Street fashion designer Rick Klotz has announced that he's going to forsake any brand logos or names on his Freshjive products next year. Is it an anti-branding move, or something more?

I say something more.

Klotz's streewear fashion world is all about lifestyle, so you can't go to his web site without getting tons of content that isn't directly about his products. Rants about politics. Music. It's almost as if the products are an after-thought...and they are. T-shirts are ultimately, well, T-shirts, and the same goes for zippered hoodies, or any of the other apparel sold in this category. Logos are just as easy to knock-off or mimic as graphics and fit. There's nothing ultimately ownable here, is there?

So the traditional branding approach -- to differentiate from this chaos with a logo, as an announcement to the world your own unique good taste and financial wherewithal -- is a failing strategy in this category. Or at least it's an ever-increasingly-expensive one, and certainly a strategy that rewards only the newest and flashiest entrants. There's little incentive to build brands as much as constantly change or abandon them.

By opting out, Klotz turns that game on itself.

Maybe he knows that businesses don't brand the stuff they sell; consumers do, and in doing so make the branding real. He's not touching any of the attributes of his brand that matter to anybody, from the manufacturing in Los Angeles, to all the political nonsense on his web site. His no-logo won't change the satisfaction his customers find in and with his products; and it'll indirectly let them declare their good taste by making a brand out of not being branded.

Anyway, I suspect that inner-satisfaction is the real core of his brand's strength, or that of many products and services these days. So much of consumers' individual choice is otherwise hidden from review: one product is bought because of a policy it supports, while another is avoided for one. A retail store that gives its employees benefits might attract more local shopper traffic than one that exploits its workforce as if they were androids. Saving the planet is a brand attribute that features prominently for lots of products and services, just like its opposite does, too.

None of this branding is communicated by brand communications (other than when it declares the facts), and it certainly isn't invented thereby. The only thing that's ownable is what a business chooses to do, minute-by-minute, and how it subsequently communicates it.

The logo is an afterthought or, once Freshgive's competitors follow suit and drop their labels, too, maybe Klotz will bring it back to the forefront. Label everything everything. It's as meaningless as labeling nothing. 

It’s the DOING that matters more.

The Bulb Asks:

  • How is any brand attribute exclusive to your brand, unless it's something you do?
  • Would your products still provide the same experience if they were unbranded?
  • When is a commodity not a commodity? Is the difference in thought or action?

Original Post: http://dimbulb.typepad.com/my_weblog/2009/08/branding-no-brand-brands.html

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