Which POTUS was it that was chided (perhaps unfairly), as amazed by grocery scanning technology?

Well, everyone but him has probably noticed the way some strore brand or private-label brands of consumer packaged goods mimic the national brands’ packaging. I enjoy studying knockoffs.

Sometimes I do a double-take, looking at a package for a product that isn’t the brand I initially thought I was looking at. I think the rules here have either been loosened, or were never as strong as private-label packagers believed. As a result, house brands and national brands are starting to look more alike than ever.

I’m certain those in the CPG world do this for a few reasons.

They’re hoping to pick up a little market share by mistake.

They want to avoid ‘stranger danger.’ (Sorry, that’s goofy, but I wanted to use the phrase stanger danger in food context and you get my point.)

They want to sell to parents who’s picky brats will resist anything but the “real” brand they saw on TV. (that works with kids who don’t read yet, perhaps).

Few parents have the time or inclination to switch contents – and that Wheaties box with Bruce Jenner on the cover is really starting to show its age.

Of course two legitimate factors driving the embrace of private brands are increasing quality and lower cost. I found a concise discussion of this topic here – worth a quick read for the curious

Though we’re not big time consumers of processed and packaged foods in our household, no one is immune from brand recognition. There’s a reason those cheap cookies at the market are called ‘sandwich creams’ and not ‘Oreo.’ Personally, I prefer Newman-Os – the mint ones are good too.

In any case, I believe this is more true in the food sector than, say, toiletries and paper goods, where the nationals seem far superior. I once asked a chemist to compare ingredients between a known shampoo and a cheap knock off, He explained the off-brand used a lesser-grade of chemical to achieve a similar result.

Logos however, are an area where imitation is less a form of flattery and more an likely opportunity for litigation.

Years ago, when launching the Ment Media Group a family member faxed (it was ’97) a word of caution — as the initials I also use, MMG, were shared by another media company – in fact they’re now shared in whole or in part by at least one model and talent management agency, a mining operation (MMG Ltd, formerly Minerals and Metals Group),

and many, many marketing groups and media groups including one run by a gal I grew up with. Small world.

In 20 years, I’ve come across many – but never have I stumbled across similar logos for these diverse (and sometimes too similar) MMGs.

Worth a mention here, perhaps, that part of my own rebranding includes a shift away from the old MMG logo which was hastily designed in QuarkXPress for lack of an illustrator.

In the past couple of months, however, I’ve hit logos with which I have a problem. The first belongs to Taffer Virtual Teaching, a restaurant and bar employee training program plugged by consultant and television personality John Taffer.

I may be the only one watching his show, Bar Rescue, that remembers TVT Records, but with the millions of albums Tee Vee Tunes and TVT sold over the years – that seems unlikely.

Typically at the end of every episode, Taffer tells the bar owner he’s subscribed them to Taffer Virtual Teaching and shows them a tablet bearing the logo.

I do a double-take each time, thinking of the old record label.

The larger V between two Ts is just too similar. I suppose the record label stylized their letters with perspective. To me – they’re basically the same logo.

In any case, I don’t see where a company could patent or trademark initials – though if you tried to market your business with a big golden “M” I think you’d run into trouble.

TVT Records grew from the Tee Vee Toons record label built on successful releases of numerous greatest hits albums of television and movie theme songs. TVT went under a decade ago though I guess its been reborn with a new parent company. If it truly was out of business, perhaps the old logo would be up for grabs?

The second case, on my radar, crosses much farther into the realm of intellectual property and I’m frankly at a loss for how this exist.

The logos used by Amazon and their direct competitors Jet both incorporate a smile. While Jet’s is formed by an extra dot on the hook of the ‘J’ and Amazon’s with a clear grin below the name – I feel the concept has been co-opted by the rival.

While nobody would confuse these two brands – the logos are starkly – I mean, they couldn’t be more different, it seems the good feelings their logos are each trying to instill are the same. Possibly identical.

Of course every brand wants you to feel good about choosing them – and it’s hard to trademark a smile, but Amazon and Jet are in the same core business. That’s why I have questions.

For years I’ve been intrigued by Pepsi’s Indian name at its reintroduction there – which was preceded by “Lehar,” translated: “Pepsi Wave.” Wave in-turn is the name of Coca-Cola’s trademarked ‘dynamic ribbon device’ or swoosh, or which in turn is the name of Nike’s trademarked … swoosh.

If you’ve never heard the story of the NIKE logo’s creation (and designer) click on swoosh if you can spare another two minutes in observance of #InternationalWomensDay



Thanks for reading & sharing these thoughts. You can also subscribe on WordPress read about Jonathan Ment Photography, follow on twitter & find me on Facebook

One thought on ““Oops. That’s not what I meant to buy…” Or, “On Brand Recognition”

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