Dear CMO:

Brands tend to elevate perceived value in a market segment. Differentiated products are highly brand driven — look at the fashion industry — and even commodities have shown remarkable sensitivity to branding. Just ask Intel. Or Nutrasweet. So when an age old business that has evolved along side humanity since the dawn of time begins to shift towards unbranding, it’s worth noting.

The shift to organic food has given rise to retail (and branded) success stories like Whole Foods, but as “big organic” becomes mainstream, the real growth industry becomes the “unbranded on purpose” farmer’s market.

Think about the difference between what’s happening in organic food and most other industries: perceived value increases if the product carries no label. “Un-brand” loyalty is dramatically enhanced when you know the person who produces it personally, and see them every week. It’s a bit like how the PC industry was pre-Apple.

Pastured, grass-fed beef has authority based in the story, the setting, the experience and ultimately in the product itself.

This is interesting to me: what used to be the preserve of the poor is now a luxury bordering on an elitist choice. What was a nuisance is now aspirational. What comes to mind when you think of urban farming, or organic, or grass fed, or any of the related options?

Why is this? In the language of influence, this is “exclusivity”: time is the new luxury, the control over our time and over the seasons themselves. The luxury of slowing down. Not for nothing, we are frequently finding that the old ways were better than our new ways today.

So let’s temporarily herald the new “new”: unbranding is the new branding. It’s authenticity supported by exclusivity and a healthy dose of consensus. But don’t call it branding, because branding implies marketing, and marketing implies — fairly or not — coersion in the minds of some, the dark side of influence.

By unbranding, we throw off the taint of marketing and show that we have no desire to spin our story. Is there a lesson here for the rest of us?