The genius of no name’s brand

no name is a “no nonsense, no frills” supermarket brand in Canada.

Nothing special. A lot of discount brands share these “values”. But they all communicate them through similar slogans, packaging, and comparison ads.

So no name went the other way. What happens if you strip away all the fancy-dress from a brand? You’re left with the bare bones. Stark simplicity.

The packaging is lowercase Helvetica over a yellow background. The website says “website”. The Twitter page says “twitter page”. Their sole ad campaign of the last decade saw them matter-of-factly label Toronto’s subway station:

no name brand products

Ironically, no name’s “anti-brand” approach has attracted a cult following.

Since 1978 the product line has grown from 16 to 2,900 items. A simple picture of biscuits on Twitter gets 6,000 likes. Their customers demanded merchandise and it sold out overnight.

It’s football club brand power from a household product line.

no name twitter and merch

What can we learn from no name?

The first lesson is separation.

To quote Ted Morgan, “positioning is like finding a seat on a crowded bus”.

Most brands walk on the bus, glance left, glance right, and end up sitting on top of each other. no name marched straight up to the top deck, found an empty seat, painted it yellow, and no one else can sit there.

You escape competition through separation.

The second lesson is limitation.

Limitation is the essence of branding.

no name’s focus is singular. They don’t pretend to be lots of different things. They stand for something simple and narrow: The rejection of superficiality.

The final lesson is consistency.

Once you know what you stand for consistency is how you imprint yourself. Consistent tone, Consistent aesthetics. Consistent messaging.

no name tells the same joke over and over again, and it gets better every time. It reminds me of a running gag on Jimmy Kimmel Live where Jimmy bumps Matt Damon from the show every night.

The first time you’re unsure, the 50th time it’s the best thing in the world. That’s the power of consistency:

* * *

Limitationconsistency, and separation is how brands are built:

• Rolex will never sell a watch for less than $5000

• Subway has sold just one type of sandwich for 54 years

• Doubletree has given out free chocolate chip cookies for 39 years


Thanks to Al and Laura Ries, Matthew Kobach, Dave Gerhardt, and Marcus Andrews where I got some ideas from.


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