Overview of Unbranding (Definition, Benefits, and Examples)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published April 26, 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

One of the most common ways of advertising for a company or its products is by creating a brand identity. Still, some companies may use a universal promotion strategy by focusing on their products and services. Understanding how to market a company and its products by focusing on the customer needs instead of the brand's identity may help you become a unique marketer. In this article, we explore what unbranding means, outline its benefits, discuss its disadvantages, highlight tips to make the process effective, and provide examples of advertising without brand identity.

What is unbranding?

Unbranding refers to the process of limiting or removing a company's identity from its services or products. It may include altering advertising campaigns to focus on the functions and features of the product instead of the brand, reducing the noticeability of its name and logo. Companies may decide to create new products and then deliberately apply universal messaging strategies that make minimal references to the brand identity. A company with established brands may develop new marketing strategies that use this technique.

This process focuses on shifting the attention from the company's brand to the functions and features of the product and how they address the customer's needs. Deciding to unbrand makes it easier to appeal to a broader audience, as the focus is on product use. Shifting the focus from the company's identity and visual branding also helps the business advertise other aspects of their services, such as product development and customer service.

Related: What Is Employer Branding? (Plus How to Build a Brand)

Benefits when businesses unbrand

Minimizing visual branding is an effective technique for marketing professionals to attract new customers and distinguish products from competitors. Some benefits of using this technique include:

Becoming more universal

Applying this process may make the products more acceptable to a broader range of consumers. For example, if the company's product focuses on a particular customer demographic, relegating the brand image to the background may allow them to access other consumer demographics outside the original audience. It also allows the company to focus on different applications of their services or products. Highlighting the utility of the products and how they can address customers' demands may offer more appeal to the public instead of building a generic brand image.

Building a reputation for quality

Unbranding helps the company build a strong reputation. This technique requires companies to emphasize a product's quality and business plan. Limiting visual branding helps remove any promotional elements from marketing campaigns that may distract the consumers from appreciating the manufacturing process, customer service, or raw materials. Making the customers appreciate the product's value may help build loyalty because the customers may understand the characteristics and functionalities of the products and services instead of following the brand's image or voice.

Related: What Is Customer Satisfaction and Why Is It Important?

Saving money

Building and maintaining a brand image may be an expensive process involving extensive market research and planning. The process may include hiring manufacturers to create brand merchandise and graphics designers to produce logos. Eliminating these processes and adopting rebranding strategies may help you focus on minimalist advertising approaches. For example, the company may adopt simple packaging, promotional, and advertising strategies that emphasize the product's features instead of building a highly-aesthetic, visual brand. Adopting rebranding strategies may help reduce the overall expenditure of the business, which may translate to lower prices for the customers.

Making packaging more accessible

Limiting the visual branding makes it easier for customers to identify products. Typically, when businesses unbrand their products, they adopt simple packaging to highlight the ingredients, material, and function. Adopting simpler packaging helps make the product more accessible to curious consumers who want to learn about the product on the shelf. Visual branding typically appeals to customers who know the brand, but the average consumer may prioritize learning about the product's applicability instead.

Changing public perceptions

Minimizing branding elements may help change people's ideas about the company. It provides an alternative to rebranding a company because they can decide to remove the prominent features of the present brand instead of trying to create a new one. Removing the company's branding may provide a solution to publicity issues, target a new segment in the market, or shift the company's mission after changing the business development trajectory.

Related: 12 Public Relations Careers (With Salaries and Duties)

Disadvantages when businesses unbrand

Focusing only on the characteristics and functionalities of a product can also create disadvantages for a company. For example, their customers may observe their products cautiously, affecting their sales. Here are some disadvantages when a business unbrands its products and services:

  • It may lead to public mistrust: Essentially, customers may perceive unbranded products as unsourced content if they don't know whose intentions or interests are behind them. Covering up the source and portraying a different outlook may cause people to feel deceived.

  • It may be counterintuitive: Limiting a company's visual branding goes against the practice of establishing a name and reputation before putting out products and may not be an effective marketing strategy in some industries. For example, this marketing strategy may not function properly in the food industry, where product quality relates directly to the brand.

  • It may be content-intensive: Limiting a company's visual branding may require expanding the market and creating increased content to divert the customer's attention. This process may be time-consuming and expensive to implement, particularly in the early stages.

Tips to unbrand a product

The aim of adopting a new marketing strategy is to attract new customers and create product demand. For example, it's essential to conduct a market survey and find creative ways to help address the needs of various customer demographics. Here are some tips to guide you when attempting to reduce the visual branding of a company and increase demand:

  • Aim for honesty: Most customers prioritize transparency, balance, and authentic information. It's advisable to prioritize providing information to the customers when limiting the brand identity.

  • Provide quality and value: It's essential for the company's products and services to be of high quality if they want to reach a wider audience. Ensure they make the marketing strategy relatable so customers can easily understand how its products relate to them.

  • Avoid technical terms on specific features: While trying to highlight the features of a product, it's essential to avoid the tendency to go into the technicalities of the product. Instead, the company can use actors as emotional drivers and ensure they focus their marketing strategy on the psychographic segmentation of their customer base.

  • Build a marketing system: While unbranding may be a viable marketing strategy for the business, it's advisable that it isn't the only marketing strategy. It's essential to include it in a marketing system that cuts across different channels and platforms.

  • Measure effectiveness: It's essential to track and record the effectiveness of implementing this strategy. Analyzing the data on the marketing content, consumer segmentation, and other relevant metrics can help the company identify what's working and what to improve.

Related: How to Do Market Research With Six Guided Steps (With Types)

Examples of how businesses unbrand their products

Here are some ways businesses unbrand to promote their products and increase customers:

Sub-brands

Popular brands may create sub-brands with universal or general advertising strategies and visual branding. This system introduces new products with streamlined, simple packaging, and clear messaging. These sub-brands may remain affiliated with the big brand and may feature the brand name minimally in the promotional material, although they typically don't include the brand name or logo as a significant part of the marketing campaign. For example, a shoe brand may create a line of unbranded shoes with small text saying "from the creators of" instead of the company's name or logo.

De-naming

Another strategy that businesses use to unbrand their products is exempting to use the company's name on branding materials. This strategy is popular among brands with popular logos who opt to use the logos instead of the company's name. Removing the brand name may reduce the fixation on name recognition and allow people to focus on other parts of the brand and integrate the product quality into the customer's lifestyle.

Customization

Businesses may decide to involve customers in the customization of their products. This technique personalizes the process, helps reduce the effects of the company's visual branding, and makes the customer feel like they're a part of the business. An example of this strategy is allowing customers to order or buy products with their names or selected phrases on the packaging, replacing the company's logo or name. This process helps customers connect with the brand and build loyalty.

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