Brand is a term used widely in today’s modern world, we love them, we hate them, they taste good, they excite us, they influence us to buy products and maybe even make us fall in love! Though the term brand has risen in popularity I think it can still be slightly misunderstood in modern marketing terms. With this in mind, I thought would help clarify the term and provide a little history into the evolution of the term ‘brand’.
First quick stop, the definition of the word ‘brand’ from the oxford dictionary (the brand of dictionary we had in our houshold when I was a child, brands interact with us everywhere!!):
A type of product manufactured by a particular company under a particular name:
a new brand of soap powder
An identifying mark burned on livestock or (especially in former times) criminals or slaves with a branding iron:
the brand on a sheep identifies it as mine
Unfortunately the definition lacks some relation to today’s modern marketing, so let’s dig a little into the history of term ‘brand’.
Whistle-stop tour of the evolution of the word ‘brand’
The word “brand” derives from the Old Norse “brandr” meaning “to burn” when cattle were burnt with the owner’s mark – interpreted as this is mine, leave it alone! Or when a maker places their mark on a product – made by me, please buy!
During the 19th century the manufacture of products like soap, which were usually made in households, became centralised to factories. This allowed for mass production and helped business’s sell their products to almost anyone. (now we have come almost full circle and embrace homemade products with brands like etsy!) With the rise of packaged goods producers added their mark on a widening array of goods so customers could identify who made the product which in turn built loyalty with product and the customer.
The oldest UK branded packaging is Tate and Lyle’s Golden Syrup as noted by the Guinness World Records. The packaging has been maintained since 1885 with only slight variations since.
After the second world war there was a boom in manufacturing, factories which produced military equipment were converted to produce products. Competition for customers attention became increasingly difficult to maintain, businesses needed a way to differentiate themselves from their competitors which lead to the development of USP’s being developed i.e. “Guinness for Strength” “Guinness is Good For You”.
The brand name became more desirable for customers and resulted with visual communication playing an important role in the success of the business, including advertising and marketing which helped to spread the awareness of the brand and ultimately increase sales. Brands started to create unique brand names and USP’S for themselves to help differentiate themselves from their competitors.
Modern day marketing term ‘brand’
20th century brands began to realise there was more to a unique brand name, more could be done to create a specific perception or emotional response in the mind of customer. This has now resulted in the customer perception itself being know as “the brand”.
A great example of how brands have transformed over time is one of the world’s most recognisable brands, Coca-Cola. From the development of their brand mark packaging and advertising.
To the emotions and feelings Coca-Cola builds around it’s brand. I have vivid childhood memories of the warmth and joy Coco-Cola Christmas adverts would stir during the bild up to the festive period and this association of happiness is heavily associated with their brand communication even today “Live the coke side of life”.
Summary of what is a brand
I would define a brand (in today’s modern marketing) as ‘the thoughts and emotions which enter a customers mind when they are thinking about a product (or service) when there is nothing in front of them’. A Brand is not solely a logo, in order to create a strong brand the customer needs to be influenced by many brand touchpoints; the product, the service, the brand identity, the customer service, advertising and marketing. All elements of these elements are equally required to uphold the brand values and to create a great brand perception in the mind of the customer.