LONDON: Marketers such as Tesco, Unilever and Coutts are taking a more subtle approach to branding to engage their target audience in the UK.

Tesco, the UK's largest retailer, does not append its name to a wide range of private label "venture brands", like Llama's snacks, Chokablok ice cream and Lathams pet food.

However, Sidonie Kingsmill, the supermarket giant's brand development director, revealed the opposite strategy has been pursued for certain Polish and Asian foods, based on customer insights.

She told Marketing Week: "We consistently do research where we check whether products are better with the Tesco name on or off. Almost without fail it is better for Tesco to be on it because customers get it. They see it as more reliable, they know it is good value and where it is coming from."

Coutts, the exclusive bank owned by RBS, has acted in a similar fashion. The firm's international arm dropped its parents' title from its logo in 2011, becoming Coutts, not RBS Coutts.

"Clearly RBS is one of the biggest banks in the world, it is still fantastic to have an organisation of 160,000 behind you," said Ian Ewart, Coutts' head of products, services and marketing. "But nobody calls the Mini the BMW Mini even though it belongs to BMW.

"When we had two brands, it was all about thinking what could we as a brand do. It was Coutts and it was RBS Coutts. We didn't see much evidence that they talked to each other or that they aligned in any way, but now it is quite collaborative."

Unilever, the FMCG group, also recently ran a "teaser" TV ad for its VO5 Extreme Style haircare line without featuring the product, before then airing a commercial that provided full details.

The spots were set around 100 years ago in a fictional village called Pliktisijiteur. Targeted at 16–24 year olds, the unbranded ad has over 130,000 YouTube hits, with the branded version topping 210,000.

"It was all about the story, it was about a village and its talent show and pageant. The more focused you can keep it to telling a story rather than pushing a product, the more shareable it is," said Richard Whitty, VO5's brand manager.

"Giving them something unbranded adds to the product's credibility. This is about building brand equity, it is not just about pushing products and saying 'how many extra pots of fibre putty can we sell on the back of this?'"

Elsewhere, Starbucks, the coffee house chain, removed its name from cups in the UK last year, part of a global move to emphasise its mermaid emblem. The firm's stores are also becoming increasingly localised.

Data sourced from Marketing Week; additional content by Warc staff