Non-logo identifiers
April 22, 2012 9:14 PM   Subscribe

What are brand identifiers that are not logos? such as Starbuck's green straw and Apple's white earphones

This question can include infinite things, but I'm mainly looking for things that identify a brand but are not:
-functional/ an inherent part of the product
-a quality difference (ex: Nikon cameras stand out b/c they're superior)
-non-verbal-- no words, an illiterate/ foreign person would be able to identify that it's a different brand than others

Even the ringtone from AT&T's "Can you hear me now?" would count. The type of thing I'm looking for is a red bottle cap, a square where the thing is usually round, etc.

Basically, they are gimmicks that don't contribute to the use of the object besides standing out and acting as a sort of logo.
posted by ichomp to Grab Bag (65 answers total) 21 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: Correction: I'm looking for non-verbal things!
posted by ichomp at 9:15 PM on April 22, 2012

Best answer: It seems like you are looking for examples of trade dress. Googling for ["trade dress" examples] gives you any number of examples.
posted by grouse at 9:17 PM on April 22, 2012 [9 favorites]

The Infiniti silhouette.
posted by Giggilituffin at 9:20 PM on April 22, 2012

Louboutin shoes are known for their distinctive red soles.
posted by Orinda at 9:23 PM on April 22, 2012 [7 favorites]

Christian Louboutin's shoes' red soles. He lost the lawsuit against YSL though – he claimed that all red-soled shoes infringed on his trademark or something.

Wolf stoves' red knobs
posted by (Over) Thinking at 9:28 PM on April 22, 2012

A red aluminum can is generally a coke. A blue one is probably pepsi.

McDonalds fry boxes are easily identifiable.

Mac products are white (i.e. laptops).
posted by OnTheLastCastle at 9:28 PM on April 22, 2012

the happy meal
posted by facetious at 9:29 PM on April 22, 2012

Red ring on Canon L-series lenses.

Distinctive Fender guitar headstock designs.
posted by supercres at 9:29 PM on April 22, 2012 [2 favorites]

Rosemount Blue
posted by Confess, Fletch at 9:34 PM on April 22, 2012

The shape of the Coke bottle is one of my favorites.

posted by alaijmw at 9:34 PM on April 22, 2012 [4 favorites]

Erm, meant there to be a link to the Wikipedia section of the Coca Cola Contour Bottle.
posted by alaijmw at 9:35 PM on April 22, 2012

The Hofmeister kink on the rear windows of BMWs.
posted by lhputtgrass at 9:40 PM on April 22, 2012 [5 favorites]

Examples that come up in grouse's search:
IHOP restaurants' rooflines and blue roofs
(ditto old Howard Johnson's or Pizza Huts)
shape of Coke bottle
shape of Toblerone package
Tiffany's blue box
posted by LobsterMitten at 9:42 PM on April 22, 2012 [2 favorites]

BMW's kidney grills. And probably many more from other car makers.
posted by mullacc at 9:46 PM on April 22, 2012

The fashion label Maison Martin Margiela is known for 4 white stitches.
posted by jade east at 9:54 PM on April 22, 2012 [1 favorite]

Distinctive Fender guitar headstock designs.

To expand on this: From my understanding, the headstock is the only thing that a guitar company can copyright (or trademark?). You will see a lot of clones of popular guitar models from Fender, Gibson, etc. (e.g., Les Paul, Telecaster, Stratocaster, etc.), but these clones will have different-shaped headstocks.
posted by puritycontrol at 9:55 PM on April 22, 2012

Perfume and cosmetics containers are another category where I bet there a dozens.
Maybelline pink and green mascara bottle, Chanel No. 5 bottle, etc.
posted by LobsterMitten at 9:57 PM on April 22, 2012 [1 favorite]

Bianchi bicycles' "Celeste" blue-green color.
posted by tylerkaraszewski at 10:07 PM on April 22, 2012 [3 favorites]

The green body-yellow wheels color scheme of John Deere tractors.
posted by LobsterMitten at 10:25 PM on April 22, 2012 [1 favorite]

Tiffany Blue?
posted by shesbookish at 10:28 PM on April 22, 2012 [7 favorites]

The major brands of power tools are all known by their distinctive colours: Milwaukee red, Makita "blue" (teal, really), DeWalt yellow, Bosch (darker) blue, and so on.
posted by bonehead at 10:41 PM on April 22, 2012 [3 favorites]

Best answer: The cheerful pink plastic spoons at Baskin-Robbins.

Mmmmmmmmm. Ice cream.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 10:48 PM on April 22, 2012 [2 favorites]

Staples Easy Button.
posted by phaedon at 10:52 PM on April 22, 2012

Polo creatures such as the lacoste alligator or the ralph lauren polo pony etc.? Adidas three stripes? To a lesser extent, the shape of a red stripe bottle? What used to be a stitched leather equate on the back of levi jeans but is now card stock (at least on shrink to fit jeans)? Tibuk2 three part messenger bag coloration scheme? The colors on different sections of metafilter? The THX sound?
posted by oceanjesse at 11:04 PM on April 22, 2012 [1 favorite]

The yellow color of the cone of KRK speakers.
posted by phaedon at 11:07 PM on April 22, 2012

The red color of Brembo calipers.
posted by phaedon at 11:16 PM on April 22, 2012 [2 favorites]

Best answer: The painted dot on blackspot shoes are sort of half logo, half what you're talking about.

The red "wax" on Maker's Mark and the distinctive blue of Bombay Sapphire.

The shape of the old colored iMacs.

Google's rainbow colors on a white background are pretty distinctive, which is why the logos where they just do abstract stuff with the colors and some of the basic shape work, but that might be too close to "logo" to count as what you're talking about. For that matter, Metafilter's blue and Ask's green might count.

Most cell phone manufacturers have specific ringtones that are distinctive. Old-school notifications (particularly the AOL ones: the standard AIM door open/door close and up-sound and down-sound for IM noises are super distinctive). Some other web layout/format stuff might qualify, too.

Video game sound effects (and occasionally music): the Zelda chest opening, every sound effect in the Mario games, etc. Hell, a lot of sound effects sort of end up becoming audial logos: the roadrunner's meep-meep comes to mind.

The sounds that play during game's loaders tend to be pretty distinctive, too, and recognizable cross-culturally: the rolling GameCube sound comes to mind in particular to me.

The Star Wars Imperial March, Hedwig's Theme, the Addam's Family theme, and about a million other TV/movie instrumental theme songs.

Apple goes though these in an interesting way, I think: White plastic says "Apple" until everyone else starts using it, and they sort of seemed to be doing the same thing with brushed aluminum but not so much? (I'm not entirely sure what went on there.) But the rounded corners and the way their monitor's power buttons pulse are sort of this kind of thing.

The Vulcan salute (you know, ring/pinky index/middle gesture) may count; I think the Hunger Games movie people were trying to do a similar sort of gestural branding with the way they did the three-fingered salute in the movie.
posted by NoraReed at 11:29 PM on April 22, 2012 [2 favorites]

The rear pocket of pants can be strong brand identifiers, like for True Religion.
posted by phaedon at 11:45 PM on April 22, 2012 [2 favorites]

Does Wendy's still have square burgers?
posted by themanwho at 11:53 PM on April 22, 2012

> The rear pocket of pants can be strong brand identifiers, like for True Religion.

...or Wranglers
posted by not_on_display at 11:56 PM on April 22, 2012

The black surface and dot of Movado watches.
posted by phaedon at 12:11 AM on April 23, 2012 [1 favorite]

the white "snowcap" on Mont Blanc pens
posted by segatakai at 2:32 AM on April 23, 2012 [3 favorites]

BMW : Rear window & kidney grill

Jeep : five (or is it seven?) grill lines, especially with the round lights

Intel : that bloody four note chime

To add to bonehead's comment, in the UK (Europe?) Bosch tools are all green, but it's a very distinctive green.
posted by sodium lights the horizon at 2:45 AM on April 23, 2012 [1 favorite]

White lenses on Canon's professional cameras. When you look at a press pack, it's immediately obvious which photographers are shooting Canon. Nikon has black with red accents, but it's a lot more subtle.
posted by embrangled at 2:49 AM on April 23, 2012 [1 favorite]

To elaborate on Nikon - the red triangle on the grip.
posted by tempythethird at 3:22 AM on April 23, 2012

The Nokia ring-tone.

The shape of the Marmite jar.

Colours - each supermarket here has a signature 'colour' - I know Asda have actually copyrighted the specific shade of green they use. Similarly, John Lewis/Waitrose have their own custom font. Walkers Salt and Vinegar and Cheese and Onion flavours are green and blue respectively, which is the opposite colour to most crisp packaging.
posted by mippy at 4:28 AM on April 23, 2012

Heinz ketchup bottles have a distinctive silhouette - as does the label.

I don't know if it applies to all Hilfiger dress shirts, but they typically have green stitching in the top buttonhole.

Did anyone already mention the distinctive Tiffany's blue box?
posted by dismitree at 4:33 AM on April 23, 2012

Burberry's logo is actually an equestrian knight, but it's checkered pattern is probably far more recognizable.
posted by windbox at 5:13 AM on April 23, 2012

Bloomingdales brown bags
posted by OmieWise at 5:13 AM on April 23, 2012 [2 favorites]

Metafilter blue and yellow!
posted by penguin pie at 5:23 AM on April 23, 2012 [2 favorites]

Best answer: National Geographic's yellow-orange border.
posted by lathrop at 5:26 AM on April 23, 2012 [3 favorites]

Sound Branding. In particular, see (hear?) THX's "Deep Note" and the Macintosh startup sound.
posted by teriyaki_tornado at 5:42 AM on April 23, 2012 [2 favorites]

The red "wax" on Maker's Mark and the distinctive blue of Bombay Sapphire.

After going on a distillery tour I found that it really is just happens to be a wax that has a very high melting point.
posted by mmascolino at 5:53 AM on April 23, 2012

themanwho: "Does Wendy's still have square burgers?"

White Castle has square burgers too, so I don't think that counts?
posted by SuperSquirrel at 6:19 AM on April 23, 2012

I thought this was a national thing, but when I googled it just towns around where I grew up popped up so it might not be widespread enough for you, but: Square Donuts is a regional Indiana chain.
posted by geegollygosh at 6:38 AM on April 23, 2012

A lot of companies probably have official color palettes that are used as brand identifiers. I know the company I work for has a list of approved Pantone colors (and their hexidecimal equivalents) to be used in print and on the web. A recent rebranding did away with a whole different set of colors and replaced them with new ones.
posted by emelenjr at 6:49 AM on April 23, 2012

Rykodisc CD cases had a faint green tint so that their edges looked like glass rather than plastic. I noticed a note on an Elvis Costello disc stating that this was a registered trademark.
posted by richyoung at 6:59 AM on April 23, 2012 [1 favorite]

Heinz ketchup bottles have a distinctive silhouette...

If we're going there, then the Coke bottle would certainly deserve a mention.

It should be pointed out that, while many of these items are not logos, they are, in fact, trademarked by their owners.
posted by Thorzdad at 7:00 AM on April 23, 2012

FWIW, the "Can you hear me now" is actually Verizon. But I was going to chime in that the Adidas three stripes was what came to mind first. Also the Aunt Jemima bottle.
posted by radioamy at 7:03 AM on April 23, 2012

Brooks Brothers has a six-pleat shirring where the shirt sleeve meets the cuff.
posted by bfranklin at 7:06 AM on April 23, 2012

Lots of chain stores have a smell as part of their brand. Every time you visit an Anthropologie, for example, there's a very strong odor, exactly like every other Anthropologie.
posted by milk white peacock at 7:13 AM on April 23, 2012

The UPS truck. Even without a logo, those trucks are recognizable by their shape.

Lots of cars have iconic, recognizable shapes.

This may be an apocryphal story, but I was told that back in the day, in amateur bike racing in the UK, any kind of logo was strictly forbidden, so bike makers would go out of their way to make their bikes identifiable even in the absence of decals. This reached its apotheosis with the curly-stay Hetchins.

Here's a fascinating variation on the theme: in some locations, cigarette advertising is illegal. Marlboro sponsors a racing-car team, and came up with a bar-code pattern that evokes their logo for use in those locations.

Own a Shape.
posted by adamrice at 7:42 AM on April 23, 2012

Not all Canon L-series lenses are white, but they all have the distinctive red ring. I believe it's only the telephoto lenses that have the white markings (which why you are more likely to see them in the press pit).
posted by inertia at 7:55 AM on April 23, 2012 [1 favorite]

The swing-top Grolsch bottle. The swing-top is not protected trade dress, but few other (large) breweries use swing-top caps.
posted by iviken at 8:07 AM on April 23, 2012

The oversized label on the Angostura bitters bottle. Here's a long blog entry about all sorts of bitters with a bit on the Angostura label.

"Many years later an industrial design conference chose the Angostura bottle and label as one of the worst examples of product packaging in the 20th Century … but they were advised never to change it due to its now-iconic look."
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 8:21 AM on April 23, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Salmon-pink newspaper of the Financial Times.
posted by yeti at 9:04 AM on April 23, 2012 [2 favorites]

McDonald's straws are distinctive - they have a large diameter and the yellow and red stripes on the sides.
posted by barnoley at 9:12 AM on April 23, 2012

Time magazine's red border.

Not really brands, but Boise St football's blue field, and the old Boston Celtics' arena which had a distinctive parquet floor.
posted by TheSecretDecoderRing at 9:15 AM on April 23, 2012

Post-it note yellow
posted by kitkatcathy at 9:27 AM on April 23, 2012 [2 favorites]

I know it's not necessarily intention, but I swear American Apparel has a patent on a very specific heather gray pattern for their shirts. Every time I see that heather color, I know immediately the shirt was purchased at AA.
posted by zoomorphic at 10:05 AM on April 23, 2012

In the world of farm equipment (e.g. combines and tractors), John Deeres are green, Caterpillars are yellow, and International Harvesters are red.

The orange slice in a glass of Blue Moon beer is iconic, though the company admits it's "mostly for attention-getting."
posted by Comic Sans-Culotte at 10:49 AM on April 23, 2012

The concentric circles in the design of Fiestaware.
posted by MegoSteve at 11:01 AM on April 23, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: It's a logo, but the blue rectangle on the back of Keds was an easy way of telling the cool girls from the losers when I was in junior high. I once resorted to drawing on a blue rectangle with a permanent marker to try to fool people from afar.
posted by jabes at 2:48 PM on April 23, 2012 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: Thank you for all the great answers! They were all exactly what I was looking for.

jabes- lol, you are right. Your answer reminds me that these things are often what generic brands use to "refer" to the product without naming it. You too were a cool girl.

NoraReed- I love the AIM open/close door sounds! and the up and down send/receive sounds. They literally ring a bell about the early 2000s, good times.
posted by ichomp at 11:04 PM on April 23, 2012

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