What is unbranding? (A guide with definition plus examples)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 2 May 2022

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.

Brand awareness plays an essential role in the success of many companies presenting an image of an organisation that customers see and associate with the products. Some companies may focus on selling products on their own merits, rather than relying on branding strategies. For companies who want to simplify their marketing strategy or reduce their advertising budget, unbranding is useful. In this article, we discuss what unbranding is, why companies engage in it, provide some strategies and list some of the key benefits of debranding an organisation in the long term for a business.

What is unbranding?

Unbranding, referred to also as 'debranding', is removing a brand identity from a product or a service. This includes changing the packaging on the product itself, redesigning the product so it has no logos and removing any company branding from websites or social media services. Companies unbrand in a range of different situations for a variety of reasons, all depending on the current status of the company and public perception of the brand in question.

Unbranding techniques have certain limits depending on the legal restrictions of a particular country. For example, digital services might mention the company that owns the service in the bottom banner of the page or in the 'About' section for transparency. Although mentioning a manufacturer or a developer is a necessary part of branding a product, doing so in a more subtle manner is a key part of debranding, drawing attention to the product rather than the manufacturer wherever possible.

Related: What are brand awareness metrics? (With examples and tips)

What is the reason for unbranding?

Unbranding exists for several reasons, the first of which is increasing a level of focus on the customer's needs. Removing branding means a product stands on its own merits rather than through an association with the main brand. This means that focusing on product quality and including a range of different features becomes the focus of the product. Companies provide better products for their customers because of this shift in focus, meaning higher customer satisfaction and an increase in revenue.

Reducing the amount of branding on a product ensures that the company is less reliant on the power of the brand for sales generation. Most times, companies sell their phones, computers and accessories because of the strength of a brand alone without consideration for product quality. Debranding means that products stand on their own qualities and strengths, so the company develops a higher standard of product and customers have fewer complaints about product quality in the long term. In this manner, debranding can actually strengthen a brand.

Related: How to become a brand strategist (with steps and duties)

The benefits of unbranding

There are several significant benefits of unbranding in a company, and each is important and affects different companies in different ways. Understanding all the benefits before engaging in unbranding exercises is useful. Here are some benefits of doing this:

Save money

A key benefit of debranding is the significant financial savings a company makes. Major proportions of company budgets focus on branding, such as hiring design consultants or marketing experts that tailor the brand to the customer base. If a company engages in debranding, this cost is minimal. This is because the organisation no longer pays for logo design, packaging design or any other image-oriented expenditure. Packaging is minimal and design is secondary, so the company saves significant sums of money.

Use accessible packaging

Accessibility is increasingly one of the most important parts of branding and packaging. Those with disabilities, such as blindness or a lower level of coordination than others, struggle with some packaging, especially where the brand takes priority over enabling differently-abled people to access products. If a company undergoes a debranding process, packaging teams focus more on ensuring that everyone has full access to the product rather than prioritising the visibility of the brand. More people benefit from the product, improving its chances of success.

Related: What does a package designer do? (With duties and skills)

Increase product quality

Debranding is a popular strategy for companies in a range of different industries seeking a reputation for a higher level of quality and greater authenticity. Removing branding means that companies focus on better quality products, relying on the standard of goods for retention of customers rather than the strength of their logo. This means that the company researches more into high-end production and design methods, integrating new and improved features into their products.

Rather than differentiating through the use of a brand, companies differentiate by the strength of their product. This benefits the business as people remember the high standard of the product even after a rebranding process by the company.

Related: How to become a quality engineer (with steps and FAQs)

Transition a company image

If a company has a negative perception amongst a range of different customers, transitioning the company's image is an essential role for the organisation. Debranding can help separate the product from the logo and business name, ensuring that high-end products continue performing without a tarnished brand impacting sales. In the long term, the company develops a new brand and associates it with the product, ultimately transferring a brand with a negative image into a fresh brand with an existing revenue stream from high-quality goods and services.

Related: What is a brand image? (Plus importance and how-to guide)

Connect better with customers

Debranding is a good tool for developing a better connection with customers. An unbranded product is one that is universal and doesn't push customers away because of disagreements surrounding the look and feel of an item's branding. This means that all customers have a better association with the product, with inoffensive branding playing a key role in drawing customers. By focusing on the usefulness of products and not the look of your packaging, customers remain with your brand and support the company through repeat purchases. This is better for the long-term finances of a business.

Related: What is public relations? (Plus PR strategies and tips)

How to unbrand

There are several key steps in the unbranding process. These play a significant role in getting the maximum benefits without risking financial damage. Here are key steps to consider when debranding:

1. Inform your customers

The first step in effectively removing your brand is informing your existing customers of the transition. If many customers support the company with repeat purchases, debranding may pose a risk that some consumers lose track of the brand. By informing your customers of the transition before its occurrence, you position the company well to retain a significant revenue stream throughout the transition. This stage removes the risks of debranding, as customers still choose your product for its existing virtues rather than the branding and logo.

2. Redesign your packaging

Next, redesign the packaging and branding your company uses in a product. This includes removing your company's logos from any packaging, eliminating any excess references to your company's name or logo. Removing this creates a clear distinction between the product and the brand, separating your products from the history behind your brand and standing them on their own merit.

Although redesigning the packaging is a key step, ensure that the packaging remains functional. This means keeping the name of the product, a summary of what the product does and a picture of the product. This information keeps the generic nature of your debranded product whilst telling the customer all about what using the product entails and how to do so.

Related: 15 smart and cost-effective small business packaging ideas

3. Redesign the product

After redesigning the packaging, make necessary adjustments to the product itself. For example, if the product features the company's logos or name, remove them and replace them with more generic graphics or information. If a customer gets through an unbranded package to find a branded product, this causes confusion.

Debranding the product itself is another key step in better removing the company's image from the range of products. In this stage, ensure that changes in the design don't negatively impact the quality of the product. For example, ventilation in the shape of a logo is still necessary for product cooling. Focusing on ensuring that the product works to the best of its abilities is a key part of debranding, especially as product quality is a core benefit of the transition.

Related: How to create a go-to-market strategy for your business

4. Ship the products

Finally, ship your products to all the company's vendors. Separate your first shipment of debranded products from your final shipment of branded products, as this cements the difference in the eyes of the customer. Not doing so risks a connection between the prior brand and unbranded products. Having a clear separation means that a company sees all the benefits of debranding, increasing profits and improving products with no issues.

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