What is an Anti-Branding Strategy?

What is Anti-Branding?

Anti-branding can be described as a multinational company’s effort to disguise the multinational aspect of their company to appeal to a more of a local crowd. Small business versus big business is always a hot topic because on the one hand, with local businesses, the costs are usually higher but the product more unique and the added benefit of helping out the community. However, with big business, the price is usually cheaper and the product trusted, if not a mass produced.  Because people across the world want to support local businesses, the multinationals are hiding themselves to fit that demand. Small businesses help provide a community with identity, and those local residents prefer to support their local identity to a multinational that weakens the strength of their culture.

What are some examples of Anti-Branding?

In 2008, Starbucks explored the idea of “local-washing” or “stealth Starbucks” some of their stores. CEO Schultz claimed that these stores were mere experiments for the process of business development. The “Starbucks experiments” did not bear the well-recognized company name or logo. They served alcoholic beverages as well as hosted live music and poetry readings. Even the artwork and wall décor did not have the corporate feel.

Hipster McDonalds Antibranding
Courtesy of The Guardian

Although these experimental stores eventually developed into the standard well-recognized multinational stores, the experiments were beneficial in that it showed customers that Starbucks was willing to cater to the strong consumer movement of local taste. McDonalds even opened stores in Australia that were inspired by “hipster-hangouts” and tried to reinvent their classic characters as younger, trendier versions. It did not go well.  Like Starbucks, they utilized logo-less advertising and disguised its most recognized features. However, after some time, sales for the Asia Pacific region fell, and these experimental stores have closed.

So what does this mean for small business?

Does it make sense for multinationals to hide themselves? Should they use ‘local’ as a branding and marketing scheme, or is being local an inherent strategy that distinctly separates these two kinds of companies from the beginning? Multinationals are making a huge mistake. Instead of trying to replicate what is trending, they should use their differences to their advantage.

"Inspired by Starbucks" Courtesy of PSFK.com
“Inspired by Starbucks” Courtesy of PSFK.com

On the other side of that same coin, small businesses should be focusing on what sets them apart for their corporate counterparts. Is it that the quality of the product is better? A better warranty or service? Is it unique and trendy? Who endorses you? What do your reviewers say about your product? Why do you think your product is better than corporate’s? Now you may not have all of these features, you may have one part but that is where your marketing efforts should be targeted. Where corporate companies are attempting to disguise their businesses as local and unique, you might actually be and focusing on that and knowing your audience are what you can do to brand yourself against the anti-branders.

The multinationals are the companies that are able to profit from mass consumerism, and make mass profit, while the local companies are not able to cut such deals with their distributors, simply because they are not filling out absurdly large purchase orders. This experiment with multinational businesses might work for a little while but not only is the experience ruined once the truth is revealed, the lack of transparency further separates customer from business.  Hopefully you as a smaller business won’t have this same problem but if you don’t make smart marketing and branding strategies, you could be taken over by the Big Bad Corporate monster in no time.

Give Online Optimism a call to discuss your marketing and branding efforts. We specialize in New Orleans and Louisiana small business and we’ll help fight against the corporate machine.