Can Brandless deliver on its lofty goals in a pop-up?

Discussion
Photo: Brandless
Oct 29, 2018
Tom Ryan

Brandless, which sells everyday items “from snacks to soap to serving spoons” for $3.00 each, opened its pop-up in New York City for four reasons: community, taste and trial, range and education, Tina Sharkey, co-founder and CEO, said in an interview with RetailWire.

A major theme of the pop-up is focusing on Brandless’s message of practicing “one tangible act of kindness at a time.”

Brandless also wants to use the pop-up is to physically engage fans who regularly submit recipes featuring the company’s items as well as feedback to its blog and social channels.

A second objective is trial. The store features a full tasting wall of non-GMO, organic and vegan snacks, a fair-trade coffee station, a beauty lounge and a taste flight menu station.

Can Brandless deliver on its lofty goals in a pop-up?
Photo: Brandless

Double the size of its first pop-up in West Hollywood, the NYC location showcases all of Brandless’s 300-plus products of edited assortments and provides two terminals for making online purchases. Only a “Best of Brandless” box of 11 items and t-shirts are for sale as the store.

Finally, a major focus is education on the quality and origin of Brandless’s offerings. A bamboo forest installation explains how tree-free paper goods can be made from sugarcane and bamboo grasses, the fair-trade coffee installation highlights the importance of supporting fair wages and safe working conditions and the more than 400 questionable ingredients banned are detailed at the beauty lounge.

Can Brandless deliver on its lofty goals in a pop-up?
Photo: Brandless

Brandess also takes the opportunity to educate customers on its “Just What Matters” philosophy. That includes its partnership with Feeding America, a “kindness corner” where visitors can send postage-free postcards with mantras such as “Run Towards, Not From” and “Laugh More. Love More. Live More” to loved ones and other areas where visitors are encouraged to write down what they’re grateful for as well as their inspirations and aspirations.

While Brandless’s prices are comparable to national brands on most products, they discount their better-for-you products by 40 percent or more. It’s a tactic designed to recruit customers to become advocates of the values the company espouses.

Said Ms. Sharkey, “Our promise that’s included on every package is, ‘Here at Brandless we put people first, which means value and values stick together. Better stuff, fewer dollars, no nonsense. Join us.” But the two most important words are ‘Join us.’”

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: What do you think of Brandless’s goals for its pop-up experience? How important is its values proposition in supporting its better-for-you at a discount position?

Please practice The RetailWire Golden Rule when submitting your comments.
Braintrust
"I’ve always thought [Brandless] just needed more exposure and some addiction-worthy exclusive items. This is a fantastic way to get more people in their ecosystem."
"$300 million in VC funding makes all of this possible. I’m still not convinced of the viability of generic items for $3 even if it does have strong Millennial messaging."
"We might just be witnessing the start of something big with Brandless. $3.00 per item and a wealth of items to choose from is a huge attraction, especially to the Millennials."

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13 Comments on "Can Brandless deliver on its lofty goals in a pop-up?"


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Neil Saunders
BrainTrust

The value proposition is very important, especially to younger, urban shoppers. I like this concept as it helps introduce consumers to Brandless in a friendly and engaging way.

In addition to the values, what also appeals is the relative simplicity of Brandless’s proposition. In a world of choice and information, being able to quickly discern what a product is, what it does, and what it contains is valuable. It saves time and it fosters trust. All too often, fancy designs on overly complicated packaging add to the noise that bewilders and confuses consumers.

Laura Davis-Taylor
BrainTrust

Brandless is a fantastic concept. They know who they are, who they’re for and how to serve them. The products are fantastic and the price point is superbly simply. I’ve always thought they just needed more exposure and some addiction-worthy exclusive items. This is a fantastic way to get more people in their ecosystem, I just wish it was in Atlanta too!

Min-Jee Hwang
Guest

Brandless’s goals for its pop-up store should work well to support this kind of experience, especially in today’s socially conscious and social media-heavy culture. I’d expect social media buzz and word of mouth to help drive traffic to the store, especially among younger audiences.

David Naumann
BrainTrust

This is a very clever and smart marketing strategy, as it appeals to consumers’ social conscious AND their wallet. It is an interesting company name, “Brandless,” as the name implies that it is not a brand, but it is a brand.

The brand also comes across as having the feel of a non-profit company, but they are a corporation — another clever marketing strategy.

This brand seems to have growth potential, as they are very good marketers.

Jennifer McDermott
Guest

The value propositions of a brand have never been more important to consumers than they are right now. The fact that the products are so heavily discounted are a win on top of a win for conscious shoppers.

It will be interesting to see how Brandless converts and retains customers beyond the pop-up experience, something other reports note they have struggled with.

Bob Phibbs
BrainTrust

$300 million in VC funding makes all of this possible. I’m still not convinced of the viability of generic items for $3 even if it does have strong Millennial messaging.

Doug Garnett
BrainTrust

Brandless will end up being less rather than more no matter what their retail strategy.

After all, they aren’t brandless. While this opinion may not be popular, their naming and claim to “purpose” is quite Orwellian… After all, “War is Peace” and “this Brand is Brandless.” They are a brand. And they are built on a myth of purpose that’s late to the game at this point.

Can they succeed? Certainly. They have a name people will remember (though not believe). If they can make good products that deliver serious value to people, they can succeed.

Will they succeed through pop-ups? Maybe — but I doubt it at their discount price strategy. The most successful pop-ups seem to use a premium strategy.

How about the better-for-you discount position? It all comes down to product.

Cate Trotter
BrainTrust

I really love the approach to this pop-up. It’s all about experience and brand building, and it does it in a really good way. There are a lot of people out there who may not have heard of Brandless, or they might have heard of it and wondered about the quality of its offering, so a space like this is a fab hands-on introduction. I also like that there is one ‘taster’ option for customers to take away that day. At Brandless’ prices it’s not hard to imagine people taking a punt to try its products out which might translate into ongoing customers. What I especially like is it’s not just celebrating what Brandless offers, but also its brand. More and more customers are being discerning about the companies that they let into their lives, so having a strong brand message is a great way to set a company apart.

Lisa Goller
Guest

Brandless’s pop-up goals are wise, distinguishing the company’s focus on people and purpose (vs. products and profits). Here’s how:

  • Strategic growth: By getting in consumers’ faces (if only for a limited time), Brandless will boost awareness and engagement, namely among shoppers who have not purchased from their website
  • Multisensory experience: Physical stores offer a far richer experience than e-commerce. Brandless’s pop-up allows consumers to taste food samples, smell fair-trade coffee and touch products to feel the quality rather than rely on online peer reviews for confident consumption
  • Social shopping: This limited-time experience can spark consumers’ fear of missing out, boost word of mouth, and encourage friends and colleagues to visit Brandless together in person. A pop-up is more fun and social than a solitary e-commerce experience. Also, consumers can receive immediate answers from store associates, further building brand trust.

Overall, the pop-up will expand Brandless’s market reach, and showcase its agility at adapting to diverse tastes and consumer values.

Michael La Kier
BrainTrust

Pop-up shops are perfect for introducing brands to new audiences and will serve Brandless well. The proposition of “better-for-you-discount” is one that needs to be seen and touched for many shoppers.

Ed Rosenbaum
BrainTrust

We might just be witnessing the start of something big with Brandless. $3.00 per item and a wealth of items to choose from is a huge attraction, especially to the Millennials who are not brand conscious. This is a marketing dream.

Kai Clarke
BrainTrust

Brandless has a value proposition which can appeal to urban shoppers in large metro areas like NYC or LA, but I see this faltering when it comes to smaller, more competitive cities. Their price point is questionable for generic products, especially in the face of Aldi and Lidl, or aggressive house brands from Walmart or Costco. Testing their goals in a pop-up is a good idea, however they should focus on placement of these in different retail areas to compare and contrast performance of their model. Only then will Brandless truly have deliverables which provide data that allows them to determine the viability of their model.

Michael Decker
BrainTrust
Brandless has gotten some traction as an eCommerce pure play in the everyday value corner of food & beverage sector but were always missing something. They have staked their turf well as a millennial magnet — offering socially responsible products at seemingly wholesale pricing. They “put people first.” The one chink in the armor was that their people and their customers never really got to meet one another. Pop-up retail’s their first baby step towards the inevitable brick and mortar retail evolution they crave. Like a Trader Joe’s on steroids (natural steroids of course!), Brandless customers will see the physical store shopping experience as a pleasant food shopping journey with like-minded souls. Brandless pop-up experience delivers against all four of its stated goals in “getting real” with their customers by building a real store that they can touch and feel. We visited the New York City pop-up last week and it delivered as advertised: Community (lots of people just like me), Education (social responsibility), Trial (really just $3??) and Range (both coasts). Check, check, check,… Read more »
wpDiscuz
Braintrust
"I’ve always thought [Brandless] just needed more exposure and some addiction-worthy exclusive items. This is a fantastic way to get more people in their ecosystem."
"$300 million in VC funding makes all of this possible. I’m still not convinced of the viability of generic items for $3 even if it does have strong Millennial messaging."
"We might just be witnessing the start of something big with Brandless. $3.00 per item and a wealth of items to choose from is a huge attraction, especially to the Millennials."

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