If branding is the art of differentiation, blanding might be the science of imitation. We’re witnessing the blanding of brands.
Blanding, a term coined in 2018, happens when a challenger brand drafts on the brand recognition of a larger and more established competitor by using similar brand identification (fonts, colors, imagery). Blanding was popularized by technology companies who were heavily influenced by the stripped down and intuitive imagery of tech giants like Apple and Google. While blanding may have started in tech, it has spread to fashion and consumer packaged goods. We live in a world of blands.
When everyone tries the same approach, there is no differentiation.
Consider the humble toothbrush. A new generation of smart toothbrushes “guide consumers to brush better and to build healthier habits without sacrificing fun for functionality.” Sounds compelling but it could be the mantra of Quip, Hum, Goby, Burst, Brüush, Gleem or Shyn.
Blands have become so interchangeable that they reuse common catchphrases: “attention to detail,” “timeless craftsmanship,” “thoughtfully sourced,” “a membership designed around you,” “join our community,” “fits in to your busy life,” “we’re obsessed with,” and “tireless dedication to quality.”
Of course, every startup wants to disrupt or disintermediate the status quo. But blands somehow simultaneously claim to be unique while following a formula:
- Choose a single word name which epitomizes your space
- Use your name in sans-serif typeface as your logo
- Embrace vibrant colors (purple is popular at the moment)
- Use direct tone of voice to explain the revolution
Extra points for claiming you are the Apple of your space, whatever that means. (Monos is apparently the “Apple of Suitcases”)
Blands may crave Apple’s market cap or its cultural zeitgeist but they’ve missed the point. Yes, Apple started a consumer startup designed to disrupt IBM (Macintosh famously was “the computer for the rest of us”). But Apple incrementally arrived at its current stripped down brand while its scope and impact increased. The logo itself evolved from playful and colorful to a crisp silhouette. Similarly, Apple products do more each generation but become simpler (goodbye keyboards and headphone jacks). Apple isn’t a bland.
Imitation might be the sincerest form of flattery but it isn’t a reliable source of innovation. Be sure to stand out from the competition. Stop the blanding of brands.