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A Brandless Predecessor at Bells Markets

Last summer, I wrote a post about the launch of Brandless, the online direct-to-consumer pantry and small goods retailer that sells everything at a fixed price of $3. In that post, I wound my brain into a ball of rubber bands trying to conclude whether it was possible for a product to ever truly be brandless, if even the projection of its brandlessness was akin to a brand in and of itself. Of course, that was all in the context of Brandless being a blatantly massive design and marketing endeavor.

Ben stumbled across the image above recently which is really fun to see: A vintage ad for a Bells Markets store brand—called “no-name”—the 1979 precursor to Brandless. It’s easy to note the inspiration in Brandless’s packaging in the typography and product design of a line of store brand items like this, of which there are hundreds of examples throughout retail history. Entirely sans-serif, straightforward, streamlined, to the point—except the layout of the ad itself, which is crammed together in a comically haphazard way that borders on a Dada poster. Towards the top it says “COLOR AD” but I think I prefer it like this: A black and white Xerox copy really emphasizes that calculated rejection of specialness that Brandless likely spent a fortune developing.

Thanks to Ben for sharing with me!