Today, more than ever before, consumers are demanding transparency from the brands they support. As a result, companies have begun to respond by increasing their focus on more sustainable initiatives and transparent practices. One strategy that has become more prevalent among socially conscious businesses is “explicit labeling”—also known as “de-baptism” or “un-branding”.
This practice involves removing any logos, symbols, taglines or other brand identifiers from a product to reduce its perceived value. The idea is that by removing any external information about quality or cost, the product becomes more accessible to those who might otherwise be deterred by its unbranded price tag.
This article will explore the various ways brands are moving away from traditional branding methods and toward more explicit labeling practices for their products.
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Why is explicit labeling becoming more popular?
Though it’s impossible to know exactly how many brands are implementing this strategy, many industry experts believe explicit labeling is more widespread than ever before. T
his growing popularity could be attributed to several factors, including:
- An increased desire for transparency
- Desire for simplicity
- Focus on accessibility
- Desire for convenience
- Desire for affordability
How does explicit labeling work?
The goals of explicit labeling are to make products as accessible as possible, regardless of consumer type or buying power. To achieve this goal, brands will often remove all external information from products in order to avoid alienating any consumer segments.
This can include:
- Removing brand logos and replacing them with standardized or generic symbols.
- Removing brand names, product names and descriptions and replacing them with universal language.
- Using unbranded packaging materials and visual designs that are simple and minimalist.
- Including product-identifiers that are unique and universal.
- Offering transparent price points and avoiding any external markups.
Unbranding via color coding
One way brands can strip their products of external information is by using color codes. A color code system is a visual language that uses different colors to represent different features or product types.
By removing all brand identifiers, including company logos, product names and descriptions, companies can still convey essential information while keeping their products unbranded.
This is particularly effective with food and beverage products that are often labeled according to their nutritional content.
When it comes to beauty products, color-coding is often used to represent product type. For example, red lipstick and eye shadow are often used to represent bold and dramatic looks, while a blue eyeliner and eyeshadow combination is more likely to create a classic and minimal look.
Unbranding via simple packaging
Another way brands can remove external information from products without using color codes is by choosing simple packaging materials. With this approach, brands can remove logos, brand names, product names and descriptions from their packaging materials, while still communicating the product name and information via the packaging design.
This approach is particularly effective for products that are typically sold in bulk, such as cleaning supplies and office supplies.
During this time of year, one of the easiest ways to see this type of unbranding in action is to look at your shampoo and conditioner bottles. In addition to the product being inside, you’re also likely to find a barcode label on the outside.
This is because, in order to sell the product at this time of year, retailers like Walmart and Target require the products be explicitly labeled with their prices. Because of this, shampoo bottles are often stripped of all branding in order to keep them unbranded.
Unbranding via unique product-identifiers
One final way brands can remove external information from their products without using visual packaging materials is by using unique product-identifiers. This can include the use of unique barcodes, QR codes or RFID chips. These unique product-identifiers allow brands to include product information, such as the name and price, without including any external branding.
One notable example of this approach is the packaging of Tide Pods. Because the product comes in a sealed bag, there is no way for consumers to see the brand name or product name unless they choose to tear open the bag. However, the bag features a small, circular orange tab that allows customers to scan the product and find out the name, price and more information via the Tide application.
As consumers become more socially conscious and more brands adopt sustainable initiatives and transparent practices, explicit labeling has begun to emerge as an important strategy in the branding space. This practice can be thought of as unbranding or de-baptism and is a strategy employed by brands and retailers that want to create a product that is completely unbranded.
This is done by removing any logos, symbols, taglines or other brand identifiers from a product or packaging in order to reduce its perceived value. By doing so, the brand hopes to make the product more accessible to those who might otherwise be deterred by its unbranded price tag.
Explicit labeling is an effective strategy for brands to remove the external information from their products without using visual packaging materials.