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  • Writer's pictureRandy DeMuesy

Brandless folds, proving (yet again) the value of brands.

The death of person&planet&health&sustainability-conscious Brandless hardly comes as a surprise.

Yet another ‘disruptive’ on-line proposition with a tragically hip name dripping with irony, they not only cut out the middle man, they cut out any true sense of brand.

That was the whole idea. The company pledged to strip itself of any “brand tax” for luxury, high-quality goods so that most items would sell for $3.

Which left it naked against overwhelming marketing realities.

What were they thinking?

First, their fixed price point prevented it from capitalizing on the proven grocery store strategy of mixing low-margin goods with higher-margin items.

(Small wonder, then, a year after launching, they ditched the low price and began searching for retailers to carry their merchandise in store).

Even more foreboding? The fact that each and every Brandless item was on its own, going up one-on-one against the entrenched attributes of each and every like-item their competitors had equipped and armed with a brand promise meaningful for that particular item.

The overarching and pollyanna promise of Live Well, Take Care, Do Good was intended to outdo a focused promise which consistently met a less abstract, more urgent need of the buyer.

So, supposedly, even though Tide could get my clothes whiter, my Brandless detergent

was helping save the earth. And though Speed Stick made me feel masculine and confident, my Brandless deodorant would help me save the earth. And though Crest would save my teeth, my Brandless toothpaste would go on to save the earth.

Is anybody buying that? (Apparently not … or at least, not often enough).

You can't beat the truth

Good brands don’t just entice people to buy and try. They connect with people. In return, those people become more than customers, they become fans.

It happens when a brand discovers a core truth about itself that meets a core need of customers. One that’s truly relevant, meaningful, and believable.

It’s less likely to happen when a ‘brand’ slaps an abstract feel-good claim across a hugely diverse line of products.

We’ll see how long Public Goods can last.

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