Selfridges department store in London made waves recently with consumers and marketers alike with the launch of their “No Noise” branding project.
In an aim to address the increasingly cluttered world of 21st century marketing, Selfridges opened the Quite Shop in-store. Minimalist art and music, and a ban on mobiles and shoes set the scene for a tranquil consumer experience, but bucking the very core of consumerism, the store went beyond by launching brand-free retail.
Global brands such as Levi’s, Heinz, and Dr Dre Beats all produced products that were void of logo or product information for the project, leaving customers to experience the products without the usual assault of marketing design.
Arguably a campaign for media publicity the project did highlight two important branding issues:
1. How Strong Is Your Brand Without Its Logo?
A truly strong brand transcends its logo, as was evident from the No Noise project. Not only were the brands instantly recognizable when void of logos but critically, consumers had developed such an affinity with the brand through the intangible intrinsic values that even the un-branded product still offered value.
2. With the Prevalence of Brand Clutter, Can De-Branding be a Valuable Differentiator in the Market?
The de-branded products of the No Noise project also created exclusivity out of normal brands. Void of logos and product information suddenly made Heinz baked beans tins a desirable limited edition unique offering. In a world where branding information is bombarding the consumer, could the simple brand-free product be the one that makes the biggest impact?
Starbucks might be one of the most recognizable brands in the world but it too has started to explore reducing its brand imagery in an effort to differentiate its business and extend its market catchment.
Starbucks global reach meant that the visibility of the brand worldwide was almost having a negative effect with consumers. Over saturation of the corporate logo was almost making it uncool with consumers, with a trend towards local coffee houses emerging.
Starbucks began removing their name from their cups, and even redesigned their newer stores to fit into the local environment. In the UK no two stores are the same and the brand is focusing on less corporate branding and offering a more personalized experience to their customer. In a high street with Costco chains blatantly visible, would the de-branded Starbucks coffee house offer a more welcoming personable experience to the consumer?
De-branding to gain attention was a strategy adopted by VO5 last year in an effort to target the teenage boy market. The brand’s strategy focused on building brand equity through a meaningful narrative in their advertising. They wanted to be less pushy with their products and thought that un-branded advertising adds to their credibility with their target market.
An unbranded 30-second teaser on YouTube spearheaded its new integrated campaign ’Pageant’. The short trailer achieved 180,000 views in two weeks after its launch in October and was also voted one of the most popular videos on YouTube’s comedy channel. The trailer was followed by an online film and a TV spot as well as a YouTube channel and Facebook page.
The viral success of the campaign means that there might be credence to the claim that de-branding might just be the key to breaking through brand clutter and gaining the attention of the audience.
Branding and logo saturation is something that is having an impact in the luxury brand industry, an industry that once thrived on the power of their logos. Recent years have seen brands like Gucci experimenting with logo-free products where they have achieved success targeting a more sophisticated customer.
The customer’s affinity with the product was defined by their interest in the quality of the product materials and design rather than perceived status attained from the visibility of the logo.
With a logo-free product the brand has achieved enhanced positioning and exclusivity with their target consumer. By recapturing a more knowledgeable customer and developing an aspirational product, the brand was rewarded with a 25% increase in annual profit last year.
Eliminating the brand name from marketing activity is also evident in the professional services industry. While many brands strive to develop brand awareness in the market, sometimes negative brand connotations make it necessary to de-brand. Coutts private bank recently did just that, dropping the well known but unpopular RBS parent brand from their name in an effort to extend business.
The common thread in the examples above it that, before the de-branding took place, each company had developed an offering that presented value to their customers that extended beyond that tangible product itself. The strength of customer’s brand loyalty enabled the brands to experiment with the de-branding process. For obvious reasons de-branding won’t work in every case.
Tesco explored removing their brand name from some products but research has shown that the products were more popular with the Tesco name included as the customer has a better understanding of perceived quality that the brand represented.
De-branding certainly is not for every company, but it does force you to think about what elements of your brand make the biggest impact with your customer. Could de-branding be part of your brand strategy?
• Does your brand offer value to your customers that extends beyond the tangibles of the product or service?
• Do your customers have a clear understanding of your brand and its story, what it stands for?
• If you de-branded your product, what are the remaining elements that would have the biggest impact with your customers?