Expert's Opinion

Un-Brand Yourself!

By Cheryl Swanson, Toniq | December 17, 2012

Focus on the product rather than the cache of the brand name or logo, says Cheryl Swanson of Toniq.

In a world saturated with brands and logos, the new chic is to lose the brand. Well, not literally. We have been seeing this for some time in luxury fashion, but now it’s happening to mass brands as well. The appeal is to focus on the product rather than the cache of the brand name or logo presence. It’s actually all part of a brand strategy that is gaining momentum.
Luxury Fashion
For the spring/summer 2013 Louis Vuitton show in Paris, designer, Marc Jacobs, made an obvious un-branding statement. There were no logos to be seen on the apparel, accessories or on set of the show. For a brand that has always been heavily rooted in designs that play with the iconic LV logo, it was more than the beautifully crafted clothes that got people and the press talking. This idea of not having to be branded all over the place re-ignited the theory about how luxury fashion should be about the clothes, the materials, the details, the wearer, and not so much the screaming of the logo. Another example is Bottega Veneta. Known for remarkable leather goods and artisanal craftsmanship, Bottega Veneta is a brand built on the quality of its products, not a logo. There’s no logo on the outside of any of their clothing or accessories and that has been the strategy since the brand was first created in 1966. In 1970, Bottega ran an ad with the tagline, “when your own initials are enough”.
Mass Fashion
Uniqlo, a Japanese apparel brand, bases it’s design strategy on creating a “blank slate”. They opened their first US flagship in New York’s SoHo in November of 2006. It was considered innovative and fashion forward to have a Japanese brand enter the market with competitively priced, well-made, smart materials, simply designed, and unbranded apparel. It was, and is, refreshing and positions the consumer as the stylist. The brand is about making it unique to each individual’s style. In the US, Uniqlo is available online and through the 2 flagship stores in NY and the recently opened San Francisco flagship (opened October 5, 2012).
Coffee Beverage
Starbucks, the heavily branded coffee company from Seattle, WA is making a minimally branded move in Tokyo, Japan. Created in partnership with the local Japanese design firm, Nendo, Starbucks has opened a pop-up that looks more like a design library than a Starbucks. There are no communal tables, displays of merchandise, or open coffee bar. Instead, whitewashed wood and bookshelves and a few white chairs take the place of green logos and couches. The shelves are filled with a 9 series collection about coffee. Starbucks took this initiative to take the focus off the brand in hopes to educate the consumer on coffee. Each of the 9 books in the series corresponds to a coffee beverage. Consumers are encouraged to read the book then redeem it at the counter for the beverage it correlates to. The consumer gets to keep the book cover which doubles as an informative guide about the beverage.
In New York, everything is branded, even people and their dogs. But what happens when you open a bar in Greenpoint, Brooklyn and name it No Name Bar? Well, it becomes the coolest spot to drink and eat. What makes it even cooler is the fact that they have a hidden basement restaurant within the No Name Bar that is also nameless. It has become the un-branded brand, hitting the un-branded cool factor on a whole new level. The No Name Bar seems to actually be making quite a name for itself.
We have all seen the urban bike trend gain momentum over the past several years. Fixed gear is one of the key styles of biking for urban cyclists and they don’t come cheap. There are the top brands like Oso, Moritz, Redline, Trek, Plug, to name a few. But in cities where fixed gear is a growing trend, so is bike theft, especially if you have a premium brand bike. So here comes No Logo Bikes. Based out of the UK, No Logo’s tagline is “no fuss, no frills, really nice bicycles”. They literally sell fixed gear bikes and parts with no logos, just solid color wheels and frames. Ultimately, their branding is in the design…solid colors, no logos.
Cars? You must be thinking that there can’t be a car without a brand. You’re right. However, in an effort to re-introduce itself to consumers, Ford took away the name and the logo for the “Go Further” 2012 campaign. The entire campaign was void of the Ford name and the blue oval logo. Even the twitter hash was #gofurther. On the “Go Further” website, they write, “We wanted to see what people would think when we left our name out of it. When we let the quality of our cars speak for itself. Because sometimes all it takes is a new perspective to see what's right in front of you.”
So what does this trend tell us?
On the marketing side, there’s a point in every brand’s life that they should evaluate what is really the perceived value versus the actual product value. When you take away the brand and the logo, you are left with only the product. And often times, you will learn that the product speaks for itself. This isn’t to say that every brand needs to be “un-branded”. Branding is storytelling and image stamping which are both key elements that build and add value to a brand. But to build a brand just based on a story and an image can only take you so far. Even when un-branded, the product or service must be able to prove and support the brand.
And on the consumer side, un-branded goods fulfill a yearning for something that is unique and personal – something you can make your own. When you have to use logos to make a statement you become a living billboard. But realistically, the majority of the consumer market does buy into brands and logos. They create aspiration and showcase status. As for luxury fashion, I think we will start to see less logo driven apparel and accessories and a return to what is really key, well-crafted products made from the finest materials.
Like Louis Vuitton, a leader in luxury and a leader in setting trends, we are a leader in watching, observing, defining and forecasting trends. We’ll be keeping this trend on our radar Blip and keep you posted.
If you would like to know more about Toniq, please email us at or tweet us @brandeffervesce. And check out for daily trends and inspiration.

Cheryl Swanson
Toniq LLC Brand EffervescenceTM
Email: - Tel: 212-755-2929 x218 Web:
Toniq is a brand strategy firm focused on market innovation, creating new products and repositioning existing ones. Ms. Swanson and her staff bring life, energy and dimension to brands by through a compendium of trends, semiotics, anthropology, sociology, the psychology of symbolism and innovative consumer research techniques.

Related End-User Markets: