Brand-less Branding, a New Trend

When you go to the store, are you more likely to purchase a product from a brand you know or something more generic?

Traditionally, according to The New York Times, products associated with a name sell more than “brand-less” products. Consumers enjoy familiarity and with that familiar usually comes recognizable quality. However, more recently, there has been a shift in the market towards generic products. But really, what’s better?  

Brandless is a company founded just this past July with the goal of encouraging customers to avoid branded companies in order to save money. According to their site: “BrandTax™ is the hidden costs you pay for a national brand. We’ve been trained to believe these costs increase quality, but they rarely do. We estimate the average person pays at least 40% more for products of comparable quality as ours. And sometimes up to 370% more for beauty products like face cream.” The way this company works is you can shop for products by browsing through specific categories on their website, such as food, household products, and health (and what’s more is that you can specify these products even further by narrowing your search with buzzwords like “organic” or “gluten-free”). Then, Brandless will ship their, well, brand-less products to your door. They guarantee that their items are cheaper than any store brand deals with names attached.

Brandless differs from other generic product branding because they claim to put “people” first and promise quality products partnered with a cheap price tag. Not everyone is convinced that the generic route is a good one. Forbes writer, Ryan Erskine, claims that Brandless only shifts a consumer’s attention to specific brands. He says that the human brain prefers and defaults to habits; so, therefore it’s more likely that we’ll be drawn to products that are tagged to a company over a brand-less product to save a dime. He writes, “At our core, we’re little more than pattern-recognition machines. We learn what things we do or don’t like — what habits are good or bad for us — and then turn those into actionable steps,” in describing how he’s skeptical of Brandless making it big.

But what if they did make it big? After all, we could look at another successful, brand-less company: Target. Target is known for selling generic Target brand-less food and cosmetic staples. These products are cheaper than their branded competition. Furthermore, Target’s website highlights some generic items that are actually “better” than specified ones, such as their sunscreen which Business Insider claimed was both a quality product and an inexpensive commodity. Yes, Target is a national chain company, so one could argue that they are in fact branding themselves to sell certain generic products. In fact, recently Target gave their products and store a makeover in attempts to stay relevant in a world filled with Amazon and Walmarts: “Over the next 18 months, Target will launch more than a dozen new brands, four of which begin hitting stores in coming weeks. They will be accompanied by a ‘More in Store’ marketing campaign that will feature TV and print ads, a big direct mail piece and an increased digital investment that includes tapping into social media,” a Chicago Tribune writer states. Perhaps staying brandless takes a lot of branding.

Another controversial area with branding/not branding marketing methods is with medicine. Branded medicine is always more expensive (quite significantly so) over generic medicine. But why? Well, Huffington Post says that if a company wants to brand their medicine, they have to pay for marketing and research and, because they pay, we do too This article continues discussing this topic through an interview with a Pharm.D professor, asking when it is appropriate to buy branded medicine or not. He says ultimately for serious issues you should talk to your doctors first in regards to proper medicine; however, everyone is different and may have better or poorer reactions to generic medicine.

Certainly, generic products are on the rise. They are inexpensive and accessible. On the other hand, we are often drawn to brand names for what we use because it’s what we know. In medicinal cases, branded medicine may have had more tests and research behind it over a brand-less companies. Weighing in on the pros and cons of brand-less products, where do you lie? Comment below.

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