Would You Join A $3/Month Generic Toothpaste Club?

A few years ago, Dollar Shave Club proved that people like receiving perpetual refills of discounted basic items in the mail. Could this business model extend to other kinds of products? The company Brandless has launched an online store full of generic items where everything is less-processed and yuppie-friendly, and each item costs $3.

Here’s the real question: What would it take for you to order your consumer staples online? Items from Brandless are more expensive than the most common consumer brands, but less expensive than the eco-friendly, less-processed, or “natural” products that they’re meant to compete with.

The pricing scheme is simple. Items cost $3, and sometimes you get a two-pack for that price. Shipping costs $9, or is free if you buy $72 worth of merchandise. A membership to the site costs $36 per year, or $3 per month. The company will estimate how much you’ve saved compared to similar branded products, and print this on a statement.

Is multiplying by three enough to actually draw customers to order from the site and wait for their peanut butter, toothpaste, quinoa chips, and citrus-bergamot hand cream?

The Wall Street Journal discussed this with industry experts, who sound skeptical about the idea of non-branded basics that take two days to reach customers.

More importantly, the company’s name raises an interesting question: What is a brand? Are they building up “Brandless” as a brand, and if so, how many prospective customers will get headaches when they try to think too hard about this? Are they developing non-branded aspirin with caffeine or cold packs for that inevitable headache?

“We’re not anti-brand, we’re reimagining what it means to be a brand,” one of the co-founders told the WSJ. Their brand is that they are not a brand.

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