Quiz: Global Brands

It’s not always as simple as applying a single set of graphic standards across the board when a brand expands into foreign markets. In some cases, the brand name may be difficult to pronounce in the native language or the letters may translate into a word that is negative or obscene. Or the graphic mark may include a detail that may be perceived as insulting or culturally taboo. The challenge for brand designers is to adapt the logo to the region, while preserving enough elements to make it recognizable in every part of the world. Ideally, travelers to a foreign country will recognize the brand identity on sight even if the letters or image differ from what they are used to in their own culture. See if you can name these brands. (Answers after the jump.)


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A Brand That Speaks for Itself

Even though today’s consumers are likely to buy their Coca-Cola in a can, the original contoured bottle shape and bright red color are instantly associated with the beverage in every part of the world. Istanbul-based Ayse Celem Design felt no need to call out the product by name, but let shape and color serve as the brand identity for this promotional calendar for Coca-Cola Turkey.

Olympic Branding Champions

Coca-Cola has just unveiled six limited-edition cans to cheer on Team USA at the London Olympics this summer. San Francisco-based design agency, Turner Duckworth, combined three of the world’s most recognizable icons to communicate the entire story –the stripes of the American flag; the five interlocked rings of the Olympic logo and silhouette of an athlete, and Coca-Cola’s signature red and Spencerian script logotype. The effect is succinct, direct and graphically powerful. Coca-Cola is rotating the can designs throughout the summer, with a new one appearing every two weeks, culminating with a special composite logo timed for the opening of the Olympic Games.

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Shape As Brand

Most people don’t know this product by brand name, but they know exactly what you are talking about when you describe the pine tree-shaped air fresheners that dangle from rearview mirrors of taxicabs and long-haul trucks all over the world. The product is trademarked under the name “Little Trees” and manufactured in the U.S. by the Car-Freshner Corporation, but the shape is far more recognizable than the name. In fact, unlike the contoured bottles that people immediately associate with Coca-Cola and the Golden Arches that is synonymous with McDonald’s, these cut-out tree silhouettes don’t recall a name so much as a particular scent, location and purpose. That hasn’t hurt sales a bit; Little Trees trees have sold in the billions since they came on the market in the mid-1950s.

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Carlsberg and Coke

Extending a brand into global markets isn’t a straightforward process. Product makers have to consider all kinds of cultural and language barriers. Can the letterforms be read? Can the name be pronounced? Does it have a pleasing or harsh sound when spoken? Does the name mean something else in another language? (An example is the famous case of the Chevy Nova, which in Mexico translates to “doesn’t go.”) Then there is the challenge of trying to maintain some graphic consistency so the brand is truly global and not the same product that looks different in every regional market.

Consider how Carlsberg Beer and Coca-Cola graphically translated their logotypes into multiple languages, for example. LogoDesignLove brought the Carlsberg comparisons to our attention. With Carlsberg, note the way that the designers tried to carry over the signature style of the brand — the flat-top squared-off “C,” tri-leaf accent pattern, the swash decorative flourish under the type, the brushstroke-like serif on the last “r.” Although the letterforms differ dramatically from language to language, the various logotypes have a family look that suggests their roots stem from the original Danish Carlsberg logo.

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Coke Wants Its Racks Back


Coca-Cola has gotten very good at reclaiming the containers that hold its beverages. In 2010, it recovered 400 million pounds of cans and bottles in the U.S. alone. Much of this has been converted into everything from chairs and clothes to jewelry. But building a sustainable planet demands more than reclaiming product packaging, so Coke has come out with the industry’s first 100% recyclable merchandise display racks for use in grocery and convenience stores. Made from corrugated cardboard and soon from recycled PET plastic too, the merchandise racks are the first step toward a comprehensive closed-loop retail equipment program. Coke’s “Give It Back” rack is meant to be returned or recycled to keep it from being tossed into a landfill. The recyclable rack is being tested in select U.S. markets now and should be widely available before yearend.

Coke Appeals to Fashion

Of course, every brand wants to suggest that its product is the rage among trend-setting consumers. But Coca-Cola is doing more than just suggesting that it is fashionable to drink its product; it is linking its brand to the world’s top fashion designers and putting its name on beauty products too.

Last fall Coca-Cola Light and eight renowned Italian fashion designers — Donatella Versace, Alberta Ferretti, Anna Molinari for Blumarine, Veronic Etro, Silvia Venturini for Fendi, Consuelo Castiglioni for Marni, Angela Missoni and Rossella Jardini for Moschino — teamed up to present specially decorated contoured bottles for the opening of Milan Fashion Week. Showcased at a Coca-Cola Light “Tribute to Fashion” runway event, the original bottles were later auctioned by Sotheby’s with proceeds going to aid the victims of the devastating 2009 earthquake in Abruzzo, Italy. Collectible bottles were also produced in limited edition and sold in Europe. Some are even finding their way onto eBay.

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Things Go Better With Coke

If you think you’ve seen this chair before, you have. Emeco’s Navy Chair has been around since 1944. So why was it such a sensation at the 2010 Milan Furniture Fair in April? And why is Design Within Reach hosting events to tout that it has the retail exclusive on the product? It’s because this 21st century model is made from recycled plastic Coke bottles – 111 of them, more or less, hence its name the 111 Navy Chair.

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Fast Company Celebrates the 2009 Masters of Design

Fast Company named this year’s Masters of Design: David Butler, vice president of global design for Coca-Cola; David Adjaye, architect and CEO of Adjaye Associates, David Rockwell, interior architect and head of Rockwell Group, Alberto Alessi, head of the famous Alessi Design Factory, and Lisa Strausfeld, new media design and partner of Pentagram in New York. This is a brief interview with three of the recipients. In future weeks, we hope to bring more indepth remarks by the 2009 Masters.