What Is Unbranding? Definition, Benefits and Examples

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published November 23, 2021

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Creating a brand identity is one of the most common ways to advertise a company and its products, but some businesses choose a more universal strategy for promoting their products. Removing branding elements from a company's visual and marketing identity can allow customers to focus more on the products and services. If you're interested in creative branding techniques, learning about how to promote a company by emphasizing customer needs instead of a brand identity can help you become a more visionary marketer.

In this article, we explain the concept of unbranding, including the benefits of using this strategy and a few examples of ways to advertise without a brand identity.

What is unbranding?

Unbranding is the process of removing or limiting a company's identity in its products and services. This can include changing the packaging of products to make the company name and logo less prominent or adjusting advertisements to emphasize the feature and function of a product instead of the company's brand. Companies can participate in unbranding after already having an established brand identity, or they can create new product lines that intentionally use universal messaging strategies that only include minimal references to the company's brand.

What is the purpose of unbranding?

The main purpose of unbranding is to focus more on the needs of customers. By using unbranding strategies, companies focus on the inherent benefits of their products. While highlighting a product's brand as a selling point often involves creating a particular voice and identity that may be more appealing to certain audiences, unbranding can make it easier to promote the uses of a product to a wide range of groups. Removing the focus from visual branding and a company's identity can also help the business emphasize other aspects of promoting its products, such as customer service or product development.

Related: What Is Branding? Why Branding Is Important for Your Business

Benefits of unbranding

As a marketing professional, unbranding is one of many techniques you can use to differentiate products from competitors and attract attention from consumers. There are several benefits to using unbranding strategies, including:

Becoming more universal

By going through the unbranding process you can make a product line more universal to a wide range of consumers. If you brand a product to specifically target a group of customers, unbranding can help you access other demographics outside of that initial audience. It can also help you find other applications for your products and services. Focusing on the utility of your products and considering how they can meet the personalized needs of each individual consumer instead of trying to build a central brand is a great way to appeal to a wider audience.

Creating a reputation for quality

Unbranding is a popular strategy companies use when they want to develop a reputation for being more authentic and high-quality. Removing visual branding elements requires businesses to focus on the actual quality of their products and business plan. Unbranding can remove distracting promotional elements from a company's advertising campaign, allowing customers to notice the actual quality of the business's manufacturing processes, raw materials or customer service. This can improve loyalty to the company because customers enjoy the products instead of their dedication to a brand's voice, imaging and lifestyle.

Related: 17 Ways To Build a Reputation

Saving money

Developing an image as a brand can be an expensive process that requires complex planning and market research. This includes hiring graphic designers to create logos and manufacturers to produce branded merchandise. Choosing an unbranding strategy allows you to focus on simplified methods for presenting products to customers. You can choose basic packaging, advertising and promotional methods that focus on the functionality of the products instead of creating a complex narrative and visual brand. This often has the added benefit of offering lower prices to customers.

Making packaging more accessible

Unbranding often makes packaging more accessible to customers because they can easily identify each product on the shelves. When companies unbrand their products, they typically simplify the packaging to clearly label each product with the function, materials or ingredients. By prioritizing the actual product instead of a brand name that the average consumer may not be aware of, companies may attract consumers who want to learn more about a product while in the store. Although branded packaging can be appealing to people who are already familiar with the brand, unbranding your products can improve accessibility to new customers.

Changing public perceptions

Removing branding elements can be a good way to change public perceptions of a company. Instead of fully rebranding the entire business, you can opt to remove the most recognizable elements of the company's current visual brand. This can be helpful for recovering from a public relations issue, targeting a new segment of customers or shifting the mission of the company after choosing to change the direction of the business.

Related: 21 Branding Mistakes and Strategies for Avoiding Them

Examples of unbranding

Here are a few examples of ways that companies use unbranding when promoting products:

Private labels

Generic brands, also known as store brands or private labels, are a common example of how unbranding can look. When stores offer their own brands, they typically focus on the quality of the product or its similarity to another brand. They use simplicity, low prices and basic packaging to appeal to customers. When individual companies use unbranding, they often emulate the strategy of private labels.

Sub-brands

Some well-establsihed brands use unbranding by creating sub-brands with more general and universal advertising methods and visual branding. This usually involves launching additional product lines with simple, streamlined messaging and packaging. These sub-brands are affiliated with the main brand and may include the original brand name somewhere in the promotional materials, but typically don't feature the logo and brand name as a main aspect of the advertising. For example, a popular body wash brand may release a line of unbranded soaps, removing the logo on the packaging and adding small text that says "from the creators of" the company instead.

De-naming

One of the ways that companies unbrand their identities is by removing their company name from branding materials. This most common with companies that have a recognizable logo that they can use in place of the company name. Eliminating a company's name from its branding materials can reduce the importance of name recognition and focus on other aspects of the brand, integrating it into the lifestyles of consumers.

Related: 21 Types of Brands (With Definitions)

Customization

Allowing customers to personalize and customize products can reduce the impact of the company's branding and make the customers feel more involved with the business. One popular method is allowing customers to order products with their names or other words on the packaging instead of the company's name or logo. This allows customers to feel more connected to the products and create a sense of loyalty while still using the unbranding strategy.

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