Following on from my interviews with BBC radio yesterday regarding the current controversy between Heck & Aldi, and the lack of protection the law gives designs. The challenge brands have is that the legal case is tough - e.g. they need to prove (amongst other things) that consumers actually bought the own label brand believing it to be real brand. However, supermarket brands can be very effective copying enough elements to simply evoke the brand, where consumers know they are buying an own brand, but believe it is essentially the same! It is perfectly legal for supermarkets to infer through the graphic presentation that it is the same product. It is therefore hardly surprising that supermarkets copy visual elements to create the perception that the product is the same. The only protection the law gives is at a brand level, and brand owners perhaps need to focus their energy away from creating brands that reflect consumer needs well (therefore generic and easy to copy) to creating distinctive and ownable brand identities.
Here are some thoughts on how brands can better protect themselves:
Symbolism within your brand identity
With a lack of legal protection for design, a symbolic brand identity the most effective way to affect consumer behaviour – it enables your brand to create something ownable (beyond a typeface) that creates a visual memory structure and it much harder to legally copy. It also ensures that the narrative delivered through the symbolism affects how consumers perceive the product and so without the narrative, it is harder for an inferior product to pretend to be something it is not – the consumer instantly understands it is a compromise.
Your visual identity needs to be distinctive and differentiated, avoiding category generics. Utilising a cow for a dairy brand for example, isn’t going to be ownable and therefore risks passing off. It also becomes literal rather than telling a higher-level emotive idea over-and-above the product in order to meaningfully connect to consumers.
Brand = pack
Your entire pack from structure to graphics should embody your brand. By driving a branded presentation your pack becomes synonymous with only your brand. It is easy (and legal) to copy products, but it is very difficult to copy well-structured brands with unique and distinctive equities.
Listen to the interview below.