A lesson in Branding from online retailer Brandless – #ironic.

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Another Retail Disruptor Gets Physical.

US online retailer; ‘Brandless’ made waves this week when it opened it’s first physical pop-up in West Hollywood, LA. The proposition of this retailer is an unbranded (plain label) $3-everything approach, taking the private label mindset and disrupting it. Brandless is neither a traditional private label business nor a traditional discount retailer, operating outside standard retail formats that have always defined these categories.

From a branding viewpoint, the most interesting dimension of this retailer is that whilst leveraging the ‘value’ proposition evoked by it’s name, Brandless has demonstrated they have a firm and sophisticated grasp on the art of branding.

Brandless sure behaves like a brand.

The Brandless brand might say ‘plain label’ and the products they sell might not be a roster of consumer brands, but everything else the Brandless brand does is carefully considered and well crafted.

• The copy which communicates the sharp brand value proposition has a well defined and consistently cheeky, consumer oriented brand personality.

• The design of it’s packaging  is simple and elegant, but far from plain and unbranded. Whilst it moves away from the traditional product pic and busy mnemonic device format of much FMCG packaging, the Brandless packaging design effectively creates a consistently strong and attractive brand asset.

• Equally clever is the development of the concept of a ‘Brand tax (the hidden costs you pay for other brands) which builds another clever layer of the brand value story. The Brand tax idea rationalizes the low price point without perceptions of a low quality level, whilst at the same time positioning the brand as a consumer champion against those brands that charge customers more on account of the brand.

• Brandless takes this ‘consumer champion’ positioning and connects powerfully with their community through a shared belief system and brand values.

• Finally, Brandless also connects with a higher purpose through their partnership to help fight hunger with a national not-for-profit, providing a free meal with every purchase made on their web site.

Online goes offline.

For an online brand that behaves incredibly similar to a traditional brand, what would you expect as a next move but to open a bricks and mortar store. As much as the Brandless LA pop-up is about building brand awareness, it still reflects a growing trend of online retailers evolving to an ‘online and offline’ model that we are seeing playing out.

So is Brandless a ‘same as all the other brands’ kind of brand after-all, whitewashing itself to confuse consumers into thinking it’s something it is not? Perhaps it is or perhaps it isn’t, but the one thing for sure is no-one is being hoodwinked. Today’s consumer is in the driver’s seat, selecting the brands they include in their lives with a level of sophistication and intuitive filtering like never before. The only successful brands will be those who connect with the value system of their audience/community through what they do as well as what they say. As long as the business is ethical and authentic, beyond that does anything else really matter?

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Dave Ansett
David is the founder of Truly Deeply, a brand agency with 25 years experience working with brands to position them for growth. His deep expertise is in the creation of high engagement brands that attract the attention of their audience and stand out from their competitors. David has extensive experience working with corporate, retail, food & beverage and entrepreneurial clients. Find out more here
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Pics Courtesy Brandless

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