Thayne Forbes, joint managing director, Intangible Business
Thayne Forbes, joint managing director, Intangible Business
A view from Thayne Forbes

Think BR: Branding through de-branding

Selfridges' No Noise concept highlights the strength and longevity of great branding, writes Thayne Forbes, joint managing director, Intangible Business.

Selfridges' No Noise project conceptually markets itself as bucking the fundamentals of consumerism. The No Noise blog post explains that ‘as we become increasingly bombarded with information and stimulation, the world is becoming a noisier place’.

No Noise intends to remedy just that, with a Silence Room built on Harry Gordon Selfridge’s idea from 1909. The initiative claims to go 'beyond retail', creating a moment of calm where minimalist music, art exhibitions, an absence of shoes and mobiles phones accompany de-branded goods from the world’s top brands which are located in the ‘quiet shop’. However it is questionable to what extent this is really the anti-consumerist room of tranquillity it claims to be.

Luxury brands behave differently to mainstream brands with exclusivity, the brand itself and celebrity endorsement featuring higher on the list of consumer purchase decisions, according to research from Barclays Wealth.

Selfridges is a luxury department store, and its No Noise campaign featurs some of the world’s most recognisable brands. Brands such as Beats by Dre, Levi’s, Marmite and Crème de la Mer have all stepped up and removed their logos or brand names as part of a ‘de-branded display.

Despite the fact that the goods have their logos removed, this does not mean that shoppers will be unable to recognise the brands on display in the quiet room. Brands transcend logos, as they are a collection of intangible values perceived by a consumer, and strong brands have a combination of physical, functional and emotional attributes.

Removing a single physical attribute from the goods does not ‘de-brand’ them and therefore does not devalue them. This is in part a testament to the strength of the brands who have partnered with Selfridges for this project - very few brands can claim to be universally recognised to the point that partially removing their branding does not alter customer perceptions. 

Recognise this?

No Noise is likely to do just the opposite. The brands involved will almost certainly benefit from partnering with Selfridges and the publicity such an innovative project will receive. Selfridges has already been creating a buzz about the project, with a YouTube video, a #nonoise twitter campaign, and several news channels picking up the story. Selfridges also have No Noise window displays promoting the project.

The window display at Selfridges

The project has been well received on Twitter, with journalists, shoppers and designers labelling the project ‘curious’, ‘a new way to shop’ and ‘modern minimalism at its best’.

Selfridges has created an exclusive shopping experience which is unique and extraordinary from the norm through the very concept of ‘de-branding’ and creating a tranquil environment. Quite unlike the rest of Oxford Street which is famous, perhaps infamous, for its hustle and bustle, this offers something at the opposite end of the spectrum. The marketing campaign also reacts to a consumer desire for less branding, as people feel increasingly bombarded with marketing messages.

With so much noise ironically being made about the No Noise campaign and the brands its features, the ‘de-branded’ goods are capitalising on each brand's luxury brand status, ‘creating exclusive collectors items of the future.’ Far from de-valuing the goods, the (partial) removal of branding has increased the value of the goods a great deal in this scenario. Thus, the No Noise concept manages to simultaneously address a key issue of our bustling society and highlight the strength and longevity of great branding.

Despite only being recently opened to the public, reactions to the No Noise area, designed by architect Alex Cochrane have been largely positive and we expect this will fascinate the public and get people making endless noise about No Noise in the weeks to come.

Thayne Forbes, joint managing director, Intangible Business