Heard someone speak in the board room, "We need to sell our product without its brand name!"
Yes. That is true. I remember a company while launching a NPD - deodorant - actually asked its M&R contract company to conduct de-Branding exercise. By de-branding a product what a company targets is to query the audience and know their preferences. Let us take an example to understand this phenomenon:
I launch a company that manufactures soaps. There are hundreds of soap varieties already launched in the market. (HUL itself has more than 3 soaps that compete each other :) ) When an idea takes a shape of product, it involves huge investment inform of capital, efforts, research and branding. To keep this investment at stake without knowing what people want, will not be an appropriate action. M&R companies earn their livelihood on such contracts. They tie up with the company for understanding the market, providing them thorough analysis and make it sure that the product reaches the end user in the way it should.
Let's come back to the soap example. Now when I see a huge competition in front of me, what I do is hire a M&R firm to do market survey. People tend to have preconceived notions of brands. The Brand X is not good; while Brand Y is good, Z has a foul smell and so on... So the first blockage that an entrepreneur faces is in understanding these notions. Give me 5 samples of soaps without their brand name and let me use it. Let me then decide which one I like the most. But again, this would not give us correct statistics. If you have had a bad day, you may not enjoy the shower, and can conclude that the X soap is not good. If you have had good summers and have won a tournament you might enjoy your shower even with the soap, (that) you have always criticized.
So the context in which a consumer takes decision is very important. A single-word answer ‘Good' or ‘Bad' would not drive home any point. You need to touch the consumer's heart (not just brain).
De-branding deals with all this :
1. Understanding Consumer,
2. Letting him speak,
3. Checking the context of his response,
4. Thorough analysis of new product vis. existing products.
And after this exhaustive study, it's time to channelize results into charts, tables, text and presentations. This is probably an end to De-Branding; but is still not the end. After this starts the Branding Mechanism. Branding is not an independent exercise either. Results of de-branding are taken into factor, design and marketing strategies are framed (considering the competition), cost-effective solutions are targeted and then is product launched into the market.
A good M&R firm and a company with deep-pockets does not end the survey here. There's still more to do. One cannot assume that the consumer will have the same taste and preferences even after a long duration (say 3 months.) Conduct surveys time and again to understand the change in the market, consumer preferences and deploy a team that can constantly upgrade the product to meet to these requirements.
So do not get amazed at your boss while he is saying something that makes sense...