Coles supermarket ticks off the Heart Foundation


According to the Sydney Morning Herald (, Coles is set to overhaul its home brands partly due to concerns that the Coles Tick is too similar to the Australian Heart Foundation Tick.

Coles has two main home brands – You’ll Love Coles and SmartBuy.  Both brands carry a tick in a circle.  It is especially prominent on the SmartBuy products – which carry a red tick inside a white circle.  Sound familiar?  If you reverse the colours – a white tick in a red circle, you essentially have the Heart Foundation Tick.

Coles tried to trade mark the Coles Tick in 2005.  The Heart Foundation opposed the application (in 2007), and Coles withdrew its trade mark application soon after.

Coles has been using a tick on its house brands since at least the 1990s (on its Reliance brand of stationery).  Over time, the Coles Tick evolved – it was used on more house brands across a wider range of products, and enjoyed greater prominence.  The Coles Tick has been softened and modernised.  The end result is that it’s looking increasingly like the Heart Foundation Tick.  In contrast, the Heart Foundation Tick been static since the 1980s (when it was registered as a trade mark).

The similarity between the Coles Tick and Heart Foundation Tick has lead to allegations that Coles is “piggy-backing” off the Heart Foundation Tick’s reputation.  Coles recently announced that their home brand packaging will be redesigned, and the tick is being left off.

So what lessons can we learn from the Coles Tick episode?

First, when designers update existing logos, they must be mindful of other similar logos in the marketplace, rather than just focusing on bringing their brand up to current trends.

Second, brand owners need to keep an eye out for changes in trade indicia in the market.  If another brand owner is moving closer to your own brand, monitor it.  When it’s getting too close for comfort, take action.  That’s exactly what the Heart Foundation did here – so it’s a tick to them.

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