No-brands saw a future overlooking the past

No-brands saw a future overlooking the past.

Beauty of style and harmony and grace and good rhythm depend on simplicity – is a statement made by Plato, more than two thousand years ago. If it wasn’t true, it must’ve been forgotten after at least a few centuries. If it is true, it must’ve been followed by many. Neither happened.

(a) Our philosophy is based on three core principles, which remain unchanged to this day: Selection of materials, Streamlining of processes, Simplification of packages. Our products are succinct, but they are not in the minimalist style. They are like empty vessels. Simplicity and emptiness yield the ultimate universality, embracing the feelings and thoughts of all people. We do not make objects to entice responses of strong affinity, like, ‘This is what I really want’ or, ‘I must have this.’ Our goal is to give customers a rational satisfaction, expressed with “This will do.”

(b) Our sourcing philosophy is simple: better for people, better for the planet. We value curation and focus. Less is more. Less but better. We value things that are easy to use and understand. We’re committed to reducing our impact on the environment. For us it’s about progress, not perfection. Across all of our product categories, we have focused on ‘Just What Matters’ for that specific category. We listen to our community. This is a win-win: high- quality stuff for you and a donation for another in need.

Among the many types of brands, no-brands have a subtly quirky appearance because they do not appear everywhere. They do not surprise you in magazines. Their adverts are silent. They do not expect queues outside their stores. No flagship products too. They do not leave labels or marks on their products overtly. All they possess and express is creativity and consistency.

The above two paragraphs (a & b) are excerpts from brand descriptions of two no-brands, which are widely known among the few peoples who look out for such brands. These clusters of consumers are identified to be the ones who choose function over brand badges. They too are like the billion others, but their choice of brands depends on the invisibility of the brands they use. They pick brands which do not possess self-expressive benefits. So, such consumers would buy a luxury car like Lexus even without the iconic grille or an iphone without the bitten apple.

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Clothing collection completely in bland colours, 90 degree socks, wrist-watch with a plain dial, simple storage units, moisturizers which put ‘cruelty free & sulphate free’ instead of a logo, unbleached-paper bags – likewise, they appear different in & out. While all their competitors are selling the same moisturizer saying it will protect and nourish the skin which thereby results in enhanced self-confidence and beter performance at the work place, no-brands still sell it by saying that it protects the skin, only. They talk the bare minimum yet fulfil the bare essentials, which is why these brands are able to grow slowly and slowly with maximum customer retention. These consumers employ these brands like counter signalling tools making it difficult to comprehend their personality traits. So, regret in choice, which is a common consumer behaviour trait, is nearly absent in these consumers.

No-brands came as a consequence of excessive branding activities all over the world. Before the modern branding revolution, which took off in the mid 1900s, buying and selling was carried out on more or less the same principles which no-brands have imbibed today. Extravagant branding left the industry with significant losses and the generics breathed into the daily lives of the masses. Over a few decades, the generics, which like no-brands do not carry a logo or a name or an identity, have been rejected by people. Brands took over again slowly thereafter. The frills and decorations around branded goods got revived with more subtlety. However, no-brands chose a more democratic way of doing business by identifying people who chase away loudness and chaos while embracing function and satisfaction. With such an overarching goal, these brands have achieved sustainability and consistency.

The future of these brands is simple, as they describe themselves. They would maintain a strictly narrow product line. People would not flock to the stores. Yet their presence is so promising that more such brands could emerge or a few other brands could revamp their branding principles like no-brands.

Brand behaviour as the new catalyst of branding.

Brand behaviour as the new catalyst of branding.

Ms. M is a 48 year old chef. She closes the kitchen by 10 at night. Before driving home, she smokes a cigarette on the rooftop. On the way back home, she sometimes picks up groceries and other supplies from a supermarket. She spends only twenty minutes going around and picking the ones she uses regularly. After going home, she usually watches late night talk shows while checking messages in the bed. This is her life.

The cigarette she smokes, the car she drives, the supermarket, the toothpaste, ketchup and the shampoo she uses, the jeans and shoes she wears, the goggles she puts on, the lipstick she wears, the faucet in her kitchen, her handbag, her smartphone and even the zipper of her pants – every little or big and important or essential thing is made by a brand. This is the life we see around her. She wakes up to a brandscape (like a landscape) everyday.

People choose only a few brands and let them occupy their lives. This choice doesn’t happen in a jab because it involves less of selling and more of buying and at 48, we don’t make choices like when we were 28. For sure, it might have taken Ms. M more than a decade or so to settle down with a few brands when she can choose from a hundred other options anytime. What helped her make a decision that suits her future? It is certainly the brand behaviour.

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We at M+M, studied the in-betweens of brands and consumers. We did our know-do-feel exercise in different ways over and over again on several brands and identified that brand behaviour is the prerequisite to consumer behaviour. Consumers can be identified as groups of different archetypes. Some look for trend-right products while some search for those that are oblivious to trends. They pay attention to only a few brands. Some brands do not advertise and some do extensively. Some brands open outlets only in high-streets. A few brands behave like team players and a few like individual athletes. Some always occupy the most preferred shelf in the store and some stay in the less viewed shelves.

A set of consumers have a habit of fishing out the less know brands. They shop that way. Another set gravitates towards brands that do eccentric ads. Some like surprises while some hate them especially when it comes from brands. Most of the brands are vocalic about their nature while a few remain silent. Some brands are respected while some are embraced. All these are brand behaviours which can alter the zeroeth moment of truth. The buying cycles of people involve a lot of time gaps and it is then when they get to observe and experience the brand as a whole which includes it emotional and functional benefits. While this is the tail end, the head starts with advertising and branding. Advertising lets know people while branding can help them remember. Both are cogs in the same machine.

Consumer behaviour helps a brand know its customer better. Behaviour is what one does and says. Brands do a lot and say a lot too, through ads, package, the language they use, the name they carry and the consumer needs they address. It is the basis on which people describe brands and products as innovative or stylish or better functioning or as moonshot. So, this brand behaviour helps the consumers build an identity of the firm which is trying to carry a dialogue with them. The audiences try to know who the speaker is before participating in the dialogue.

Brand behaviour has several sprints to run in the near future as service based brands are increasingly valued on par with product based brands. The behavioural patterns of brands are expected to be consistent even after the consumer makes the choice in the days to come, so that brands make room for experience. So, a bank might consider its customers more valuable than its reserves and starts to stay in touch with them like a well-wisher. A transport network company might shift its interests towards passengers’ safety. OS providers might start respecting privacy.

Not only at a personal level, brands are using this as a catalyst in their transformation, with a universal humane touch. Today, this is seen overtly among all global brands. We have seen automobile firms talking about climate change and many other brands belonging to diverse markets have fused rainbows with their logos in support of LGBT rights. No monsoon had ever seen so many rainbows. The catalyst seems to be working.



A direct mailer with not just a fancy desktop item, but something useful wrapped in a heartfelt message.

It was Doctor’s Day and we were presented with the opportunity to surprise the doctors with a gift that could acknowledge their commitment. A useless sovouneir is not our style, so we designed a concept around a useful product – the power bank,
and related it to how the doctors empower the lives of patients.

How visible is an apple in a cart full of apples?


How visible is an apple in a cart full of apples?

Come to think of it, visibility is a simple concept.
Whatever stands out has your attention.
If you were given a basket full of apples, your eyes would be all over the place.
Place a lemon in it, and you’re hooked, to that one little outstanding piece of difference.
The apples will slowly fade into being an abstract backdrop for the lemon to become the centre of your focus.

Visibility is like spilling some ink into a glass of plain water.
It’s about disrupting the pattern, breaking the symmetry and inducing something new into the mundane scheme of things.
Spotting the difference in monotony is not an acquired skill for humans; it’s totally instinctive.
Like in the haze of Monday morning madness, where we move like the machines we’ve evolved into, fueled by paid momentum, the lone person sitting on the pavement and doing nothing grabs our eye.
We all crave to be that difference.
We all crave visibility, but it won’t happen until we break out of the crowd.

However, when it comes to brands, the game changes a bit.
Visibility becomes not just the concept of standing out, but also reaching out.
Back in the day, advertising was driven by what’s in the packet.
Today, it’s driven by what’s on it.
So many brands trying to sell the same products, so how does your brand emerge visible?
Why will the consumer lay his finger on your brand out of the enormous labeled landscape that stares at him from the racks of supermarkets?

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Simple. You need a distinctive mark and a genius method to promote that mark, to push it so deep into the lives of your target consumers that it’s hard for them to imagine a day without you.
A mark they can relate to; a mark they can proudly talk about to their friends and family when they huddle around dinner and drinks after a hard day’s work; a mark that doesn’t just compliment their personality, but also reflects it.

This may sound arbitrary to the context, but apparently, on a dark night the human eye can see a candle flame flickering up to 48 kilometers away. That’s the power of our vision; the power of spotting a speck of light on an infinitely dark canvas. But the brands today don’t have the luxury of such a stark contrast. There are so many. Like a heap of entangled wires on an electric pole. It’s hard to make out which one is for what. What if all the wires were not black and had different colors marking their individual purpose?
Mark. That’s the keyword. That’s the solution. That’s visibility. That’s what you are striving for and that’s exactly what we are here for; unless you want to be an apple in a cart full of apples.

Man who sold record labels launches a fancy airline.

Man who sold record labels launches a fancy airline.

That’s Richard Branson for you! The man who took a leap from an industry he dominated to an industry where he started a virgin, purely on the basis of two things: instinct and experience. Not industry experience, mind you.

The problem with facing a challenge is not experience but ignorance. Ignoring the right questions and thinking upstream often pulls back people and brands from trying new things and exploring new ideas. When you want to establish a new brand or if you want to enter a different category it’s often thought that along with vision, prior experience would be necessary, but many people and brands proved otherwise. Category experience will certainly help in foresight and will relatively make our decision-making process easier, but it may also hinder lateral thinking and confine our ideas to that industry or category.

Jeff Bezos was a hedge fund manager before starting Amazon and Richard Reed worked as an account manager at an advertising agency before starting Innocent Drinks with two of his fellow Cambridge graduates. They were not just successful in making a mark, but also in making a difference in their respective industries as we knew them.

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We usually interpret groundbreaking as ideas that have not been executed before but it’s not entirely true. Groundbreaking ideas can be those which are packaged and presented differently as compared to how they were treated before. When people or brands with experience in different categories pursued a new domain, they changed the status quo by doing things differently. Moreover, the end users chose brands according to their preference and beliefs. If a transport service treats them the way a neighborhood restaurant does, they will prefer their services over others.

By imagining products and services differently than the established brands, new brands can create their own space in the market; and to do that one need not be from the same category and the so-called category experience doesn’t have much role to play. There will be situations where experience will matter the most but when we understand how users consume products or services of the category, we can bring freshness and innovation to the fore and reinvent the category. In our experience in branding we have seen, read and experienced many ambitious people and brands that challenged market leaders and unfortunately many succumbed to the pressure of category standards or archaic stereotypes.

With a long-term vision and a strategy-driven business plan brands can defy standards and offer products and services that resonate well with those who matter most – the consumers. By failing to invest in new ideas and innovation in set categories, established brands tend to make the category mundane and open doors to fresh brands. To conclude, we should always ask the question whether we should disrupt the core of the category or develop the product or service to the point it hasn’t reached yet. To further conclude, after years of Coca Cola calling itself the official drink, Pepsi came in and said, ‘nothing official about it.’ A game is best enjoyed when it’s played with the intention of changing it, and only a fresh new perspective can achieve that.



A battery manufacturer with its veins spreading into solar power.

They wanted to position themselves as an energy group and not just another product brand. So the logo had to be extendable, dynamic and also sophisticated at the same time. Electrifying, but not loud. Aggressive, but not arrogant.

Scots Pine International School

Scots Pine International School

A school with an international approach, highlighting the importance of grooming every child’s individual potential.

We artistically integrated the distinct characteristic of a pine into a shield. To show the strength of right schooling and also the holistic nature of their curriculum.

To fuse the vibrant shades of kids with the seriousness of quality education. And to give the school a global outlook. Here’s an identity created for the future.

Pariksha Biotech

Pariksha Biotech

A company that believes in continuous research and development to develop new products in tune with the world today.

Here was a client who wanted a new look not for the sake of it, but to fight a situation. They had quality, but not the image that should be synonymous with it. They had the trust of their limited clientele, but not the attention of new prospects.

To convey their zeal and psychological evolution, and to rebuild the confidence of their team, we catapulted them into a new realm.

De Pego


A premium skincare product available on prescription and also over the counter.

We designed the logo and packaging based on a clear brief from the client: minimal and international. It’s a design no product in this domain has ever had before, because helping our clients stand out is what we strive for.


Athletiq casual & sports wear.

A sports wear and casual apparel brand, targeting the swag craving youth in tier-2 cities.

Sophistication is a language they don’t understand. They understand in-the-face. They understand bold colours. They understand labels they can show off along with their attire. And we absolutely understand their perspective. Hence the design.