Can You Blur a Brand?

Written by our March guest blogger Chris Richards of Fanpagetoolkit, a Philadelphia-based start-up pioneering a Facebook commerce and marketing platform for businesses, brands, and individuals.

Marketing never stops, does it? Sitting down this past weekend to watch some TV, my marketing brain immediately switched into gear when a popular reality show showcased some beverage products in one scene. Normally, this would not catch my eye, as the show is essentially about drinking, but my eyes couldn’t help but be drawn to looking at the bottles. The interesting thing was that the products were completely censored with a blur effect! Without much thought, though, I clearly recognized the bottles as the iconic Snapple iced tea beverage, even through the heavy censoring blur.

How did I recognize these fuzzy images as a particular iced tea brand? Am I a superhero? Do I have X-ray vision? No, Snapple just has great branding. Its brand was able to “defeat” the TV censor’s blur, and convey its message to me, the viewer.

There and then, I concluded that you can’t blur the brand (or the good ones at least).

Marketing 101 tells us that the brand is everything. But, it’s also been said before many times that a brand is more than a name, and my point is not to re-hash those sentiments. What interested me this weekend, however, was the apparent power of a brand to literally cut through a TV censor’s digital blurring effect. No, I couldn’t read the name Snapple on the bottles as the reality stars sat down for breakfast, yet, somehow the brand came through. What made it so powerful?

Just as a fun demonstration, I took some snapshots of household food items and added a blur box around their labeling, just as you might see on a reality TV show. My guess is that a majority of you can deduce what most of these items are, if not all of them, right off the bat.



What gave it away for you? Was it the colors? The fonts? The images? The shapes of the containers? The true power of all the brands pictured is their ability to create one cohesive “being” that is able to be recognized quickly and easily.

Who wouldn’t recognize the iconic ketchup bottle of Heinz? Or, what about the bold and simple white letters of GOYA? Even the Ragu pasta sauce bottle is somewhat iconic. All it takes is the sight of a blue border running across the top of a computer screen for me to realize that someone is browsing Facebook. I don’t need to see the details, and I don’t need to know the context. These brands just maintain that much power because all of the core, identifying elements come together so perfectly.

So, if a brand is defined by the sum of all its different parts (logo, text, colors, design, etc.), it is clear that companies should be asking themselves, “Does our brand pass the blur test?” Whether literally or metaphorically “blurred,” when it comes down to it, only the strongest brands will pass this test in the eyes of the consumer. Passing the test is a matter of standing out.

These days, there’s a lot that can “blur” our brands. I’m not just talking about TV censors. People are exposed to thousands of advertising messages each day, and the countless messages create a “haze” of their own. In order to combat this haze, every brand needs a clear differentiating factor. Maybe your packaging is extremely unique (Coke, Fiji Water, VOSS Water). Maybe you are uniquely reaching fans by marketing on Facebook extremely well. Or, maybe your brand’s most powerful asset is word-of-mouth discussion and skepticism.

Whatever it is, every brand needs a hook. But a differentiating hook, alone, is not enough to cut through the haze. The hook has to support the entire brand entity and all the separate components that make the brand. Brands that are able to understand this and play to their strengths are the ones you’ll see through the haze. They’ll pass the blur test.

Stripped of context, thrown into a sea of messages, or blurred to viewers, does your brand have the power to stand out? Does your brand pass the blur test?

For more information I can be reached on Twitter at @seerichards


2 responses to “Can You Blur a Brand?

  1. sophialudlowgroup

    When I used to work at a daycare, a lot of the kids would have memorabilia from that show Zoey 101, and in several images the main girl had a simple white laptop with a silhouetted image of a pear on it – obviously a play off of Apple/Mac.

    Or in movies/tv when a character is drinking something called “Mountain Mist” or something like – we all know it signifies Mountain Dew.

    We are definitely a brand-focused society. Whether the image is blurred or the name or logo slightly altered, we know our brands.

    • That’s another great example. Even a complete change of name can’t hide the fact that we all know what the REAL brand is we’re supposed to think about…awesome observation!

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