As consumers, we’re living in the “Golden Age” of branding. The discipline and art that we know as branding, goes back centuries and has continually evolved over this time to what we know today.
Branding is such an essential part of building a successful business which takes time (hopefully not centuries) and knowing your target audience, so that you’re able to create a brand that resonates with them as well as carving out a niche in your respective marketplace.
So, where did it all start?
In 1266 under the reign of Henry III, a legislation was passed requiring all bakers to use a distinctive marks for the bread they sold. The branding we’ve become accustomed to, only started taking shape around the 19th century. Through the decades of experimentation and modern-day advancements, we are able to develop brands that represent so much more than a logo on a product.
The word “Brand” originates from the ancient Norse word “Brandr” which means “to burn”.
In the 1500s, branding cattle was one of the earliest forms of branding and was common practice amongst ranch owners to use this method as a stamp of ownership. Each branding mark was unique to each ranch and were simple, distinctive and instantly identifiable – much like the branding fundamentals we use today.
1750’s – 1870’s
The industrial revolution brought with it a hive of technological advancements. One of these advancements was the improvement of manufacturing processes, which meant mass production and increased efficiency was the order of the day. This sparked the arrival of new products and a greater need to stand out as a result of increased competition.
With the increase in competition, companies realised that there was a greater need to protect their brands and products from copycats, and the trademark was born.
A trademark is the distinctive design, graphics, logo, symbols, words or any combination thereof that uniquely identifies a brand’s product or services. It guarantees the item’s genuineness and gives it owner the legal rights to prevent the trademark’s unauthorised use.
1870’s – 1920’s
This was an inventive era. Technology began to transform our everyday lives and inspired creativity, innovation and imagination. This inspiration saw the birth of some of the most iconic global brands such as Coca-Cola, Ford and Chanel to name a few. These brands were seen as pioneers – an accolade that is as true today as it was back then.
These brands were inventive and weren’t afraid to push the envelope, which made them instant industry leaders. Ford manufactured vehicles before anyone else and Chanel designed suits for women during a time when they’d only been thought of as menswear.
During this era, brands made their mark through newspapers and magazines. Print provided a platform where brands could advertise themselves. Now, these ads weren’t were often very informational and described exactly how products worked and what they could do, whereas today, brands focus more on vibrant imagery and simple phrases to get their messages across.
1920’s – 1950’s
Now with all our technological advancements making production more efficient, brands were finding value in paying closer attention to their products and taking ownership of them – using every opportunity to promote them. As a result, the age of radio advertising was born.
In the 1920s, radio had become much more popular and radio stations used advertising as a way of making their businesses more sustainable. This allowed brands to get there products out to a far wider audience and really came to life through radio jingles, catchphrases and targeted messaging.
In advertising, it’s all about the competitive edge. So, in 1941, the first television commercial aired. As television rapidly grew in popularity, brands began taking advantage of the new medium by sponsoring shows and creating commercials. With television, brands could now come into people’s homes with visuals, words, sound and music – bringing them closer to consumers than ever before.
The post-World War II era was another transformative time in both product manufacturing and consumer culture. Brands had even more access to advertising mediums which created more opportunities for brands to compete for new audiences – especially with the creation of colour tv in the 1950s.
With greater competition, brands developed the discipline of brand management and developed unique identities for their products. This was vital during an era where many products looked and functioned similarly.
The thing that truly characterised this shift in branding techniques, was a move into more emotional advertising. With brands offering largely the same product, marketers had to differentiate themselves in other ways. The opened up opportunities for brands to develop a deeper understanding of their customer, which allowed them to tap into their “needs” and “wants”. With this insight, brands were now able to create an emotional connection between their products and their customers.
1960’s – 1990’s
As brands continued to evolve over the decades, the need to stay relevant intensified. Changing consumer tastes and the need to differentiate in an ever-competitive market, meant that brands started to freshen up their identity or even take on a new one altogether.
Another way in which brands reinvented themselves during this era, was through the use of campaign slogans. Catchy slogans took an already prominent brand to a new, more recognisable place on its’ journey – so much so, that some brands can be recognised by their slogans alone (Share the Feeling, Finger Lickin Good, Just Do It, I’m Lovin It).
This era of brand evolution also began to transform the retail industry. By the 1990s, retail stores began to partner with designers, artists, celebrities and influencers to fill their shelves and clothing racks with unique products that customers can’t get anywhere else. This meant access to higher quality, better-branded products, created a more enticing retail experience.
This also allowed for retailers to boost their own brand reputation while pushing brands to create and innovate.
2000s – Today
Modern branding has provided brands with near-endless opportunities to promote and advertise their products and services.
Since the dawn of the digital age, branding and marketing practices have advanced significantly from the historic techniques mentioned before. TV advertising trumps print advertising, but social media advertising trumps them all. Advertisers now have more power than ever before, allowing them to micro-focus and target specific demographics with the power of social media advertising. This new age of advertising has seen advertisers become more data-driven and strategic.
With social media making the world so much more accessible to brands and consumers, it’s important to come up with ways to break through the noise and dramatically increase brand awareness.
One of these ways, is coming up with a custom hashtag campaign and make it go viral.
Coca-Cola launched their #ShareACoke campaign and through a simple change in product packaging, they connected with customers on a personal level and generating social media contact for their brand each time someone used the hashtag – over 500 000 times to be exact. This helped Coke stay connected to their audience and the future of branding will continue to see constant connectivity as a driving influence.
The digital era has also somewhat changed the landscape in which a brand’s reputation is measured. In past eras, brands often relied on “word of mouth” which held an immense weight however, today’s brands are judged on “word of review”. Customer reviews have tremendous power to influence a brand’s perception – buyers now make decisions based on ratings more than ever.
The modern era has also made consumers more informed. People are able to research brands before purchasing their products. Do they test on animals? How sustainable are their products? Are they involved in any community or environmental upliftment programmes?
Consumer buyer behaviour has shifted towards ethical brands, which has seen many companies change the way they do business and how they advertise their products and services.
How will your brand make its’ mark in the history of branding?
While innovation and technology will always drive the future of branding, many of those early principles of branding will always have an influence on brands today and in the future. Consider simple, long-standing concepts like embracing technology, connecting emotionally and evolving with consumers. No matter your industry, no matter your product, these time-tested techniques will serve any brand well.