What separates a pair of Levi’s from the jeans available at Target? Nikes from Sketchers? Kelloggs from Great Value? A Gucci ski mask from one you can buy at Academy?
The answer: Brand.
In this highly-globalized, technologically-advanced economy, it’s easy to get overwhelmed by the enormous variety of products. Anyone who has walked through the cereal aisle at Walmart can tell you how vast and diverse the selection is. That being said, with so many choices, most people will still gravitate towards that one brand that they like.
Branding – that is, successful branding – allows a company to develop a reputation and give meaning to whatever they’re selling. Brand can be built so that the products they represent are associated with credibility, quality, ethics, and anything else that affects the buyer’s decisions. However, branding is more complex than creating a TV ad campaign describing how Company A “cares about the community”; plenty of companies run TV commercials and social media ads, but what needs to be done to truly establish a brand?
The key, it seems, is not intense advertising or particularly unique products; instead, what makes customers truly loyal to certain brands is a brand’s values and beliefs. People may love specific styles or flavors, but at the end of the day, humans don’t build a connection with products, they build connections with other humans. Successful branding makes companies human because it allows for a platform to voice the companies’ opinions and fundamental beliefs. In a 2009 Ted Talk, author and “leadership guru” Simon Sinek famously stated that “people don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.” In the Ted Talk, Sinek uses Apple Inc. and their “Think Different” motto/campaign as an example of how a company’s core values and “what they stand for” contribute directly to consumers’ perception and loyalty to the brand. Apple’s mission of innovation and creativity are what ultimately make customers love Apple.
Brandless, an online grocery shopping company, is no different.
Scrolling through Instagram, I came across an ad for Brandless. On all of the products that it sells, there is no brand logo. Instead, the company’s “Just What Matters”philosophy has each product minimalistically-labelled with the product’s name and check-marks noting the qualities of the product. Their slogan, “Better stuff, fewer dollars. It’s that simple,” alludes to another one of the company’s distinctive characteristics besides their logo-less packaging: all of their products are $3.
Criticizing traditional brands for charging higher prices due to “inefficient and unnecessary markups,” Brandless has established itself as a more authentic, genuine company that makes “‘better-for-you’ quality products more widely accessible and affordable for everyone.” In effect, it’s taking a stand against the premium prices that many name-brand companies charge, and it says it’s doing this with better quality products. Aside from that, it also advocates and highlights its transparent, community-oriented way of business.
But even though Brandless emphasizes its brandless feature, that in and of itself is helping Brandless, ironically, build its brand. Brandless believes in a simpler, more efficient process by building “direct relationships with [their] suppliers and customers”, showing how they value quality, efficiency, and ethics. All of these characteristics contribute to establishing Brandless’ reputation, thus strengthening their brand.
Although Brandless may not be using their brand to charge premium prices, the fact of the matter remains: effective branding is essential for a company to solidify its place in customers’ minds. No matter what it’s selling, in order to truly establish itself in the hearts of the people, a company must first establish its brand. Even a company named Brandless.
By Megan Shen