A Brand by any other name...


January 02, 2018

by Erin Riddell

​Quality products delivered to your doorstep for just $3 each? Nirvana? Nope – that’s the promise of Brandless.

Delivering high quality goods with an easy to remember cost, the Brandless company market their products (food, personal care, paper goods, health and beauty products, etc.) with a break from the typical aggressive marketing; With no brand at all.

There are a number of claims on the Brandless website, including a running calculation of what they are calling a “BrandTax”:

BrandTax™ is the hidden cost 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. We're here to eliminate BrandTax™ once and for all.


Brandless MapleSo, is Brandless worth it? Can you walk away from the hidden “BrandTax” forever, and enter a digital world where everything is a magical $3? We decided to let Brandless take on the competition in a fair fight with our descriptive panel.

Looking at a variety of products including cookies, pasta sauce, peanut butter & jelly, graham crackers, even lotion and tissues, MMR had their sensory panels crunch, sip, slurp, touch, rub, squeeze, and sneeze through blinded matchups between Brandless offerings and their branded competition.

And the final score?

Brandless may provide you with equal or better quality, but that quality is not guaranteed. Only one comparison in this bunch really has the potential to deliver more bang for your buck, so you may be taking a chance. That said, at $3 (plus shipping), this is not a high-risk purchase, and a consumer doesn’t have a lot to lose by giving it a shot; At this price point, expectations are likely to be a lot lower.

brandlessBrandless also offers some unique niche items (ex. Organic Blue Corn Taco Shells, Olive Oil & Sea Salt Hummus Crisps, Maple Sugar Lip Balm, Tree-Free Tissues, etc.) that may make Brandless more interesting for a consumer. The plethora of organic, free-from, and other health and socially-conscious claims on the website is impressive. Those benefits may tempt a consumer to check it out, even if sometimes the value equation (quality/price) doesn’t match up.

It’s our hypothesis that the opportunities with NPD are even greater for Branding, as here they are freed from the shackles presented by attempting to match well known and loved brands. Where a well-known product is synonymous with its brand (for example the likes of Oreo), the consumer experience is enhanced when the sensory experience aligns with branded expectations. The Brandless positioning (or ironically, Brandless brand) will drive its own expectations. Focusing on delivering against these, as opposed to matching existing products, will provide a more ownable and defendable standpoint.

And there is a lure to the ‘$3 for everything’ model. It’s simple, and catchy. But it isn’t always a bargain. You may find a better price on-line or at your neighborhood store, and watch out for the shipping that can quickly add up.

So, who won this match? We may need a rematch to determine the championship.

Although Brandless was dealt several tough blows, it also managed to deliver some pretty strong punches - and one potential knockout - so it’s still standing in the ring.

For a play by play of every blow in this match up (and information on how each brand did in its individual bout with Brandless), please get in touch. We’d be happy to talk you through the replay.

Erin Riddell is Sensory Manager, MMR NYC – e.riddell@mmr-research.com

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