When Good Brands Go Bland

Ben Schwab
Creative Director

When Good Brands Go Bland

Gliding along for the cultural descent towards the singularity, we are witnessing brands further embracing the warmth of the ever-giving algorithm. Choosing to stand out from the crowd…by not-so boldly blending into it. Over the last few years, a new design trend has emerged. Whether it’s in pursuit of conveying a greater sense of modernity and forward thought or an attempt to protect a brand against unpredictable future cultural criticisms, some brands are abandoning their unique visual identities (and arguably their authenticity) for a series of simplified and minimalist aesthetics. This phenomenon is referred to as “blanding.”

We are gradually finding ourselves adrift in a sea of placid color palettes and sanitized sans serifs. If the exercise of branding is to discover your distinct individuality, and design’s role is to serve as its silent ambassador, then what does blanding hope to accomplish? Well…the opposite of that.

In a time where companies are tasked to take stands and mean something more than a product delivered or a service performed, we seem to be witnessing major brands side-stepping the discussion from a visual identity perspective. The world’s opinion changes too rapidly for them to desire standing out in the crowd anymore. They seem to prefer the safety net of the familiar. The unthreatening. And the unbiased. Since so many messages pose the threat of aging poorly, it feels safer to sanitize yourself. And develop a more neutral persona. But without delivering a unique, memorable and authentic identity…how do you ever plan to excite or inspire brand loyalty?



While I don’t doubt many brands would argue this shift is intentionally done to reflect their dedication to forward thinking and a drive to own a mark that is more easily readable on various digital touchpoints, it’s hard not to interpret the specific design decisions here as a reaction to other trends. Roughly 10 years ago we started having a lot of newer brands who utilize a stripped back aesthetic. Brands like Harry’s Razors come to mind. Here this lack of design provided a level of authenticity and charm that was genuine to small brands who were trying to fill a niche against their larger competitors. Now that those brands have grown in popularity, larger brands want to share that same design language. When you look at it from an algorithm perspective, it makes sense. Users will be fed more of the same content they’ve already interacted with, so it may help to look like everyone else to some degree.



Major examples of brands who have most recently “blanded” themselves include Johnson & Johnson, Burberry and Dribble. And while these brand evolutions aren’t outright offensive necessarily, depending on who you ask, the variety in character, storytelling and instant recognizability between their previous marks and their new presentations is striking.



I do appreciate how the triple Bs in Dribble’s new mark share more than a passing resemblance to the mark of the beast. Coincidence you say? Perhaps an omen, I suggest. A message from the ancient design gods, Helveitcus and Bebaszebub. Pleading with us to be weary of further bland, timid identities. We will leave you to decide…but overall, as a designer, I personally feel it’s a shame to see this vibrant and diverse logoscape of legacy marks abandoning so much of themselves through this reductive design exercise. Which feels more like shriveling up to fear than growing the joy to inform. Worse still, I’m getting bored writing about it.


Whether you choose to evolve your brand to be more of a “bland” or not, that evolution should always be strategically driven towards discovering more of a fully realized version of your brand. And delivering a clearer communication of who that is and what it stands for. If that strategy demands a clean, modern sans serif and nothing else…maybe bland simply is your brand. Congrats! But it takes a skilled partner with the knowledge and industry expertise to help brands navigate their own unique messaging through an ever-changing cultural landscape. To stay authentic while still connecting with your evolving audience. At the end of the day, it is always good for any brand to be reassessing and evolve themselves, but it should be done with deeper purpose and intent, empathy and above all else…with the greater goal of making those changes truly mean something.


If you’d truly like your brand to stand out, to make an impact and to reflect who you are as an organization, whether it’s through developing a brand voice and messaging or brand identity, product/corporate naming or a logo design/refresh, let’s talk. We can save your brand from bland, making it relevant to your organization and your market. Get in touch with Tim Leon at [email protected].



Crafting the Perfect Podcast Strategy: Building Thought Leadership in Your Industry

Randy Micheletti
VP, Director of Brand Strategy

Crafting the Perfect Podcast Strategy: Building Thought Leadership in Your Industry

In a world saturated with content and digital noise, positioning yourself as a thought leader in your field is a game-changer. Podcast appearances are an excellent way to showcase your expertise and gain exposure across targeted industries. At our agency, we’ve been on a mission to build our reputation and support our social media efforts in various vertical markets, including education, construction/HVAC, non-profit/religious-focus, farm and ranch, and venture capital/private equity. In this blog, we’re going to share some key insights and strategies that have helped us make a mark in our industry

The Pitch is Key

First things first, landing podcast appearances is all about the pitch. Podcast hosts receive countless pitches every day, so yours needs to stand out. Craft a compelling pitch that outlines why your topic is relevant to their audience and why it’s timely. Demonstrate how your insights and expertise can provide value.

Remember that your pitch is your foot in the door, so make it irresistible. Personalize your outreach by mentioning specific episodes or topics from the podcast that align with your expertise. The more you can show you’ve done your homework, the better your chances of securing that coveted podcast slot.

Be Prepared to Do the Heavy Lifting

Unless you’re a household name, don’t expect the podcast host to do all the work for you. Be proactive and take responsibility for your episode’s success. This means you should prepare thoroughly. Familiarize yourself with the podcast’s format and style and rehearse your talking points. Practice being concise and engaging, as a great podcast guest keeps the audience’s attention. But at the same time, don’t try and steal the show. Let the host be the host. It’s a conversation, not a monologue.

Furthermore, bring your own audience to the table. Promote your upcoming appearance on social media, your website and through your email newsletter. Encourage your followers to tune in and consider running a contest or giveaway to incentivize listenership. The more you promote, the more your episode will benefit you and the podcast.

Not All Podcasts Are Created Equal

Be selective about the podcasts you appear on. It’s not about quantity; it’s about quality. Not all podcasts are the right fit for your expertise or the right target audience. Focus on those that align with your industry and values and consider the size and engagement level of their audience. A smaller, niche podcast can often provide more value than a massive show with a less relevant audience. 

Content is King

To secure podcast appearances and establish yourself as a thought leader, you need content. Share your knowledge through various channels, such as LinkedIn articles, whitepapers and blog posts. These pieces not only showcase your expertise but also act as references for podcast hosts, helping them gauge your credibility.  Many times the podcast host will encourage you to offer some piece of content that is available for download and is relevant to your interview.

Promote the Heck Out of Your Interview

Once you’ve recorded the podcast episode, don’t stop there. Podcasters love guests who actively promote their episodes. Share it on your social media, mention it in your newsletters and even create clips or highlights of your appearance to share on your platforms. The more you promote, the more exposure you and the podcast will receive.

In conclusion, podcast appearances have the potential to be a powerful tool in establishing thought leadership. With the right pitch, thorough preparation and strategic promotion, you can maximize these opportunities. Stay focused on the relevant vertical markets, showcase your expertise and watch your reputation and influence grow.

If you want to discuss how a podcast outreach strategy can support your thought leadership and branding efforts, please contact Tim at [email protected].

There’s No Such Thing as a One-size-fits-all Budget

Geile/Leon Marketing Communications

There’s No Such Thing as a One-size-fits-all Budget

In life and in marketing, taking a shortcut rarely gets you where you really want to go. It’s that time of the year that many marketers are taking a hard look at their annual budget. Wouldn’t it be easy if there were some sort of definitive formula that could tell you exactly how to spend your money the best? 

Sure. But there isn’t. 

Building a budget is just as much of an art as it is a science. It’s a lot like marketing itself. Relying too heavily on data or too heavily on intuition can take you off the right path. But finding the right balance of the two will lead you to success. 

The science of budgeting is pretty obvious. ROI, sales forecasts and what’s in the product pipeline are pretty standard in this arena. You may use a rule of thumb regarding a certain percentage of overall revenue based on historical data or industry benchmarks. 

For instance, industry budgets for new brand or product launches for B2B companies range from 3-8% of forecasted revenue. However, it’s the art that so often goes overlooked. Especially for B2B brands. 

There is an art to being aware of and responding to all variables that impact budgeting. How supportive is senior leadership of marketing? How much brand equity do you have in the marketplace? How strong is your brand recognition? What’s in the sales funnel currently?

And here’s one where the art of budgeting is invaluable: new product introductions. When launching a new product, there are certain marketing elements that are absolutely necessary. You may not see immediate sales upon investing in these “marketing essentials,” but you will need to have them in place by the time you go to market, even though your new product or brand has not produced a single dollar of revenue at that point. 

And even though you haven’t seen any sales at that point, you sure won’t want to be without the branding, website, sales collateral, public relations and digital support that you would depend on to ensure a successful launch. 

That’s where an experienced brand-driven marketing communications agency comes into play. We’ve worked with many B2B companies in support of new brand and product launches. It’s that perspective that helps us understand the art, so we serve as a partner to the scientifically oriented people who are seeking to determine their marketing budget. That’s really what defines a great partnership at its very essence. 

We’re in the heart of budgeting season now for many of our clients, so as you map out your marketing calendar, get in touch with us. We’d love to lend our perspective (at no charge!) to help you create a budget that is realistic and can achieve your brand’s sales and marketing goals.  Email Tim Leon at [email protected] and let’s chat.