THE ADNEWS NGEN BLOG: The challenge of 'Unbrand'

9 September 2013

Just for a moment, take a look at your surroundings. How many brands can you see? For me, it’s zero but has this always been the case?

Brands are the reason why we all swipe our cards for that expensive feeling of owning a piece of the pie. From owning the freshest Nikes, those headphones Flumed used or that exquisite non-Ikea wine glass set. But is this feeling shifting from the desire to have these logos within our lives, to an unbranded consumer paradise where quality, sustainability and home-grown products are our new desires?

I still remember at a ripe young age, I begged mum to buy me t-shirts with a huge Ripcurl print on it. But nowadays, products are unbranded, as is the process in how we acquire them.

This 'Unbrand' shift is marked by our ever increasing hunger for technology. We are spending vastly more time browsing and purchasing from online stores than ever before, thus creating the need for the eBays and Etsys of this world. This is a plus for the consumer as well as the producer who is selling their custom-made item to the world with a simple click. These makers understand that purely a brand is not enough any more; utility and functionality are the forefront of a consumer's choice, and the buyer's mind is now more focused on directly supporting the maker, not the swoosh.

The generational shift is the other driver of the 'Unbrand' movement. Millennials and Gen Cs value knowing who is making their product and in what environment. They’re obsessed with curating and sharing their own content to the world; translating directly to how they spend their pocket money. Unique, humanised products boldly stating their origins are becoming even more important in consumer society. Some giants of this world are catching up with this shift.

American Apparel invests heavily in communicating their 'Made in America' message, stepping so far as to advertise that their employees are paid decent wages and producing the products in favourable working conditions. 

The 'Unbrand' movement not only promotes customisation and usefulness in products, but also sustainability, where transparency and knowledge increases brand trust. Not only are we all becoming more aware of the challenges this world faces, but it is evident consumers are choosing products based on a company’s ‘Unbrandedness’ and transparency.

Consumers now have an expectation with brands. McDonald's in Canada welcomed this transparency shift head-on with a campaign on about the origins of their ingredients, knowing full well that with owning online social presence comes responsibility. Communicating this to an audience that wants uniqueness and individual attention brings the element of humanisation to brands.

The rise of the ‘Unbrand’ is truly changing the way people produce and buy. In a world where brands must shift from the pursuit of profit alone, to a focus on people and the planet, transparency with the help of the digital age must be on the forefront of our minds.

Think beyond your immediate clients and towards the end user, how can you inspire these people and why should they feel good about your brands? We are story tellers to the world’s biggest makers and I dare you to step out of the comfort zone of the logo, and unbrand.

Jamie Dawson
Media assistant
OMD Melbourne

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