Can you imagine our world today without a single brand? Without all the brands that we’re constantly being exposed to through 24/7 advertising machine bombarding our daily life?

This much commercialization might seem strange, but think about how much stranger things would be if there were no brands. You would have no choices when it came to what channel you want to watch, what soda you want to drink, or what shoes you want to wear. Instead, everything would be the same.

I never thought of a world without brands, but my holiday in Thailand a year ago gave me a glimpse. I was on a remote island where only a few local brands existed and the only brands I managed to recognize were McDonald’s and 7-Eleven. I stayed there for 6 days but I noticed from the second I reached that I wasn’t being subjected to any sort of traditional brands and advertising. Everything there was new to me.  Even their logos and brands didn’t really stand out due to cultural and language barriers.

After I came back to Dubai, I started thinking more about a world without brands. How would it look like? I tried to imagine it. I never thought that a world like this could exist. Yet it did! For a while.

The former Soviet Union removed all brands and belief in brands. The only brand they believed in and promoted was ‘Mother Russia’. The only place where brands can be abolished is a country in which the state controls everything. This means that the government controlled production and sold it as well. Everyone got the same quality and style so there was no point in creating brands. If there were too little of a product (as was often the case), people had no alternatives.

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North Korea is another example of a near brand-less country. Since 1948, the country has been secluded from the world with decades of rigid state-controlled system and a totalitarian communist rule that considers brands as “enemy of the people”. Until today, there are around 25 known brands in North Korea of which only 4 or 5 of them have logos. Why? Because the only “brand” that matters over there is “North Korea”, also known as DPRK: Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. The only customer loyalty that matters is to the country and to ‘Dear Leader’.

4 Disadvantages of a brand-less world:

  • Low Quality products: There is no quality without ownership. If all products come in the same name, there is no way to choose one over the other. Manufacturers wouldn’t benefit from making quality products because there would be no way to tell who made the product. Companies like Apple, BMW and Heinz are known for their high quality production; they focus on quality so people will trust the brand and purchase their products. This wouldn’t happen without the brands existing.
  • The economy will collapse: Without any competition between companies, the economy will start to collapse. Most businesses use branding to win over customers. Without having a way to differentiate themselves from the competition, they would have to shut down, leading to the loss of a lot of jobs.
  • End of Social Status: The elimination of branding will also have a huge effect on visible social status. Right now, you can easily tell the social and economical status of a person by looking at the brands they own. If you remove the labels from Zara and Gucci purses, they will look similar. The class of the owner of both would also look similar, simply because without branding there is no differentiation.
  • No more Motivation and Innovation: There would be no motivation to innovate anymore. Without branding, there is no brand loyalty, and there is no concept of marketing either. For example, Apple and Samsung both try be better than the other every year by creating the best smartphone. Without branding, there would be no way for these companies to mark their products and claim a victory in innovation. Companies right now know that if they invest in their brand, they will reap the rewards. If this benefit is removed, then there is no motivation for companies to spend millions of dollars creating better products.

A world without brands will be very boring, but that hasn’t kept some courageous brands to experiment with changing the status quo. In Ramadan 2015 Coca-Cola ran a fantastic campaign in which it removed the Coca-Cola name from its products. The campaign was run by FP7/DXB, part of McCann World Group. The slogan of the campaign was “labels are for cans, not for people”. The best part is that by shedding the branding, Coca Cola managed to make their brand even stronger. The Coca-Cola ‘ribbon’ (the white ribbon over a red background) served well enough to make people realize that it was a Coca-Cola product.

The world would still exist without brands but it would be completely uninteresting. Free markets are only possible through competition and competition is only possible if there is a difference between products. The society we live in is built around brands. We grow up dreaming of owning a Lamborghini or a Bugatti Veyron. We buy things and invest our money based on the trust we have on brands. Brands help us define our identity and allow us to live a life which feels fulfilling.

We are attached to brands because brands speak to the higher human ideals associated with Self- Actualization. This is why we are attached to some brands more than others and we feel better every time we purchase a new product.

Living in a world without brands is living in a boring grey world where everything is the same, it’s like living in a world with no challenges, no motivation, no innovation, and certainly no bright future!

 by Hicham Soubra