Branding – How Have Brands Changed Over Time

Branding have evolved over time, and I think it’s important to understand the origin of branding so I understand the concepts used to create a powerful brand.

How has the meaning changed:

950        A burning piece of wood, a torch

1552       A mark made by burning, for example on cattle

1827      A trade-mark made on a product

1958      The impression of a product in the minds of consumers

From about 1660, people began burn marks into property, particularly cattle, to give identity and ownership. In 1820 people began to use the word “brand” to refer not only property, but products. These marks signified origin and quality. This meant customers could identify products easier and quicker, knowing that quality was assured. Companies in turn, could potentially charge a higher price for a quality product.

The imagery of branding very quickly appeared in art. This shows the social and cultural understanding of brands.

From 1920, companies started to use mass media to powerfully exploit the market place and give their products exposure like never before.  Companies associated their products with deep emotional benefits such as improved self image, pleasure. This idea encouraged customers to stay loyal to the brand and buy more of the product.

By the 1950’s, advertising became more sophisticated. Instead of just saying the product was delicious and refreshing, it exploited peoples need to improve self esteem and image, saying you’ll feel better after the great taste of coca-cola.

In 1980, branding revolutionised further. The term “brand” was used not only to identify products, but also to identify whole organisations. This idea historically was called corporate identity. Companies were able to create a relationship with a brand, with the customer feeling a strong sense of belonging and therefore encouraging people to buy whatever the company had made.

All of these versions of brand are still in use today, so there is no right or wrong answer to a solution. However I have found it really useful to delve into the history and understand how designers of big brands have triggered emotional connections with brands in order to ultimately drive sales and make the company successful in modern society.


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