Why Does This No-Brand Brand Creep Me Out So Much?

Photo via Brandless.
Photo via Brandless.

Millennials continue on their mad killing spree. Just a month ago, it was “casual dining” establishments like Buffalo Wild Wings and Applebees; now they are cleaning the avocado traces off their knives and looking menacingly at consumer packaged goods giants like Procter & Gamble.


The Wall Street Journal reports on the launch of Brandless, a new e-commerce startup that’s stripped the branding out of all its products in order to charge $3 for everything. Some things you can get for $3, randomly selected: spicy jalapeño & cheddar flavored quinoa puffs; organic applesauce pouches; a serrated bread knife; a two-pack of açai berry lip balm; and organic Texas style barbecue sauce. Basically, it’s supermarket house brands, minus the supermarket.

If you’re picturing a sort of Three-Dollar General for a design-conscious online-shopping generation that doesn’t have as much money as the baby boomers, well:

David Garfield, head of the consumer-products practice at consulting firm AlixPartners, said the concept could appeal to millennials who are less brand-loyal than older generations, and more inclined to shop online. Brandless is, he said, “seeing the factors and phenomena in the market in the right way.”

He added, however, that consumer-goods companies spend heavily on advertising and prominent shelf placement because those techniques pay off. “They are underestimating how difficult it is to thread the needle and execute,” he said.

You would think that excessive orgy of branding—popup ads for Crest flashing before our ocular implants, that sort of thing—would be the most dystopian possible outcome for capitalism in the 21st century. But staring at that Brandless (TM) (don’t forget the TM) branded tube of toothpaste is somehow giving me the absolute willies, like I’ve woken up in a horrible video game version of reality that isn’t quite filled out around the edges. Which, frankly, would explain a lot.

Senior Editor at Jezebel, specializing in books, royals, romance novels, houses, history, and the stories we tell about domesticity and femininity. Resident Windsor expert.



JESUS CHRIST PEOPLE BRUSH YOUR GODDAMN TEETH WITH FLUORIDE LIKE YOUR DENTIST TOLD YOU TO. It is critical for maintaining oral health. Unless you’re mainlining it, there is absolutely zero reason to fear any detrimental health effects from it.

My MIL has gone a little woo-ish in the last decade or so since they’re empty nesters now, her husband has a super fancy job, and she’s got disposable income for the first time in her life. She’s buying all the natural/organic shit because it’s more expensive and it makes her feel fancy. Which, cool! Get it, girl, you worked hard your whole life! Except maybe use your brain a little? She keeps telling me I need to switch over to this all-natural personal care brand (no aluminum in the deodorant, no fluoride in the toothpaste, etc.) because it’s soooo good, but in the next breath will complain about how her teeth have been so sensitive lately and she can’t figure out why since the only thing she changed was to start using this better toothpaste. I CAN’T EVEN.