Brand Blur


ost-brand blur-NIKE


I was at a talk at the weekend in London and a little detail got me thinking about an idea I’ve been calling ‘Brand Blur’ — when an organisation mixes its own brand personality with an individual’s personality.

ost-brand blur-COKE


A simple example of this is the Coca-Cola bottles released recently. It looks like a normal Coke bottle; their brand colours, font and everything, but it’s got my name on it! A simple trick, but people went mad for it (Coke got 998 million impressions on Twitter with this campaign alone).

Is this a way for us all to fall back in love with brands? Our modern world is filled with so many brand behemoths and such rampant consumerism that any shreds of intimacy have been totally forgotten.

ost-brand blur-LEGO


I remember the Lego website used to allow you to upload a photo of yourself and then it would send you a flat version of your photo (in B&W) made up of Lego bricks (although I now can’t find any reference for this online and fear I may have dreamt it!). For now we have the Lego Photo app, which does something similar, but with an onscreen image instead of real bricks. This had the feeling of a big brand style that you could make your own… literally: your face in little round de-bossed circles of joy!

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This next example, although a bit random, truly puts the individual at the heart of its brand.

The classic British map company, Ordnance Survey, allow people to create their own customised maps. You can design your own cover (photo and title) and put your location (say your house) at the dead centre of the printed map. A brilliant example of you, and you alone, being combined seamlessly with an organisation’s brand without any unpleasant compromises for either party.

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This ability to hijack a brand, to customise, to truly make it your own, holds value not just for the individual but for the brand, too. Many of us have put stickers or graffiti on the back of our laptops to make them our own, or souped up our cars with stickers and furry dice. (ahem) Little renegade acts such as these chip away at the generic box many brands try to put you into.

So what started me thinking about this again? Oh yes, the talk. It was by Matthew Ogle and Will Page from Spotify. They were discussing Spotify’s Discover Weekly feature. I’m going to leave this bigger discussion on Discover Weekly to experts, but if you are interested you might want to listen to Chris Cooke [the event compere]’s CMU podcast here.)

ost-brand blur-SPOTIFY

With Discover Weekly Spotify have managed to do a lot of very clever things, very quickly, very simply and seemingly effortlessly (2 hours of customised music for 75+ million users every week!). In particular, if you have your Facebook profile linked, the Discover Weekly cover is of your profile pic with the nifty Spotify colour filter applied.  (Spotify photo filter article)

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I don’t want to labour this point too much, as its simplicity is part of its beauty. But the ease of which Spotify, in one fell swoop, managed to merge both its own brand and my profile together is amazing. I feel like part of the application, not just one of the millions of users.

ost-brand blur-HAIRDO

The future of big consumer brands is no longer going to be the broad brush one size fits all. My money’s on customisable, unique flexible brands that reflect the individuals that use them. What’s that going to look like? Who knows—self driving cars with their occupants hairdos? AV goggles that match your skin tone like a chameleon? Digital TV Interfaces that match the decor in your living room? I can’t wait!