You wait a few weeks for good content and then loads of great stuff comes along in one go. No sooner had I finished writing last week’s blog when I noticed the UK digital agency Kerve posting something on Facebook. The UK retailer Selfridges has teamed up with a number of significant brands (such as Heinz, Marmite, Beats by Dr. Dre) to forge a very interesting initiative. The concept is called No Noise, one that is attempting to give consumers a retail sanctuary in the modern overloaded world. I’ll let the official blurb explain.
As we become increasingly bombarded with information and stimulation, the world is becoming a noisier place. In an initiative that goes beyond retail, we invite you to celebrate the power of quiet, see the beauty in function and find calm among the crowds.
Specifically, how they then claim to achieve this reduction in “noise” or clutter, if you will, is by unbranding or debranding brands. This is how they explain it themselves:
Join us as we pay homage to minimalist design with a carefully curated edit of fashion, accessories and beauty products. Plus, some of the world’s most recognisable brands have taken the symbolic step of removing their logos in our collection of de-branded products – including Beats by Dre, Levi’s, Marmite and Crème de la Mer – each creating exclusive collector’s items.
The reason I decided to blog about this is because the marketeer in me loves this idea. It understands and exploits what is at the heart of great brand identities. To my mind, for Selfridge’s to make the claim that these brands are now somehow debranded is one of two things. Either it is a failure to understand the basics of branding and I don’t think that it’s credible for me to level that charge at the retailer and the brands in question: they most certainly do understand great branding. Therefore, it can only be a great misdirection for the retailers and the brands to make the claim that their goods are now somehow de-branded. The genius in this idea is that the removing of the logo from a good number of the products in this De-Branded Space does not unbrand them. To my mind, it achieves the opposite effect: rather it causes people to pay more attention to them. It encourages people to linger on that brand, much more so than they would normally do had they not been “de-branded”. Sure, there are some examples in the store like Crème de la Mer and Levi’s, where you do have to question why they got involved in it. However, when it works (like it does on the Heinz products and Marmite for example), it works brilliantly.
I guess ultimately what this activity proves in the case of brands like Heinz ketchup, Heinz Baked Beanz and Marmite, is that the brand is not just the logo. In fact it is so much more: it is the contoured shape of the bottle, it is hue of blue used on a tin can, it is the proportionality of the label to the rest of the pack. I think this is a great example of what I’ve always believed in: that the strongest brands in the world have always been and will always be consumer goods brands. Be they fast (e.g. Coca-Cola), medium (e.g. Apple) or slow (e.g. Audi) moving goods brands. More so than mobile phone companies, insurance providers, gas companies: which to my mind are unpackaged commoditised services and don’t have the tools in their arsenal that an FMCG brand does. I think a key element in this also is price and the impact it has on a consumer’s perception of a brand and it’s symbiosis with it. I guess it’s why I’ve never bought the argument that things like Google, Twitter or Facebook are genuine, fully fledged brands as they are unpackaged, completely free online services. Hmm…I’ve probably just talked myself out of ever getting a job in any of those industries. Anyway, that’s by the by. This Selfridges No Noise store is superb work and I’m just annoyed that none of the brands that I’ve ever worked on were involved in this!