formula to other concepts. While Bubba Gump Shrimp Co., Jimmy Buffett's Margaritaville, and Rainforest Cafe have proved thriving chains, most of the highly-hyped Planet Hollywood locations have long since closed, and the business is littered with outright flops: Fashion Cafe, Official All-Star Cafe, ESPN Zone, etc.
Similarly, many other chains such as Applebee's, TGI Friday's, Bennigan's, Ruby Tuesday, and Fuddrucker's also copied the idea of putting memorabilia on the walls, but most have since backed down and gone for a sleeker, more "upscale" appearance. (Cracker Barrel also does the "stuff on the walls" motif, but they set themselves apart by going for a homey, rustic feel and including a gift shop.)
This is all too common in railroading, as one builder or line tries to capture the success of another.
The Japanese Shinkansen ("New Main Line"), a high-speed electric train run on a dedicated line, was developed in the 1960s and made the Japanese railways competitive against the highways and airplanes. This prompted the European railways to spend the 1970s onward commissioning similar express services, nearly all of whom are named "High Speed Train" or "Inter-City Express." This has now spread to China, Russia, Turkey, and other countries.
The "streamliner" craze of the 1920s-1940s. After World War One, The Roaring Twenties became fascinated by airplanes and their speed. The railroads developed new Art Deco trains, initially steam and later diesel, with streamlined bodies to not only go fast but also look fast, and keep the passenger train competitive against the airplane and the highway. Some streamliner designs, such as the Super Chief, the Mallard, the Hiawatha, the Daylight, and the Dreyfuss Hudson, are legendary. But other designs such as the Alco P/F-series diesels, the Union Pacific steam streamliners, or the streamliners of the minor railroads were seen as Follow the Leader and are not so well celebrated.
After streamliners, Alco made some diesel locomotive models in The Sixties that are similar to competitor GM's Electro Motor Division (EMD) General Purpose (GP#) and Special Duty (SD#) engines.
Early shopping malls were typically open-air concourses (although some were enclosed) located in the city proper. They were more oriented to the immediate community, with the biggest stores typically being dime stores, drugstores, and supermarkets. The enclosed malls designed by Victor Gruen in the 1950s and 1960s, starting with Southdale in Edina, Minnesota, introduced the now-iconic concept of big department stores as "anchors" to give the centers more of a regional draw, while the postwar suburban development helped moved the mall from the inner city out to their iconic place in suburbia. Development in the 1970s was furthered by A. Alfred Taubman, who introduced other prototypical mall concepts such as fountains and skylights, while also making two-level malls more commonplace. Rouse Corporation (now part of General Growth Properties) introduced the food court in 1974. Outlet malls came in the 1980s, and the first "lifestyle center" malls (i.e., "upscale" stores on a streetscape) were built in Memphis later in the 80s.
MGA expanded their Bratz doll line with Bratzillaz. Everything about the line- from the appearance of a few of the dolls, the catchphrase, and even the Youtube channel- is doing its best to copy Monster High's success and image while staying with the legal bounds. That's not counting the obvious influences taken from Harry Potter as well.
A smaller company named Playhut has come out with Mystixx, an even more obvious attempt to cash in on Monster High.
With the rise of Japan's character mascots in the last decade, such as the Yuru Kyara for communities, nearby Asian nations like South Korea and China made their own in masses for firms and few communities, with similar design attributes. However, there's a difference when the former looks like they're designed as if they're drawn, and lacked digital shading. The latter nations have their mascots appeared to be made by Adobe Photoshop or Illustrator, otherwise shaded by computer graphics.
A strange attempted example with Mike the Headless Chicken, as noted on The Other Wiki: "Olsen's success resulted in a wave of copycat chicken beheading, but no other chicken lived for more than a day or two."
Microsoft, while still having successful products under their own image, such as the Xbox and their Windows OS, started to follow many trends with very little success. Microsoft's Zune service was an attempt to take a slice out of Apple's ipod profits by making their own brand of MP3 players, but it didn't work out and was discontinued in 2012. When Nintendo gotten popular with their Wii console since casual based games with motion controls was a hit, Microsoft tried to get a piece of the action by creating the Kinect addon for the Xbox 360, but it barely even caught on compared to the Wii. Windows 8 is an OS by Microsoft that attempts to imitate Apple's OS that are based on tablet touch screens. However, Windows 8 has been declared to be worse than Vista due 8 having an interface that is designed more for tablets than traditional PCs and the OS changed everything around, which frustrated people that had known where everything in the OS was before Windows 8.
Brazen crimes, such as mass shootings, are sometimes met with copycats that are seeking fame by trying to do the same thing that happened in the original crime. Luckily, most police forces know of copycatters and are high alert when a major crime has occurred so that they can stop said copycats.
Inversely, NASA itself was modeled after the British Advisory Committee for Aeronautics and the French ONERA during World War I.
Dino Attack RPG is an interesting example, following the footsteps of Alpha Team: Mission Deep Freeze RPG, then most later LEGO RPGs ended up following Dino Attack RPG. This makes Dino Attack RPG a follower that eventually became a leader.
Perfume loves this trope:
In 1917 Coty released Chypre, which has since become the name of a whole fragrance family bases on oak moss, patchouli, musk and citrus notes.
The success of Chanel No. 5 brought aldehydes on the map of perfumers.
Thierry Mugler's Angel is a shriekingly loud Love It or Hate It combiation of Chocolate/Caramel, white flowers and patchouli. Due to its surprisingly raving success it inspired hundreds of knock-offs by brands in all price ranges.
Even though other celebrities have released their own perfume before, the hype didn't really start until Jennifer Lopez released her first fragrance in 2002. Now literally every pop starlet as well as all kinds of other celebrities will sooner or later throw their own scent on the market.
The success of MAD as a satire magazine spawned legions of imitators. Most were short-lived, but the longest-lived by far was Cracked.