What is 'blanding', and why has it become popular?

Yes, you heard that right. BLANDING. It has been taking over the world of branding.

Is blanding the future of branding?
Giles Taylor writes for W/Brand Design Blog
Giles Taylor, May 21, 2024

Blanding is exactly as described – bland.

It’s a trend that many enormous brands have followed, and it’s based around keeping everything clean and simple. But does it actually work? Or do you just end up getting lost in a crowd full of similar-looking designs?

Think sans serif fonts, muted plain colours and clean lines. Oh, and white space, lots of blank, white space.

If you want to see a visual representation of ‘blanding’, just check out logos including UBER, Burberry, Google, Microsoft and Balenciaga. It seems the plain, stuffy and uninspiring logos of the tech world have spilled into the mainstream. Who knew fashion brands could be so plain?

If some of the major players are doing it, there must be some advantages to it, right? Let’s explore the pros and cons and then draw our own conclusion.

What are the benefits of blanding?

A lot of brands have taken this approach because it feels safe. With a simple, clean brand logo, you’re unlikely to offend anyone. However, just because something is safe doesn’t mean it’s the right thing to do. It’s always good to get out of your comfort zone. People want to fit in, right? And lots of brands are trying to fit in too.

Bland brands are simple and easy to understand. Basic fonts can appear easier to read and offer a very neutral stance.

Another reason why companies opt for a simple design is also because it can be cheaper. No bells and whistles, so design costs tend to be less.

And finally, another advantage is that blanding often feels like it will appeal to more people. It stops people from making certain assumptions and associations and creates a nice, comfortable neutral stance.

Brands feel that more people are going to like what they’ve produced, but this isn’t necessarily true. Some very traditional brands that have rebranded to something more clean and modern have had to deal with a lot of backlash for losing their personality.

What are the disadvantages of blanding?

Picture this. Your brand is on the shelves in a supermarket. You look at all the products in your category, and they all look the same. Is this really what you want, to have the exact same visuals as everyone else? The bottom line is – your brand just won’t stand out. Why would you want to blend in, particularly in such a competitive market?

  • Creativity, it seems, has gone out the window. Life isn’t much fun without a little creativity. By leaning towards blanding, brands are missing out on amazing creativity.
  • Sure, a bland brand may not offend or confuse anyone at all, but it will be lost in a sea of other similar brands. It’s all about gaining a competitive advantage, right? And it’s hard to do that by being extremely generic.
  • You are much better off working towards rebranding strategies that are based on what YOUR audience wants, and you don’t have the same audience as everyone else. Now is the time to champion authentic, creative design that really speaks to (the right) people.
  • This could be a short-lived trend (that’s already falling out of favour with many). It may seem safe to keep it simple, but just like any trend, it’s only momentary. You really don’t want to blend in for too long. Boring never leaves a lasting impression.
  • People are realising that these generic black-and-white, sans-serif typographic logos all end up looking the same. There is nothing stand-out or memorable about them, and that's what effective branding is all about – right?
  • Giving your brand some personality and uniqueness can help to form trust with your audience.
  • According to research by Kantar and BrandZ, brands seen as highly ‘disruptive’ and ‘different’ saw an increase in brand value of more than 28% in three years, compared to a 5% drop for those brands considered less so.

A few examples of unique brands

Did you know Google’s brand logo used to be more fun? It included an exclamation mark. Their brand logo has changed significantly over the years. Although the font used to be a little more out there (and it’s now a lot simpler), to be fair to them, they have kept their bright brand colours.

Brands like Airbnb, Oatly, Lego and Hubspot all stand out, right? It’s because they put a lot of effort into creating distinctive brands that are recognised as trailblazers in their market. They aren’t afraid to use bold colours and stand-out symbols in their logos.

How to create a unique brand

Your brand identity is so important, and it needs to come across in your logo. If you opt for something that’s completely void of any personality, no one is going to get to know what your brand is about.

Although blanding has been popular, there now seems to be a shift in this attitude, with more interest in unique brands. Creating an original brand is an excellent way of capturing the attention of your ideal audience.

According to McKinsey & Company, unique brands often dominate their specific space, commanding a market share of 70% or more.

It’s crucial to consider what you want your brand personality to be and how you want to come across. For example, do you want to be seen as pioneering, playful, professional, creative or fun? Having a clear vision for what sort of brand you want to be from the start can really help when you get to the design stages.

It is possible to be original AND come across as professional and trustworthy, you just need the right support to make this happen. Working with a respected brand design agency can help you to achieve your vision. Need support? We’re a remote creative team. Let us support your marketing team and create a unique brand design that you’re proud of.

Giles Taylor writes for W/Brand Design Blog

Giles Taylor

Giles is the founder and creative director for W/Brand. A graphic designer from Reading in Berkshire, UK, he's a dad with two wonderful children who enjoys walking and playing the guitar.  

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