FTC Rules Businesses Must Disclose Whether They Actually Cool Or Just Use Minimalist Branding

Illustration for article titled FTC Rules Businesses Must Disclose Whether They Actually Cool Or Just Use Minimalist Branding

WASHINGTON—Condemning businesses that use clean lines and unobtrusive colors to intentionally defraud customers, the Federal Trade Commission ruled Friday that companies must begin disclosing whether they are actually cool or are merely using minimalist branding to simulate coolness. “Too often, consumers have been deceived into thinking a brand is hip and fresh because they see a sans-serif font on a soft, neutral background,” said acting FTC chair Rebecca Slaughter, who also decried the unfair practice in which businesses use one-word names with no explanation as to who they are or what they do, falsely suggesting a detached, unaffected attitude when in reality the brand isn’t cool at all. “We intend to crack down on organizations big and small that have willfully used all-lower-case letters and monochromatic palettes to mislead the public, which often will conclude a company is modern, original, and chill when it’s really just another consulting firm in the Bay Area, or some upscale juice service available in select metropolitan regions. Our investigation found that brands like Ritual, Marine Layer, and Summer Fridays take advantage of the fact that consumers can’t see far enough past a simple noun typed over a muted pink circle to determine that the products on offer are more expensive, less interesting versions of items that already exist. We are now requiring these companies to be up-front about not being as chic as their logos may suggest when they stamp a generic word like ‘spoon’ or ‘alpha’ onto a pastel background.” Slaughter followed up the announcement with a press conference in which the agency debuted a sleek new FTC seal set in the Helvetica font on a Dijon background.