When the best branding is no branding

Direct-to-consumer brands have a bad habit that needs to stop: they’re branding the living shit out of their packaging. Just at my home alone in the last few months, I’ve received, gorgeous, but overly branded packages from Away, Quip, Vinyl Me, Please, Harry’s, and Plated, among others.

They certainly draw me into their products (and I clearly love these D2C brands). But not just me.

They also attract “porch pirates,” the package thieves that continue to prove victorious as more customers choose delivery right to their front door than ever before. With more than six-in-ten! American households taking advantage of Amazon Prime’s 2-day-delivery, packages are flying to our doorsteps and attracting thieves.

They’ve gotten me on a couple of occasions, myself.

Consider this viral video that raked up millions of views at the end of 2018, premised entirely on baiting these porch pirates and giving them a surprise.

When this is a real concern, brands should be careful that their packaging, which looks great in photoshoots and in mockups, isn’t an attractant that could ruin the first day experience for a customer.

While most of these companies have done a great job fulfilling replacements if a package is stolen, it’s still no excuse for less-than-optimal operational security and for setting things off on the wrong foot with a new customer.

Contrast that with Apple, consistently considered one of the most valuable brands in the world, whose mailings to your door come in austere brown cardboard boxes with no printing. Even the mailing label sends under an obscure address and with “AI" as the company name (Apple, Inc.’s initials). While porch pirates aren’t always on the look out for specific things — one at our house even stole a generic Amazon package containing, ironically, a bicycle lock — it’s useful to not make things any easier than they need to be.

That’s why you need to be sure you’re taking your brand into the world and experiencing things as your customer will, in all use cases and contexts. Sometimes no branding is better than branding.