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How Brandless is embracing the new authenticity

Brandless, a recently launched start-up dubbed the “Proctor and Gamble” for Millennials, is trying to eliminate the price, or BrandTaxTM often associated with household consumer product goods (CPG). The e-commerce company has a pricing model where of all its products are only $3. Founders Tina Sharkey and Ido Leffler believe that millennials don’t want the same products as their parents, and more importantly, they want products that are authentic and, of course,“brandless.”

“The majority of new consumers, including millennials, say that they don’t want to buy the same products that their parents use,” Sharkey commented in a Fortune interview. “But at the same time, these consumers want authenticity and quality.”  

Brandless is challenging the traditional idea of brand by eliminating the logo associated with national brands and instead focusing on simple product descriptions. The bet here is that millennials will find the authenticity of the product more compelling than brand- thus trusting the transparency of Brandless over traditional CPG companies. Yet, it’s interesting to note that the very concept of “no-brand” in and of itself is a brand strategy.

The idea of brand, the intangible voice of a company, is ubiquitous in today’s consumer culture. With a  myriad of available consumer brands on shelves and online, there exists a great need for truly differentiated branding. What Brandless has done is use “lack” of traditional brand as its brand strategy without realizing it. Thus, the conversation has now been shifted from ‘how to create a great brand’ to ‘how to create an authentically great brand.’ 

So, is having a recognizable brand really a BrandTaxTM  to consumers or is it really just a stamp of a brand’s premium-ness?

For corporations, a recognizable and favorable brand gives them the ability to command greater price premiums for their products. For example, Nike, a global sports apparel and accessories leader, has numerous competitors. However, the Nike brand, made real by the experience of the Nike ecosystem, seems more premium to consumers, so Nike can get away with its higher price points.

Previously, the idea of brand premium-ness was directly correlated to a product, quality, and value add to the consumer. It was considered a stamp of trust and safeguard to the consumer of what they were buying. Today Brandless is betting Millennials no longer make that same correlation. Brandless is saying that Millennials are going to care less about the brand and more about the supply chain and quality of the product. 

By branding itself as a “product first company,” Brandless builds its image (and, really, its brand) on transparency, quality and authenticity. The irony of such a strategy is that it very eloquently answers the call of millennial needs without touting its own horn. In other words, the very act of messaging as and appearing to be a non-brand, demonstrates how Brandless has actually embraced brand.

The question is, will authenticity be enough to keep millennials engaged? And how will Brandless leverage this into its other products and the experience process?

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