There’s a new, puzzling trend on the rise, and it might be the downfall of legacy brands. The idea of anti-branding is gaining traction.Anti-branding is a product without the frills of a product story or, as is clear in the name, branding itself. Andrew Essex explains on Medium why this is a problem for big brands; it leads to “brand devolution, a process in which some consumer packaged goods will break loose from the brands that made them seem special and revert to the primordial ooze from whence they came. No more need for a brand story. Just the thing, unfettered, a correction of sorts.”Brands without packaging? Product without a brand? Doesn’t that work against everything we all know about marketing?Maybe not.Amazon is ahead of the game here because of Alexa, and customers now using voice commands to shop. By creating their own white-label brands, Amazon can circumvent the competition.Essex explains, “ After all, why say ‘Alexa, buy Ivory’ or ‘Alexa, buy Native’ when you can just say ‘Alexa, buy soap’ or ‘Alexa, buy deodorant’ and save a few shekels? It all depends on how devoted you are to your brand of soap or antiperspirant.”This is already a huge problem for your business, whether you know it or not. The “white label” approach to production and branding is already changing the competitive business landscape. If your small business doesn’t adjust, you’re only going to fall behind.What can you do to adjust to anti-branding?
1. Know your audience
This is the first and most important part of your strategy moving forward. You need to really understand your audience. Brand loyalists still exist; Forbes reports that they make up 37% of the population and won’t “switch brands given an opportunity like lower prices or more convenient access”.Tap into this audience. You need to understand exactly what they need, what they want, and how to make that happen.For example, if your target brand is millennials, there are a lot of ways to reach them.Millennials judge the performance of a business on what it does and how it treats people. More than 6 in 10 people polled would also reference the quality of product and satisfaction (63%) as high as they would references levels of employee satisfaction in terms of important (62%).You can create brand loyalists simply by treating your team well, which you should already be doing! Show them the day to day operations of your business on social media and prove it.Make your company worth being proud of, and the support will follow.
2. Offer excellent service
This might seem straightforward, but it’s the key to getting those brand loyalists. Continuing with the Millennial example, they appreciate a company that is authentic, and they’ll pay more to support them; “As a group, Millennials are willing to spend the most (21% additional!) for great customer care.”Customer service is rapidly becoming THE differentiator in business. Sure, white-label products keep their prices low. However, it’s been proven over time that people will pay more for better service.If you’re a small business, it’s going to be impossible to keep up with white label products. With the force of mega-corporations like Amazon behind them, you’re not going to be able to match for the price. What you can provide that Amazon can’t is personalized, individual customer experience. That’s how you’ll beat the biggest competition.
3. Tell a stronger brand story
This might seem counterintuitive, but stay with us here! A strongly branded product is not the enemy here.What you have to remember is that unless you can become a billion-dollar industry leader overnight, you’re going to lose ground to brandless products. The customers who are swayed by the anti-brand and cheaper prices from white labels are not going to spend the time and money your company needs. Trying to beat them at their own game is simply not going to happen.So, don’t try. Instead, double up on your branding efforts.After all, “A brand does not exist within a company or organization. A brand exists in the minds of your customers. A brand is the sum total of impressions a customer has, based on every interaction they have had with you, your company, and your products.”You’re in charge! A strong brand is visual, dynamic, omnichannel, and team-supported. Make sure you have a defined “look” for your logo, website, and marketing materials. Pay attention to customer feedback and implement it moving forward, and reach out on social media and in-person to customers.Anti-branding isn’t for everyone, and those put off by the impersonal approach will need to buy somewhere. That’s where you come in.
Do what you do best
The anti-brand has thrown a wrench in big businesses’ day to day dealings, sure. However, you don’t have to let it derail your business! Your strategy to deal with the changing marketplace can be summed up by this: focus on you. Your audience, customer service, and branding are all in your control, so make them excel. You’ll find your niche. As Andrew Essex explains in that same article; “And thus we close with a paradox: In the future, the brand will no longer matter — except when it does. If a product’s story is compelling enough to truly differentiate, then that story will continue to resonate. If it doesn’t, it won’t.” Anti-branding just means the future is coming. Be ready for it.