The Evolution of Branding (Part I)
Branding. It’s a term today that permeates every industry. We see branding inspiration from sources like Beyonce’s Lemonade, Nike’s strong identity of “cool”, and, of course, Apple, who’s brand value is currently at a whopping $170 billion. Nowadays, it’s not only important for companies to establish and advertise their brand, but just much for artists too. We are, after all, selling our talent and work, just like companies are selling a product or services. But before you begin your innovative and compelling brand campaign (whether as a company or individual), let’s talk about the origin of the word.
The etymology of the word “brand” stems from the emergence of its use in the 1550s to mean an “identifying mark made by a hot iron.” It concerned the marking of the flesh of criminals and livestock and eventually developed a more nuanced definition when America entered the age of mass consumerism. Etymonline.com writes that the meaning “broadened by 1827 to ‘a particular make of goods.'” Before the 1880s, consumers had mostly relied on local shopkeepers to know their tastes and to tailor their goods and products accordingly. As a result, companies like Campbell and Quaker Oats, two early mass-market companies in the 1880s, were worried that consumers wouldn’t buy their products and prefer sticking to local loyalties. They decided to develop their own type of branding to counteract these preferences.
For example, Quaker Oats tried to capitalize on the stalwart, trustworthy Quaker man to convey that their product was honest, reputable, and delicious. The former CEO of Quaker Oats in the early to mid-1920s noted:
“If the business were split up, I would give you the land and bricks and mortar, and I would take the brands and trademarks, and I would fare better than you.”
A new concept in the 1800s, branding is now an invaluable, yet intangible business asset. Separate from the product or service itself, but with even greater potential influence on consumer perception, branding is a powerful tool for any company or individual.
Branding has become closely related to visual images. Customers absorb a multitude of advertisements and logos in their lifetimes and businesses need compelling design and graphics to make their brand identities memorable and valued. As a result, companies typically spend a great deal of energy over time, evolving and updating their brand to appear fresh and up-to-date. This can be seen in logos, packaging design, and website design.