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3 Simple Branding Lessons from Brandless Online Store


Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past few days, you’ve probably heard about this hot e-commerce company Brandless launched last week. The online grocery store challenges the idea that it is too expensive to eat healthy. Brandless online store carries items like organic extra virgin olive oil, sea salt quinoa chips, and organic fair trade dark roast espresso pods, for a flat rate of three dollars. For organic, fair trade, non-GMO and gluten free products with no artificial colors or flavoring, that’s a fraction of what you’d find them for at your usual grocery store.

The online store hopes to disrupt the CPG category (including Amazon) and bills itself as the Procter and Gamble of Millennials. Quite a title for an online supermarket that is ditching fancy labels and hefty price tags.

Brandless co-founder and CEO Tina Sharkey wants to address two main issues: the inaccessibility of organic and natural foods at an affordable price tag and the over-saturation of products on the market. Just days into the site’s official debut last week, it has raised nearly $50 million from investors including Redpoint, Cowboy Ventures, and New Enterprise Associates.

Industry Leaders Magazine is here to provide a few tips to entrepreneurs looking at creating a meaningful and dynamic brand like the Brandless online store:


Your core values will impact business decisions, your actions and be indispensable as you grow. Spend a good amount of time and effort into defining what your core values are and why they are important to the company and the consumers.Brandless online store 1

Several years of the startup’s R&D efforts were spent in innovating a new model: online-only, clever and minimalist packaging, all at a blanket-pricing scheme. Brandless online store is eliminating middlemen such as vendors, wholesalers, and shippers, each of whom comes with an added business cost which is ultimately borne by the consumer. Its goal is to democratize goodness by spending less on hype and more on better products.


The premise on which you sell your product should explain why your company was founded. It gives your customers a reason to follow your brand.

If you read the About section on the Brandless web site, you'll see the trademarked term, "BrandTax." BrandTax is defined on the site as:

BrandTax™ is the hidden costs you pay for a national brand. We've been trained to believe these costs increase quality, but they rarely do. We estimate the average person pays at least 40% more for products of comparable quality as ours. And sometimes up to 370% more for beauty products like face cream. We're here to eliminate BrandTax™ once and for all.

Consumers are forced to pay for what is called Brand Tax, i.e. hidden costs of packaging and distributing traditional goods. This adds extra costs to the actual price of the items, making them more expensive than they need to be.

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Brandless is stripping away BrandTax, by selling goods at a “fairer price” – 40 percent less than comparable goods on average. The blanket-pricing scheme of $3 on items doesn’t come from spending on cheap quality ingredients. Moreover, the online store is not driving up costs by adding a middleman, distribution or fancy marketing into the equation.


The ability to innovate, adapt and integrate while staying true to the core values is the key to building a successful brand. On the Brandless online grocery store, you can easily find items that are GMO-free, vegan, or certified kosher. You can even shop for these items using the health value categories on the site. Brandless has committed to democratizing the grocery industry by removing unnecessary brand labels and treating products equally. It has taken minimalist packaging by adopting a white box for its range of food and home items, which each cost $3.

In “The Paradox of Choice,” Barry Schwartz explains that the more choice we have, the less likely we are to make a decision. When we do make a decision, we are less happy about it, because we’re not confident that we made a good one.

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The minimalism theme perforates over Brandless’s product range, too – on the site, each category is edited down to few basic options – so you don’t feel overwhelmed by too many choices.

With Brandless online store, CEO Tine Sharkey wants to debunk the idea that better things cost more. The food sold at Brandless is fair trade, organic, GMO-free, gluten free, with no artificial colors or flavorings. Beauty essentials and household cleaning products are EPA-certified and ban toxic ingredients. Generic products like toothpaste, pens and notebooks come with simple and distinctive packaging. The basic goal is that everyone can have access to good things in life, and that price does not always need to be an entry point in the marketplace.

For every order placed on the site, Brandless donates a meal to people in need through Feeding America. You will never find Brandless on the shelves of Amazon or Whole Foods. You know why…

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