While brand management is a relatively modern vocation, archaeologists have found historical evidence of branding all over the world, from the marks builders’ made on the bricks that built the pyramids to the marks of Roman potters used to brand their creations.
The word brand is derived from the Old Norse word, which means ‘to burn’ and refers to the process of burning a mark of ownership onto cattle. Today, while brands still help to signify ownership and differentiate products and services from one another, the relationship that we have with brands has evolved. Here are some highlights in the history of branding:
The industrial revolution
In the late eighteenth century, the birth of the industrial revolution saw manufacturing revolutionise how products were made and branded. Coca Cola, one of the world’s most famous brands, was created in 1886 in Atlanta, Georgia, by a local pharmacist called by Dr. John Stith Pemberton. Large scale bottling helped Coca Cola grow in popularity, but as their popularity grew, so did their competition. To help Coca Cola set themselves apart from their competition, they created the unique bottle, label, and logo that we recognise today.
In the nineteenth-century trademark legislation meant that names, designs, slogans, and even jingles could be protected. While the first trademark officially registered in the UK was in 1897 by a Bass Brewery, records show all bakers in the UK were required to use a distinctive mark for the bread that they sold as early as 1266.
The golden age of advertising
In 1955 commercial television arrived in the UK, and along with it came the first TV advert which promoted Gibbs SR toothpaste. The following two decades became known as the Golden Age of advertising as brands began to tell emotionally engaging stories.
The tale of two soaps
Procter and Gamble (P&G) is an American company that manages several household brands, including Pampers, Head and Shoulders, Pantene, Airel, Oral-Band Gillette. Established in 1837, P&G began by selling soap. In the 1930’s Neil McElroy, an employee at P&G, was tasked with promoting Camay soap but soon realised that his efforts were having a detrimental effect on another of P&G’s soaps, Ivory soap. McElroy proposed that different brands at P&G should be managed separately by different teams, each led by a brand manager. Allowing each team to use market research to segment audiences and better understand their customers meant that they could develop propositions and strategies to promote each brand separately to different markets, meaning that brands in the P&G portfolio were no longer in competition with each other.
The most valuable brand in the world
In 1984 nobody had heard of Apple, but an iconic campaign to promote the Macintosh computer changed everything. Directed by Ridley Scott and aired during the Superbowl, the campaign encouraged people to break free from conformity. The messaging resonated with consumers who had become ever more brand conscious. In 2019 Forbes named Apple as the most valuable brand in the world ($205.5B).
In 2004 Facebook was created. Although Facebook wasn’t the first social platform (remember Tom and MySpace?), it was certainly the most popular, with almost 3 billion people estimated to use it worldwide. Social Media changed the face of marketing. Brands can no longer market their messages to the masses with traditional media; they instead needed to engage in conversations with their consumers and build relationships with them.
Glossier is an example of a company that built its brand online through the use of social media. When Glossier’s founder Emily Weiss, began writing a beauty blog called ‘into the gloss,’ she was able to build a community and identify gaps in the market that she could fill. Founded in 2010, Glossier was valued at $1.2bn after five years. The products are sold online, and she credits her success to 5cs: consumers, content, conversations, co-creation, and community.
Today consumers are far more discerning about the brands they consume. Brands that have questionable ethics are openly criticised while those with a strong purpose and morales are applaunded. Brand values were put under the spotlight during the Coronavirus crisis. While some brands focused their efforts on supporting the crisis, other brands put their profit ahead of the wellbeing of their employees and customers.
Tim Martin, the owner of Weatherspoons, came under heavy criticism when he suggested that his staff go and work at Tescos during the crisis. Public pressure meant that he agreed to pay his 43,000 staff, but many people say that they will boycott the chain in the future.
Philip Kotler is widely recognised as the godfather of marketing. In his latest book, Marketing 4.0, he explains that the future of marketing lies in creating products and services that reflect human values.
- Trademark history
- 20 milestones in branding history
- A brief history of branding
- Coca-cola history
- The P&G story
- Brand management at P&G
- Glossier – Interview with Emily Weiss
- Philip Kotler – Marketing 4.0 – Moving from traditional to digital
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