Is there such a thing as a brandless brand?

Written by Victoria Buchanan | 9 May 2018
The design of packaging is still an important part of our decision-making process and part of the way we relate to brands on an emotional level.

Over 400 new startups are hoping to redefine our relationship with seemingly mundane categories: razors, toothbrushes, glasses, suitcases and socks have all being redesigned with the ‘user experience’ in mind. In most cases this involves product stripped back to its most essential parts and ‘debranded’ in order to convey autheticity but also reduce costs, savings which can then be passed on to the consumer.

Brandless is one case in point, a response, so its founder says, to the vast number ‘over-branded’ products currently on the market. With more than 200 items on offer, ranging from food and beauty products to personal care and household supplies, the company’s value proposition is built around providing premium products at low prices. The company says that all of the items sold on the website are ethical and organic, but because they have been ‘de-branded,’ cutting costs on an expensive design team means the saving (they say 40%) can be used to reduce the ultimate sales price.

Beyond the benefit of cost savings, however, debranding also makes sense given that consumers are increasingly mistrustful of corporations. Cohn-Wolfe finds that just 23% of consumers in the U.S. believe that ‘brands are open and honest,’ and that number dips to just 7% in Western Europe. Product and packaging increasingly needs to work harder to communicate value and build trust.

Soylent and The Ordinary have also taken a similar approach, shunning marketing jargon in favour of an anti-brand aesthetic. Instead of superfluous design, everything about their packaging is intended to communicate the value of the ingredients inside. Essentially that you aren’t about to get ripped off.