In a world where logo tees reign supreme and brand-babble is a language in and of itself, a curious phenomenon is afoot. The brandless brand. That pared back packaging, those no-nonsense labels – it’s branding, Jim, but not as we know it. We take a look at a few brands who are doing ‘brandless’ their way.
Going brandless, literally
One US online grocery retailer has taken the concept to its logical conclusion and called itself Brandless. There’s very much still a brand identity – think muted colours and honest labelling – but, in a bid to keep their prices low, they’ve cut out everything that could be considered Brand Tax™. By running their own delivery system and retailing online, for example, they’ve been able to up their quality while keeping their prices at $3, for everything. Consumers appreciate the honesty and feel like they’re getting a great deal – it’s pretty clever. See also, Target’s Smartly range, with 70 items of life essentials, many for under $2.
The brandless revolution stretches way beyond mere FMCG and has taken a delicious leap into eateries. Take Tommi’s Burger Joint. Nestled into London’s busy Brewer Street, it has the kind of thrown-together, oh-so cool styling you’d expect to find in a late-night bar. The vibe is relaxed, the patrons are stylish, and the menu? Painstakingly designed on expensive paper stock with a prominent logo at the top? Not for Tommi. Try four delectable burgers and two sides scribbled on a piece of cardboard. The lack of branding becomes its own brand, and right now that feels so fresh.
The Muji way
And then there’s Muji. The grand-daddy of brandless branding. Taking its name from ‘Mujirushi Ryohin’, which literally means ‘no brand quality goods’, it channels a clean, minimalist aesthetic, and its products are designed as empty vessels for customers to use as they wish. You won’t find a trace of branding on any Muji product or in a Muji retail space – even product messaging is scaled back to a minimum to allow the pieces to take centre stage.
What does it all mean?
If the purpose of branding is to create a shortcut for the brain and help us make quick, informed decisions, why the sudden do-down of everything brand engineers hold dear? Well, authenticity is name of the game. A brandless brand doesn’t feel like its selling to consumers – we feel like we’re getting a good deal, we’re in on the secret, sticking it to the man. Smartphones mean we have endless information at our fingertips. If we’ve seen a branded product once, we’ve seen it a million times. So it makes sense that sellers with a scaled-back identity feel new and exciting. What’s the next step? Do away with packaging all together? There’s an eco movement already working on it – we’re interested to see where this trend takes us.