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malevolent design weblog

This blog is now defunct, but you can find more stuff over at my personal site

“Every Little Rip-Off Helps”

Supermarket shopping is tedious, so a design geek like me finds it hard to concentrate on the task at hand when surrounded by a cacophony of branding. The latest things I’ve been noticing are packaging rip-offs.

At the low end of the pricing scale, supermarkets have their starkly-presented ‘no frills’ ranges (e.g. Tesco Value). At the top end there are a few luxury brands and the supermarkets’ own ‘deluxe’ ranges. In the middle are the established, household-name brands that sell in huge volumes, and that’s where the supermarkets’ products often clash and play dirty. Here’s an example:

Persil Non-Bio, Tesco Non Bio and Co-op Ultra Non-Bio

They’re not close enough to constitute copyright infringement, but the Tesco and Co-op designers clearly had boxes of Persil on their desks. This isn’t laziness or lack of inspiration, it’s a deliberate attempt to evoke a sense of familiarity in consumers and capitalise upon decades of expensive branding and advertising.

Other examples are more subtle, with similar colours or typography used to try to cheaply elevate the status of an own-brand version, and sometimes the original product is gradually pushed off the shelves altogether. It’s not a new phenomenon, but there are some interesting examples around and as supermarkets become more powerful they’re bound to be bolder.

Update: As mentioned by Daniel in the comments, Asda’s Puffins ruffled Penguin feathers back in 1997. Also, according to coverage of a Tesco vs. Kellogg’s row, IGD had an industry code covering look-alikes, and in 1997 Tesco announced they’d stop producing them.


My favourite was/is Asda's Puffins - carbon copies of Penguins.

Just found this article:…

Daniel, 8th Sep, 11:15am

Trader Joes is great at this strategy -- check out little ol' Peace Cereal's maple pecan cereal vs. TJ's "Maple Pecan Crisp" cereal -- the colors, crappy no-shadow times font logo, and the product are super-similar. Peace Cereal is a freaky Oregon commune that donate 5% to peace projects; but TJ's rip-off of their cereal has 6 more ounces at the same price. You can guess which one I buy.

— Donko, 15th Sep, 5:12pm

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