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What does it mean to debrand? Somewhat confusingly, the term debrand has two definitions.

  1. Debranding: the removal of brand elements to appear less corporate and more personal
  2. Debranding: the shift away from any recognizable brand to appear generic, thus aiming to reduce ad spend and price and increase profits accordingly

In this post, we’ll look at both definitions and why you might consider either debranding option.

Debranding to Appear Less Corporate, More Personal

Brands use this approach when they feel their corporate logo, which traditionally includes a wordmark, would be better received by their target audience when it only includes a visual.

Driven by the increasing corporatization and globalization of brands, as well as the increase in the number of competitors, this debranding approach has gained traction. Over the last number of years, brand managers have recognized the need to differentiate and reflect their local audience’s interests and concerns. It was a concerted effort to appear less corporate and more personal.

The best example of debranding in this sense, from a holistic business perspective, is Nike.

In the 90s, the brand started to move away from their combined logo and wordmark to a pure logomark – the iconic Nike “swoosh.” This transition occurred simultaneously on their product and campaigns and then made its way to their packaging and store presentation.

The brand recognition is so strong that if you asked people if Nike still used the word “Nike” on their storefronts, most people would say yes because the image is so representative of the full brand – most don’t even realize Nike debranded.

Other examples of corporate debranding include Starbucks, who in 2012 removed their name from their coffee cups (but still have it plastered on their storefronts), and Apple, who only include the apple on their storefronts and products.

Debranding to Appear Generic, Reduce Ad Spend and Increase Profits

The shift to a generic presentation and name, away from a recognizable brand, is often driven by a cost strategy.

If the brand doesn't have to raise awareness to drive purchases but can instead position on price and volume, the company can stop spending on advertising, lower their prices and aim for a profit increase.

Private brands have to spend a lot of money for recognition, particularly in supermarkets, where they are competing with each other and with generic brands. Generic brands aren't just for the price-conscious consumer, however, with research demonstrating that 9/10 female shoppers are willing to look at private and generic brands before making a purchase decision.

One of the most significant examples of a shift from private to generic brands has been in the supermarkets - led by Coles and Woolworths in Australia as a way to extract better deals from suppliers and increase their margins. This strategy is also demonstrated by other supermarkets across the world. Consider Aldi: Their entire shelf space is populated by generic brands and “exclusive” yet debranded brands. Other stores, like Target, Walmart and Trader Joe’s, offer their own generic brands alongside more household name brands, with many of the generic brands tasting at least as good as their name brand counterparts.

Debranding for either purpose is not to be undertaken lightly– it needs to be in response to research against your audience and be a part of a long-term plan, not a short-term reaction. Whether you decide to move on from your wordmark or to shift your entire presentation, a solution like Brandfolder Content Automation will ensure that users within your organization are 100% on-brand.

Ready to maximize the impact of your brand’s creative assets? Check out our guide on how to get more life out of your creative assets.