The recently launched CPG Brand of Tina Sharkey and Ido Leffler selling non-GMO/sans additives products claim that they are ‘Brandless.’ The self- explanatory trademark, offering arrays of products from non-perishables to office supplies, are all priced at only $3. The magic behind the surprisingly low pricing, states the startup, comes from the elimination of the Brandtax, which is “the hidden costs you pay for a national brand.” Without a so-called “brand tax,” the concept behind Brandless is that it can add value for the consumer by selling quality merchandise instead of having a big logo embellished on a product. Instead, the actual attributes of the product are listed on the package.

Brandless sources all its products from independent manufacturers and only sells via their easy-to-navigate online website and mobile application. Shoppers are urged to use the ‘Shop by Value’ feature, which through indicated tags, such as ‘Certified Organic,’ ‘Gluten Free,’ ‘Non GMO,’ or ‘Vegan,’ one can choose the values which best suit them. Another feature is the ‘Shop Bundles’ in which Brandless has already gathered their top picks into easy-to-buy assortments of goods. Bundles include ‘Office Starter Kit,’ ‘Back to School: Dorm Essentials,’ or even a list of the staff’s favorites. Another interesting feature would be the ‘Flying of the Shelves’ in which Brandless recreates the feeling of shopping in an actual store and organizes their products into aisles just like they would be in a local grocery. Shoppers can choose to go to the household supplies aisles, beauty aisles, personal care aisles, and so forth. By selling online, Brandless says it can pass on the savings it makes by not having any brick-and-mortar stores.

In order to remain ‘brandless,’ the brand strips back and trademarks a white box as the key element of their corporate identity. The white box itself becomes a visualization of the brand’s purpose, vacant of excessiveness. As for the packaging, they apply occasional photographs and a splash of color, the treatment depending on the packaged goods. The self-proclaimed ‘white box council,’ including the co-founders themselves, Brooklyn-based agency ‘Red Antler’ who co-designed the label, and teams of product and marketing experts plus food scientists, say their design is aimed towards the “conscious urban millennials” and consumers who are “very connected to their values.” By trademarking the white box as said, the box is utilized as an indication frame for the important details of each product it seeks to highlight (whether the product contains nontoxic formulas, hasn’t been animal tested, or is gluten free etc.) Therefore, this process has centralized and elevates the importance of the good’s quality to go beyond the branding itself.

From all this, you may question how curating such an image could possibly classify as being brandless. Quite the contrary, even, since being a brand includes emitting an aura or image that is memorable and appeals to the targeted group of consumers. Therefore, isn’t Brandless a brand in its own right? Sharkey declares that what Brandless is doing is reimagining itself as a brand, and part of what they are doing is urging people to “live more and brand less,” dropping the “false narratives (of branding).” “We’re unapologetically a brand,” Sharkey admits.

However, we may say that the paradox of being a brand, yet also not, is nothing new. The no-brand policy has been around since the 1980s, taking Muji as a prime case. More examples include Marks & Spencer, or even the sub brands within local supermarkets that have adopted this policy. But unlike Muji, where products are attractive to consumers who prefer unbranded products for aesthetic reasons, and because it provides an alternative to other branded products, the minimalistic reasons behind Brandless’ policy boil down to the practicality of price reduction and the clear delivery of the products’ information. Overall, it seems the promise of an online store full of $3 deals is too good to be true. Unfortunately, Brandless only delivers their goods within the United States, therefore we would not be able to try out any of its ‘Organic Chocolate Creme Cookies’ or ‘Eucalyptus & Lavender Gel Hand Soap.’


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