Brandless but far from being unbranded

Unbranded, FMCG, retail, brand

Introducing a brand called Brandless™ (yes, trademark is noted). A start-up riding the unbranded trend and set to shake-up everyday retail in the USA and they’ve raised $50 million to get going.

Way back when, our ancestors bought basics supplies from their local store. They selected what they wanted based on functional qualities. There was no such thing as choice of flour or milk. There were no brands.

Brandless is hoping to revive some of this unbranded approach (well sort of). They have created a range of everyday essentials, all simply packaged and priced at $3 each. It’s all designed with minimalistic packaging to hero the product and its ingredients. They might look like generic, basic products – but really they’re not.

Brandless reckons they have found a way to make generic branding aspirational for millennials. Like Aldi, they’re challenging leading brands. However, rather than designing packaging that mimics the big brands, Brandless deliberately look plain and simple.

Brandless is a carefully and strategically considered brand. Sure it’s a bit of a gimmick that rides the unbranding trend but they seem to have some solid values, beliefs and a solid business strategy. They claim to be deeply rooted in quality, transparency, and community-driven values and promise “better stuff, fewer dollars”.

FMCG, essential product, branding

Sitting behind the design is a brand commitment that every product is bad-stuff-less and goodness‑full. Brandless promise to match their customer’s values, preferences, and at times requirements. “Where it matters, our products are non-GMO, sometimes organic, fair trade, kosher, gluten free, no added sugar and more. It’s different for everyone.”

Another key part of their brand story is highlighting what they call the ‘BrandTax™’ we all pay. Essentially, Brandless say that by purchasing leading national brands you are paying at least 40% more for products of comparable quality as theirs, and up to 370% more for beauty products like face cream.

By removing the brand tax, Brandless promise they can offer the best stuff at the fairest price, everyday, to everyone. Which is essentially the same as what generic brands would claim.

They’ve also found a way to change the discount and savings world of retail. By calculating the average BrandTax for each item they can demonstrate their proof point and also highlight savings to customers on their account page.

Based in San Francisco and Minneapolis, Brandless launched their online store in the USA this month. It will be interesting to see if this turns out to be just another gimmick or they achieve their “big dreams about changing the world”.

Michael Hughes

Michael is Managing Partner and Strategy Director at Truly Deeply, a brand agency with 25 years’ experience working with brands to position them for growth. His deep expertise is in unlocking the strategic power of your brand to create a differentiated, compelling and authentic brand proposition that will engage all your audiences. Michael has extensive experience working across Australia and the Middle East working with leading Australian and International organisations across just about every sector.


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