Type smack-down! Competitor borrows brand font

ZANTIGO BORROWS ERBERT AND GERBERT’S BRAND FONT

I was getting ready to enjoy a cheese and onion enchilada at my local Zantigo the other day, when I noticed the following holiday graphics:

“Hmm,” I thought, “That sure looks familiar.” And then it hit me: they were using the logo font from Erbert and Gerbert’s. The characteristic “AND” was a dead giveaway:

Erbert and Gerbert brand font

Does this mean Erbert and Gerbert’s should have a legal smack down with Zantigo? Nah…I’m sure it wasn’t intentional. Nevertheless, it has the potential to cause some brand confusion among consumers who frequent both restaurants. So what can designers learn from this?

Well, while big, multinational companies can afford to have font designers create a custom font for their brand, smaller businesses will likely need to draw from the existing type pool. And huge as that pool might be (MyFonts.com has over 90,000 fonts from more than 900 foundries), chances are that some designer out there is going to select the same font as you.  If you’re lucky, it’ll be in a totally different industry and application, and the two fonts will never meet the same consumers’ eyes. However, as the example shows above, this isn’t always the case.

One option is to alter the font you select for the logo design in some meaningful way: create a custom swash, elongate or compress letters, embellish the letters, or even mix fonts. The more creativity you bring to the design, the less likely the font will be the most distinguishable aspect of the logo. For example, while I adore the treatment of the word “AND” in the Erbert and Gerbert logo, the designer may have been wise to alter this highly recognizable character (which I’m sure is a glyph available within the font) to make it unique to the brand.

Another option is to avoid common fonts altogether when creating a logo design. This includes any of the fonts that come with Microsoft Office, Windows, Mac, and Adobe Creative Suite (except, of course, if you plan to alter the characters). You may also do well to avoid relying heavily on free fonts from sources like Dafont.com (which typically has restrictions on commercial use of their fonts anyway), opting for fonts purchased from type foundries instead. This can get expensive, but typically when I’m mocking up concepts, I’ll either use a sample of the type or buy a single face for the comps, then buy the full font when a client selects a logo. Purchasing off-the-beaten-path fonts may help you in your quest to avoid the “oh my gawd she’s wearing the same dress!” syndrome, but it’s still no guarantee.

A third option may be to restrict the use of highly recognizable display fonts to a logo—perhaps even penning your own logo type—then relying on more generic, less recognizable font for the bulk of the brand communications. With this tactic, other brand elements and colors do the work of communicating the brand to consumers.

Before I close, I should probably fess up to two things. First, this has totally happened to me! A recent Target holiday circular used one my clients’ logo fonts in their ad. Luckily, Target is likely to drop the font after the holiday promotion. Second, as a designer, I’m far more likely to notice these type twins. Will the consumer even notice? Chances are if they do, they won’t be able to communicate more than that a design “feels familiar” (unless it’s my 11-year-old, who seems to have a photographic memory for all things advertising!).

Noticed any type smack downs of your own lately? I’d love to hear about them! Leave a comment below, or post examples on our Facebook page: facebook.com/mixcreative.

 

Tags: , , , , ,

Leave a Reply