The Remarkable History Behind How Brands Originated

Brand comes from the old Norse word, ‘Brandr’, that means- ‘to burn’ referring to the old tradition of using hot iron rods to mark out cattle as a sign of ownership. Branding has existed in various forms for centuries. Some of the rest and best known modern brands today are over a hundred years old. For instance, the FMCG major P&G can trace back its origins the 1837. Coca Cola came up towards the fag end of 19th century. Ideas of modern branding,  the academic disciplines and laws related to it started developing with the industrial revolution and progressed around the mid-20th century. Today, we’ll delve into the remarkable history behind how brand originated!

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The Remarkable History Behind How Brands Originated

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The Remarkable History Behind How Brands Originated

The origins around ownership

Ancient and medieval history of branding revolved around ownership- from cattle, goods and even human slaves. This idea later transformed into the mark of quality showing manufacturing excellence. Led by the invention of the printing press in the 15th century and newspapers in the 18th century, brand communication started becoming mainstream.

The post world war economy saw the growth of industrial brands that could serve every market. Many old and venerable brands had an easy run till the 1950s after they established themselves. They enjoyed easy recognition and low competition. There were only a few major players in every field and there was space for all of them to prosper.

But things started changing with new technological developments post that. New and ambitious players sprung up and there was high competition. Emergence of new media such as television also opened up new possibilities in terms of promotions and branding. Established brands realized that apart from manufacturing quality products, they also have to work harder to capture the mind space of the consumer and make them loyal to the respective brands. They developed creative campaigns with the help of advertising agencies. Successful ad makers like Ogilvy and Leo Burnett became stars themselves. By the 1960’s in the US, marketers started using media to associate brands with emotional benefits rather than just focusing on product functions. 

Academic development

Edward Bernays, the nephew of Sigmund Freud, published a book called Propaganda in 1928 associating products with ideas for persuading people to change their behavior. This influenced a lot of marketers who started viewing branding with new vigor. 1950s and 60s saw the exploration of branding from various perspectives and led to its development as a specialized field within marketing. Modern branding terms such as brand positioning, brand equity, brand proposition etc. were coined and formalized during this era and the decades that followed. 

New frontiers with technology and social

In recent decades, with the use of technology and mass media, brand development grew at a great pace. Brands like Facebook, Google, Apple etc. are only a few decades old but grew very fast and outpaced many older brands. They led to the expansion of branding further to include new scopes and ideas. The advent of the Internet, mobile phones, social and user generated media changed the game completely. Now, your websites and social media channels are just as important for branding as your logo. With the growth of participative media, consumers are a part of this brand journey. While the basic tenets of branding still remain the same, these new ideas will surely make the process more exciting in the near future. 

Will your brands create a legacy?

Enakshi Sharma

Digital Storyteller at Brandanew
Enakshi is a storyteller, curator (India Art Fair, 2015), anchor (May Queen, 2015), research associate (Centre for Civil Society, India), a travel writer and a blogger. She's a Digital Storyteller for Brandanew.