i believe
Just when I thought that Britney can’t go any lower than she did on the stage of the MTV awards, I’m finding out about another controversy related to her name. This time it’s her venture into the beauty industry, launching a new perfume, called “Believe”, branded by Elizabeth Arden. Little did she know that the design team didn’t find her worthy of their design skills and imagination, they simply borrowed (read: ripped off) an already existing brand from a Vancouver-based Canadian company Mondonation. Their word “believe” is in lower case, with a distinctively highlighted “i” in the middle.

In 2005 Ward Bingam, while walking around Whistler, came up with an idea that “if you were to wear your belief, you would be reminded of your good intentions and reinforce them and in turn begin to affect those around you”. So he started a company that was selling t-shirts with the words “I believe” on the front, and people’s personalized beliefs on the back. The best part of this idea was that portions of the profit from each t-shirt are donated to various charities all over the world – “giving money to something you believe in while wearing something you believe in”.

Of course this controversy has brought more attention to mondonation’s T-shirts and increase in sales. But thousands of the T-shirt owners have been sending emails to Ward Bingham saying that they don’t want to become a walking advertisement for Britney Spears, and wear shirts that inadvertently promote Britney’s new fragrance.

Just how similar are the two brands you be the judge. I’ve created this comparison image below:

i believe comparison

Just like mondonation’s believe Britney’s “believe” letters are green and set in lower case with an “i” in a contrasting pink. It’s true that the two typefaces are different: mondonation used Myriad, while Elizabeth Arden’s designers chose Century Gothic (please, correct me if I’m wrong here).

Elizabeth Arden’s team claims that it’s only a coincidence. But is it really? What do you think?

Some people said that perhaps mondonation has sold them rights to use their brand, but Bingham personally posted on his blog: “we would like to assure you that we are not affiliated with britney spears or elizabeth arden. although the new logo for britney’s new fragrance “believe” looks very similar to ours, we did not sell out.”

I’ve contacted Ward Bingam and asked him how things are going with all this, and he emailed me back within an hour: “I’ve been in NY since last Thursday meeting with Elizabeth Arden. I am still unsure how this is going to be resolved to satisfy me and all mondonation supporters. Britney Spears’ performance on the MTV awards the other night didn’t help. She is just so out of touch.”

A few quick facts about Mondonation.

  • mondonation logo and “believe” logo was designed by Jeff Harrison on July 2005
  • currently over 10,000 shirts have sold and they exist in over 100 countries worldwide.
  • In June 2006, mondonation gave 500 believe shirts to UN delegates for the World Urban Forum. These shirts spread the believe concept around the world.
  • a YouTube video “Gotta see it to believe it” has over 680,000 youtube views

Do you want to know what Britney Spears believes in? “The greatest freedom is to believe in yourself”. Somehow I doubt that she really believes in herself, but she sure managed to get others’ beliefs stained with her name.

The incredible thing is that the other day all news channels and newspapers were talking about nothing but Britney’s flop on MTV, but nobody has mentioned anything about stealing other company’s identity and getting away with it. If not for LogoBlog and YoungGoGetter.com I wouldn’t know about this incident either.

Of course it is possible that designers may come up with something similar to what has already been designed before, but in this case there are just too many coincidences: the same word/slogan, all letters lowercase, an offsetting “i” in the middle, very similar typefaces, almost an identical colour combination. I believe that designers working for one of the cosmetics giants should’ve done a better research to come up with a unique brand for their client.
What do you believe in?


UPDATE:

Looks like mondonation has signed a deal with Elizabeth Arden to promote her perfume “Believe”. Check out the official press release from britneyspearsbelieve.com:

The two companies came together on this project after Elizabeth Arden and mondonation noticed the similarities between the Britney Spears believe fragrance logo and one of the logos used by mondonation on t-shirts and pillow case products. Once the companies started talking, Elizabeth Arden and mondonation realized that by combining their media campaigns, they could raise monies for charities and give the similarity in logos a purpose. “There was a natural synergy here that made perfect sense for both companies”, said Ron Rolleston, Executive Vice President for Elizabeth Arden

looks like “money talks” indeed….

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12 Insightful Bits in response to “What Britney Spears Believes In?”

  1. Boy, she is just one train wreck after another. If the similarity was intentional then whoever put the marketing plan together is an idiot. Everything Britney does is plastered all over television and print if the person in charge thought no one would notice the similar logos then they should be toast.

  2. I believe this is a scandal of using someone else’s idea as their own.
    I believe that the two designs have too many things in common to claim it’s a coincidence.
    I believe that Britney’s fragrance will not sell…well, given that many made it clear “they don’t want to become a walking advertisement for Britney Spears, and wear shirts that inadvertently promote Britney’s new fragrance.”
    These are what I bel I eve.

  3. This is an incredible theft. I wonder if you can enforce trademarks across International boundaries. I’m sure you can, since many companies are globalized (such as Coke, McDonalds).

    I hope Britney Spears gets the pants sued off of her. Okay, bad pun. :)

  4. There is a saying that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, so I guess Mondonation is doing something right. They’ll hopefully get a bit more publicity out of this. (I certainly hadn’t heard of them before.)

    Interesting story. I know somebody that is a very big Britney fan and I’m totally going to forward this to him to see his reaction. Sad to see how her life ended up and I hope she gets back on the right track soon. Seems like everything she’s involved in lately winds up bad.

  5. Vivien

    That’s just it, Joey – what was going through their minds? let’s use mondonation’s believe, and we’ll get some free advertisement all over the world?

    kRiZ: Britney’s fragrance is planned to go on sale in October. I too believe it’s going to be another flop in Britney’s career. But I also hope that it would make Elizabeth Arden rethink their branding strategies.

    Ronald, I think you can enforce trademark across borders. Mondonation became incorporated in 2005, but I’m unsure of their “believe” logo’s status. I don’t think Britney will get sued here, what does she know about design? Elizabeth Arden bears all the responsibility here.

    Chris, could you please, let me know your friend’s reaction to this story? I too didn’t know much about mondonation before. I did see a few T-shirts and heard something about the believe campaign.

  6. I am not convinced this is a rip off, purely because the idea of a lowercase word with a coloured letter in it is so basic that I would guess a significant proportion of the world’s designers have tried it out at some point.

    Similarly the green and pink combination is not uncommon.

    If anything I would suggest that they are guilty of uninspiring design but I don’t really see enough in this to be convinced of wrong-doing; although, that is not to say that they didn’t actually nick it. Who knows?

  7. Vivien, my pal didn’t think it was a really big deal because of the reports that they’re working on a solution. Somebody will bend, some money might change hands, no really big deal other than a bit of embarrassment for whoever designed the logo.

  8. Vivien

    Andrew, I agree that it’s common to use lowercase letters in common, and highlight one or more letters, and pink-green combination is not that rare, but first of all – too many coincidences combined. Secondly it is possible that the copy of the existing brand wasn’t intentional – we all browse and see thousands of logos, brands, and some of them stay in our memory banks until at some point in time we dig them out without remembering where was it we’ve seen that logo, or perhaps it didn’t exist, but just looks familiar. So perhaps that was the case with Elizabeth Arden’s designers.
    Thirdly, shouldn’t large design firms check whether their designs are indeed unique? Even I do that for my designs – making sure that I didn’t inadvertently copy someone’s logo. A simple search on Google for “believe logo” would’ve revealed Mondonation’s logo on the first page. It’s true that they have that logo in different colour combinations, and the current one is in green&pink.
    In any cases, the question right now is what Elizabeth Arden is going to do about this now?

    Chris, thanks for the report from your friend. I agree that it doesn’t affect Britney that much except the fact that even Elizabeth Arden’s designers didn’t find her worthy of their precious time and imagination to come up with a distinctive brand. As for those designers, I hope they’ll remember this lesson for the rest of their lives.

  9. Wow. Just in time for the chapter on trademark and copyright that I’m teaching as part of my history of advertising course… Thanks.

  10. Naeem

    you guys, mondonation is a part of the believe perfume – they both have teemed up to make the perfume for charity.
    check the official website: http://www.britneyspearsbelieve.com

    it advertises mondonation and even links to mondonations t-shirt experiment.
    the designers have worked years for elizabeth arden, they know what theyre doing.

  11. well, who knew that that’s how it would turn out. Looks like I’ll need to update the post – I guess all their discussions back and forth resulting in Mondonation signing a deal with Elizabeth Arden and promoting Britney Spears campaign. In the beginning, Mondonation’s Ward Bingham was assuring everyone their company has nothing to do with the perfume line.
    well… I guess “money talks” indeed…

  12. ok, I’ve updated the post with the new details after reading the official press release from Elizabeth Arden. Its designers did design a very similar to mondonation logo, and after the negotiations between those two companies, they decided to join their forces and promote Britney’s perfume, while donating some proceeds to charity.

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Hi, I'm Vivien. Thanks for visiting my Inspiration Bit. I often find myself scouring the internet looking for either answers to many questions I have or websites that inspire me, sites that I can learn from. On what topics you might ask — any topics that interest me, anything from web design to typography and art, from blogging to entrepreneurship, from programming to open source.
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When I'm not blogging, I design web sites, teach, play with my daughter and try to balance family, work, friends and a somewhat active social life on