Copying Code is Like a Copying a Logo

Like logos and taglines, code is a powerful way to reinforce brand identity and attract customers; in many respects, code is similar to a branded typeface. Just as appropriating choice copy and visual assets is a sly way to bootstrap a company’s brand, swiping code can give a lift too. For example, shortly after we launched a spectacularly beautiful brand experience, our elegant javascript and CSS appeared in sites ranging from an international consulting company to imitation crab distributor.

Of course, the fact code is being borrowed isn’t news — this is deeply ingrained in developer culture — what’s interesting is increasingly, code is recognizable as a unique brand asset like a color or tagline. In the same way the color hex value #81D8DO and “Breakfast of Champions” are linked to Tiffany and Wheaties, initialized variables like “var animationDuration = 600, boxAnimationDelayIncrement = 50,” taken together, express our client’s brand.

So when our code appeared under a range of surimi-based food products, the result was instantly recognizable and popped out like a lizard talking about car insurance. It’s comical, but shows how great javascript, CSS and HTML plagiarized for utility, can have an unintended brand impact as well.

While it may be true the unscrupulous seafood company didn’t set out to steal our client’s brand identity, that’s exactly what they did. And, if there’s anyone left who thinks coding isn’t creative and doesn’t directly affect brand expression, it’s someone who hasn’t considered what’s enabling a third-rate crab merchant to behave like a world-class brand.