A history of branding


Branding is quite simply a mark made to indicate a kind, grade or ownership. The word itself dates back to Old Norse ‘brandr’ which means to burn. In present day businesses it is seen as a tool that can make or break a business dependent on how it is used to create awareness. Further to this, brand awareness helps customers with understanding around which particular products or services are sold under that brand name.

The idea of brand understanding can be traced back to nature with the way certain insects such as wasps and bees have yellow and black stripes, these colours are still used today to portray signs of caution. Following on from this, some 32,000 years ago, cave paintings were another way to show meaning through visual representations. Certain shapes were depicted to give deeper meanings, much like the logos of the modern day.

branding iron

Taking a giant leap forward, the word brand came into usage around 2,700 BC. There origins of branding are much simpler than the modern age equivalent that is forever shrouded in mystery, cattle were branded in order to signify ownership. A simple way to simplify possession and over time certain ‘brands’ began to connote quality when preferred over another. As the idea of identifying different makes with a certain mark caught on, it was applied to a whole multitude of products. Even a loaf of bread recovered from the ruins of Pompeii had a unique marking on the top of it to signify its bakery, even in 79 AD consumer choice was being guided with brand identity.bass branding

Although different businesses have been making their mark on the products for the past two thousand years, it has only been until fairly recently that ownership has been protected with any legal standing. On January 1st 1876, the red triangle used to denote barrels of Bass Ale became the first official trademark in the United Kingdom and made quite a breakthrough for business as it is known in the modern day.

nbc audio branding

With possession famously being ‘nine tenths of the law’ the first trademark sparked a revolution in ownership and branding, as the 20th century began to dawn, brands became a lot more ‘all encompassing’. The brothers behind Michelin published their first guide for motorists in order to encourage long journeys and boost sales in tyres. The 1950’s saw another breakthrough in the NBC chimes being the first audio trademark, it must not be forgotten that as impressive a feat it was, the ruling did open the doors for the unforgettable Nokia ringtone… The jury is still out as to whether this is something to be celebrated or not.dom-joly nokia branding

The 50’s also saw a far more intense world of streamlined branding and competition between companies, this continued to grow with the 80’s with the power of branding and campaigns being highlighted by Nike. In 1987, Reebok were the clear dominant brand when it came to trainers; until Nike came along with ‘Just Do It’ and transformed the world of branding with the simple addition of attitude.