With the arrival of spring comes the rebirth of life—and an awakening of brands from their blanding hibernation. Brands such as Burberry and Louisa Parris have debuted new identities, ushering in a renaissance of vibrancy. Let’s explore the past, present and future of the blanding trend and offer three steps to banish the bland and to rejuvenate your brand.
Started in 2018, the era of “blanding,” as Bloomberg described it, led to a wide array of DTC brands with remarkably similar minimalist aesthetics—“disruptive startups slavishly follow[ing] an identikit formula of business model, look and feel, and tone of voice.”
By July 2022, The Fashion Law noted, “As part of a larger trend in branding, or better yet, blanding, a growing number of high fashion and luxury brands—and other consumer goods and tech companies, as well—are looking to spartan logos, which are ‘designed not to stand out at all, but to blend in.’” Referencing the move toward digital and e-commerce, they noted this move had “largely been attributed to the desire of brands to use the same logo more seamlessly across multiple formats.”
While early adopters of the style were a marked contrast from established brands, the market became saturated with companies using uniform approaches to brand identity. A proliferation of best practices and pre-built solutions with ready-made platforms, design systems and branding methodologies was an engine for blanding. A Bloomberg TikTok that made the rounds in May 2022 highlighted why big brands were shedding depth and detail for minimal simplicity.
While the blanding trend is called a move toward simplicity and minimalism, we disagree with that sentiment—after all, we are known as The Simplicity Company. Branding with simplicity is not bland; rather, simplicity counters the blanding trend. It distills the essence of a brand to create strategic and expressive identities that amplify a brand’s true spirit. Simplicity breathes life into a brand to set it apart from others, not to homogenize it, but rather to find out what differentiates it and showcase that with clarity. Branding exists to differentiate!
Looking forward, simple yet dynamic brand identities are increasingly important as brands think about engaging Millennials and Gen Z—who are interested in compelling, purposeful brands. They want brands that deliver creativity and engagement with customized, personal experiences. To ensure your brand banishes the stale blanding trend and joins the ever-growing wave of brands breathing fresh, new life, we propose three ways to move from sterile to striking.
Find your purpose
Purpose is the nucleus of a brand’s identity, permeating every touchpoint. The best brands avoid the blanding trend by developing a strong positioning that resonates with audiences and walks the talk, both internally and externally. Before even beginning to craft a logo, you should define who you are and what sets you apart. You need to understand your overall strategy as a brand and bring that to life in the logo, embedding that into the company’s identity and its DNA.
Shift from operational to emotional
Brand expression can have many technical considerations, but instead of being limited by them, lean into them to find ways for your unique story to come through. Your expression should be poetic, not prosaic. Ask yourself, “What differentiates us from everyone else?” And use that distinction to create emotional connections with your audiences in each and every channel.
Build unique experiences
Signature experiences prioritizing your purpose, promise, and personality can catapult your brand to stardom and engagement. To save yourself from making a bland brand, it’s imperative to prototype such experiences early in the rebranding process. Envision how your brand will appear in the world. Even visualize said experience without your logo. Your experience should be so unique and “on brand” that you shine no matter what.
To evolve from bland to brand, harness true simplicity, find your purpose, make emotional connections and build unique experiences. This approach to branding will differentiate you, setting you apart from the masses and creating compelling moments with your target audiences. And that’s never bland.
Clinton Clarke is Digital Creative Director