The Brandless Brand

The most powerful brands in the world don’t need clever words or sophisticated advertising campaigns to sell their products.

All they need is a logo.

Apple, Microsoft, Volkswagen and even Marvel communicate everything you need to know about them with a logo.

Despite occupying very different markets all of these organisations have achieved the same thing: total brand saturation.

On a global scale.

It’s so overwhelming that you only need to see the Marvel logo at the start of a teaser trailer to know what you’re in for. A cornucopia of special effects and heroism worthy of ancient legend.

It really doesn’t matter if the movie is any good, you’ll naturally just assume.

A white glowing Apple logo on a laptop communicates a level of superiority that no other computer manufacturer can ever match.

Despite the fact that Macs often have a significantly lower spec for the price compared to Windows laptops.

But Apple customers don’t care.

They may come up with rational reasons why they like Apple Macs – the design, the materials, the quality…

In reality, people like Apple because of how the brand makes them feel.

Being part of Apple’s tribe makes the high price or low spec incidental. Mac owners will defend their purchase decision using rational arguments when really it came from a place of pure emotion.

Just as it does for people who buy designer clothes or expensive cars.

They want to be associated with that brand and what that brand represents.

Or at least, they did.

The Shift

Consumer behaviour is undergoing a big change. Consumers – particularly millennials – are becoming disillusioned with big brands and big businesses.

At a time when the world’s most successful businesses pay less tax than the average SME, it’s easy to see why.

Organisations who cut services or lower quality while increasing prices are pushing their consumer base towards rebellion.

Airlines, train services, fashion labels, drinks companies and confectioners along with a host of others are among the worst offenders.

In reality the rebellion is already raging and businesses are only just waking up to it. Big brands are being discarded in favour of smaller brands. Or no brands at all.

There are businesses who are paid to remove designer logos from people’s clothes.
The brands no longer represent the values of their audience.

Consumer loyalty is at its lowest level ever.

Just 13% of consumers feel loyalty to any particular brand.

Perhaps this isn’t surprising considering loyalty between the consumer and businesses has been largely one sided for years.

Repeat business is repaid by all sorts of discounts, loyalty schemes or reward points. All of which are designed to benefit the business more than the consumer.

The reason is simple: you can only use loyalty points in the shop you earned them.
It would be far better to reward customers with something of value to them.

This has left businesses big and small with a real problem. In the past branding was an integral part of marketing the business.

Establishing a strong brand presence has always been one of the most effective elements of marketing.

The more frequently a brand appears the more robust the business appears.

Brand saturation is an indication of its standing, its buying power and the quality of its product and service.

Except that a growing proportion of consumers are no longer buying it.

Going Brandless

Some businesses have responded by reducing the use of their brand. Softening their presence in order to focus on the message.

Instead of having a full logo on a commercial, those businesses are opting for a subtle by-line. Or a small logo tucked out the way where most would miss it.

These businesses are saying ‘we get it, it’s actually about you’.

The truth is it’s always been about the consumer, but businesses have lost sight of that.

Going brandless is a bold reaction to a real marketing problem. But it does highlight the need for businesses to make sure their values are aligned with those of their customers.

By focusing on the message first and foremost, it gives businesses a tremendous opportunity to change how that message is communicated.

We as businesses have an amazing opportunity to declutter our own communications and focus on what really matters. Delighting our customers or clients.

It’s still important that your customers know who you are. But consumers only want to be part of your tribe if they feel like you’re going to look after them.

Because, thanks to social media two thirds of all marketing for your business goes on without your knowledge; influence.

Your clients are having conversations about you on and off line. And in those conversations your brand isn’t going to come up once. Your service is.

Which is a shame in some respects because there are some truly incredible brands out there. Not to mention iconic designs that have influenced generations of marketers and designers.

But there is no escaping the change in consumer attitude.

Which means there needs to be a different approach.

Communicating your Brand…

Without communicating your brand.

The truth is, brands are important.

They are a badge that allows us to say ‘yes, I’m with them’.

The reason for this is humans aren’t able to distinguish the difference between a person and business on a psychological level.

We are also social, tribal animals. We like to ally ourselves with people that reflect our values. Or those whom we respect or seek value from.

Which explains why Apple customers attempt to justify their purchases. And why Playstation gamers look down on Xbox gamers and vice versa.

And why train delays or banks delivering poor service make front page news. We feel a very real sense of betrayal.

Like it or not – brands matter.

The challenge for modern businesses is how to communicate their story and brand without being overbearing or pushing away the very customers they seek to attract.

This can be achieved through the look of your website, the design of your stationery and even the colour palette you choose to use.

All these things – when applied correctly – can have just as significant an impact as any logo.

Again, consider Apple as an example. You don’t need a logo to know when you visit their website.

The use of white space, the bold close-in photography, the short yet emotive slogans all succeed in moving their audience.

Brand is more than a logo. It’s a clarity of your message and your values through design. It’s your business’ unique story given form and colour.

It’s just a question of capturing it.

The good news is – with a little help – it’s something any business can accomplish. But as with anything worth doing, it starts with a process.

It begins with your business taking a step back from what you do (the actual product or service you deliver) and understand why you do it.

It’s not to make money. Money is a result of what you sell. It isn’t why you or your company’s founder got out of bed in the morning.

What is the driving force of your organisation? Figure that out and you’re well on your way to creating a brand identity that transcends logos.

Something that captures the essence of your brand, and tells your story. Something that no one could ever mistake for anyone else.


To learn more about how to discover your organisation’s story and how you can transform your brand, book a discovery call today. Or if you have any questions call 01202 973017 and I’ll be happy to help.


Design to tell your story

Becks Neale is a Dorset Designer & Brand Consultant, working alongside charities, community initiatives and purpose-led organisations to achieve a brand they love and live, by distilling their brand story.

Design to tell your story.

© inkshed design studio

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