Jan 12, 2019

Generics are the new brands

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Historically, generic products were associated with low prices and no frills. But fancy "generic" companies like Brandless, Italic and Hims are selling consumers a modern definition: affordable prices and better quality and experience.

When San Francisco-based Brandless debuted its online store in 2017, it aimed to provide items that are both affordable (everything is $3) and high quality. By sourcing its products directly it cuts out what it calls the “brand tax."

  • Public Goods, an online retailer based in New York, has taken a similar approach, offering select items without a retail mark-up. Unlike Brandless, its products are exclusively available to members, who pay a $59 annual fee.
  • Italic, which sells high-end goods like leather bags, touts the designer brands its affiliated manufacturers have worked with.
  • Hims focuses on prescription erectile disfunction medicine but also sells a range of men’s health products including hair loss treatments and skincare.

Because these retailers can’t rely on the reputation of other brands, gaining their customers’ trust is critical to making this model work.

  • “You can’t actually control the product quality and the product experience when you’re selling somebody else’s product,” Hims founder and CEO Andrew Dudum, whose company touts that it designs and formulates much of its products, tells Axios.

Of course, this isn’t an entirely new approach—Trader Joe’s mastered exactly the same tactics: selling fewer items, many of them manufactured by companies that sell nearly the exact same product.

The bottom line: “People want more value than just a cheaper price,” says Red Antler CEO JB Osborne, whose brand agency counts a number of these direct-to-consumer retailers among its clients, including Brandless.

Special report: The future of retail

Editor's note: The story has been updated to clarify that Hims formulates and designs much of the products it sells.

Go deeper

The mystery of coronavirus superspreaders

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

A small percentage of people — called superspreaders — may be responsible for a large number of COVID-19 infections, research is starting to indicate.

Why it matters: While there's no method to detect who these people are before they infect others, there are ways to control behaviors that cause superspreading events — a key issue as states start to reopen and debate what types of events are OK.

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 3 p.m. ET: 5,931,112 — Total deaths: 357,929 — Total recoveries — 2,388,172Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 3 p.m. ET: 1,711,313 — Total deaths: 101,129 — Total recoveries: 391,508 — Total tested: 15,192,481Map.
  3. States: New York to allow private businesses to deny entry to customers without masks.
  4. Public health: Louisiana Sen. Cassidy wants more frequent testing of nursing home workers.
  5. Congress: Pelosi slams McConnell on stimulus delay — Sen. Tim Kaine and wife test positive for coronavirus antibodies.
  6. Tech: Twitter fact-checks Chinese official's claims that coronavirus originated in U.S.
  7. What should I do? When you can be around others after contracting the coronavirus — Traveling, asthma, dishes, disinfectants and being contagiousMasks, lending books and self-isolatingExercise, laundry, what counts as soap — Pets, moving and personal healthAnswers about the virus from Axios expertsWhat to know about social distancingHow to minimize your risk.
  8. Other resources: CDC on how to avoid the virus, what to do if you get it, the right mask to wear.

Subscribe to Mike Allen's Axios AM to follow our coronavirus coverage each morning from your inbox.

Updated 32 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Twitter fact-checks Chinese official's claims that coronavirus originated in U.S.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian. Photo: Greg Baker/AFP via Getty Images

Twitter slapped a fact-check label on a pair of months-old tweets from a Chinese government spokesperson that falsely suggested that the coronavirus originated in the U.S. and was brought to Wuhan by the U.S. military, directing users to "get the facts about COVID-19."

Why it matters: The labels were added after criticism that Twitter had fact-checked tweets from President Trump about mail-in voting, but not other false claims from Chinese Communist Party officials and other U.S. adversaries.