Reaching an Authentic Edge: The Brandless Impact Opportunity

Everyone has heard the old adage “less is more.” Perhaps you even live by the acronym KISS –“keep it simple, stupid.” But where and how can this minimalistic philosophy lend itself to retail? If you’re among the biggest up-and-coming brands, then it is the backbone of your organization.

Consumers (and investors) are falling in love with indie brand after indie brand. Allbirds shoes, UNTUCKit tops, Prose haircare — all these brands guarantee little flash, higher quality and strong values.

E-tailer Brandless is taking this idea to another level. They have curated a line of over 300 products (and counting) that they are ready to sell for $3 a pop thanks to cutting what they call”the tax.” Logos are not big on the tag, just the characteristics of each item.

But while the company has made enormous strides, it is still discovering a disconnect between clients’ experience on line and in person. What better way to spread awareness and increase understanding than an LA and a New York pop-up?

An awe-worthy encounter

Just recently, I decided to provide the NY pop-up a go. All I knew about Brandless at the time was that it was an inexpensive e-commerce brand geared toward younger, budget-conscious consumers.

Upon walking to the pop-up, I was surprised — and delighted — to find my preconceptions about Brandless were not entirely accurate. This isn’t only an e-commerce brand hocking cheap bargains; it is a values-driven, quality-promising, transparent and sustainable merchant. There’s a lot more to their story than initially meets the eye.

Signs throughout the pop-up sings a social networking philanthropy initiative: post a picture to Instagram using the #brandlesslife hashtag, and the company will send a free meal to a person in need (I learned they do so for each purchase).

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Throughout the area we were invited to test out different products and supply feedback. Signage indicated what was , just as importantly, was not in every product — sales staff told us about the brand’s dedication to quality sourcing. All in all, the pop-up pointed out a range of powerful themes — kindness, quality, sustainability, value, transparency, philanthropy — all working together to produce a compelling, authentic message.

The missteps along with the accomplishments

But here is the rub: not a great deal of this translates into their electronic marketing. Their big selling point is that the $3 prices — essentially a glorified e-commerce dollar store. Low on their web page are the mentions about kindness and quality, and their Instagram advertisements are more geared towards excellent prices. I didn’t even understand Brandless focused on philanthropy before I walked to the shop. And that is too bad, because the provider’s CEO says that customers store in accordance with products that they appreciate , such as non-GMO, organic and cruelty-free (everything that Brandless focuses on).

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If the center of the brand is not reflected or is presented, the plan is flat. This is a challenge for a whole lot of retailers, and finding a solution actually starts with getting a better grasp on who the audience is.

That is not to say Brandless is falling short in their own initiatives. Along with other businesses (particularly mass merchandisers with private labels) should be aware of what the e-tailer’s pop-up attained on the brick-and-mortal level. Low ad spend does not need to interpret to generic displays. In actuality, the opposite should be true.

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Clear, informative signage, filled with details and creativity, highlighted Brandless’s philanthropic and quality philosophies through the whole shop. There was a wrought iron to reflect sustainability, a wall with a list of components which don’t pass muster for their beauty products, and an installation of Brandless boxes to highlight the e-commerce ease of shipping. It is all about having the basis of the brand translated in exciting ways.

A tale of two brands

The customer trend toward minimalist brands has affected some mass merchandisers and large retailers to dive to the private label industry. Take Goal’s new Smartly essentials lineup. Offering everything from cleansers to creams to paper plates for an impressive $2 or less, every item has a slick label and boasts high quality fragrances and potencies.

The idea is smart — mirroring (and rival ) with lots of the Brandless products. But in many ways, it falls short.

Brandless has the quality and the value and the extra philanthropy, sustainability, customer awareness — need I go on? Here, Brandless wins out to the authenticity customers crave — the thing we are always referring to . As companies like Target try to provide consumers more value, impact-focused, values-driven brands such as Brandless will begin to stick out in the audience.

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