I’m a PC person. And you will never ever catch me drinking a Pepsi. What does that even mean?
Here’s a hella-brief history of what branding has meant and come to mean over several centuries:
I own this thing.
This thing is better than that thing.
This thing makes you better.
This thing makes the world better.
The word brand (from Old Norse brandr) meant ‘a burning object’ – or the mark made with one – until the 1800s. The practice is evidenced in nearly every ancient civilization to permanently identify property, products – and yes, people. Livestock, pottery, texts, goods, the reigns of rulers, slaves.
As trade expands in the mid 15th century, branded marks begin to communicate the quality of a product. Wine casks, for example, and goods now shipped across oceans.
During the Industrial Revolution, companies begin to invest so much in branding that in 1875 – The Trademark Registration Act makes the marks themselves a commodity that can be owned & protected. Brand-name is a term by 1889.
Television ads in the 1950s expand brand strategy to give brands a personality. The brand evolves from communicating quality to overt appeals to emotions & identity with a ‘lifestyle.’ We see the beginning of storytelling in ads. Brand-loyalty comes into use in 1961.
Now, quality standards are closer than ever. One product is arguably as good as another. Values increasingly polarized. The brand begins to identify itself with social responsibility. Supporting a brand comes to mean supporting a cause and signaling one’s values.
An ever-growing list of hyphenated nouns emerges to handle the single task of selling a product: personal-branding, brand-affinity, brand-ambassador, brand-boycott, brand-equity and brand activism.
As a verb, though, the definition of ‘brand’ hasn’t changed much since the 15h century. It still means to ‘mark indelibly’ or to ‘assign a name.’
Leave a mark. Make your mark. Our idioms IMPLY that it aspires to do something that will be remembered, meaningful, and leave a lasting impression. Does it?