The History & Evolution of Brand
From the branding of livestock to being a personal identifier, brands have become (and continue to be) a critical component to a company’s public perception and overall business success.
In a highly competitive and visually-led market, a well-branded product or service is essential for consumers to know what they’re getting. As the importance of authenticity, psychology, purpose, and culture are ever-increasing, creating and maintaining a brand that stands out above the rest is critical. But just how did the significance of a brand and its management get to this point? Here’s how.
What is a Brand?
Understanding that a Brand is More Than a Logo
Before we do a deep dive into the history and evolution of brands, let’s first define what a brand even is. A brand is about people, uniqueness, and experiences. A brand is not a logo, corporate identity, or product. Rather, a brand is a collective impression of a product or company. It is the way a company, organization, or person is perceived by those who experience it. Simply put, your brand is your company’s most valuable asset.
The Origins of a Brand
It Started with Livestock as a Mark of Ownership
If we go back as far as 2,700 BC, we can find the act of marking livestock to identify ownership. The word “brand” itself comes from the Old Norse word “Brandr” meaning “to burn.” Burning a mark on livestock turned into a unique mark of ownership. While this in part helped keep track of lost or stolen animals, it did also showcase to buyers where the meat or hide came from.
This continued on to artisans and other merchants who would put their mark to indicate the source of their product and ultimately, showcase the level of quality assurance. If we take the example of the Nike brand, they’ve truly mastered the art of showcasing quality. So much so, that Nike could almost be the definition of sports themselves. Thanks in large part to their shift from being just a shoe brand to embodying a lifestyle, they have been able to position themselves as one of the most valued and successful brands today.
A Symbol of Quality
A Well-Developed & Refined Brand Means Success
The concept of brand management originated from Proctor & Gamble (P&G). It was later followed by other consumer packaged goods such as Kraft Foods, Unilever, and Nestlé. These food giants understood the need to have a well-developed and refined brand. By the 1990s, other companies joined the brand bandwagon by starting to manage their corporate brands at senior levels due to the critical importance and value of brands. If you consider the brands I just listed, for instance, you might already have a preconceived notion about the quality of food they offer but they might also invoke certain feelings, which brings me to the next topic.
Brand Image vs. Brand Identity
How Your Brand is Perceived vs. How Your Company Perceives it
Brand image varies from one person to another as it’s based on a set of beliefs, ideas, and impressions. It’s one of the reasons why a consistent brand image is a massive undertaking to maintain but also determines an entity’s continued success. A brand identity, on the other hand, is not the logo or the name. Rather, it’s the visual encapsulation of your brand strategy and positioning. In other words, it’s how the consumer would interpret a brand’s essence (a mixture of the personality, promise, and in some cases, the person).
All in all, the brand identity is how a company portrays itself to the outside world and the brand image is how the customers actually perceive the brand. The less control a company has over its brand image, the less alignment there’ll be with its identity which could lead to losing customers without gaining new ones.
The Value of Brands Today
More Than a Product: It’s About a Greater Purpose
The concept of brands and brand management is ever-evolving and should always be kept in mind in any company’s strategy, especially when it involves growth. Brands have expanded beyond the borders of products and services to pretty much anything and everything – schools, musicians, restaurants, countries, and even individuals and experiences. Brands no longer simply stand for a functional benefit claim – they now encompass emotional, experiential, and even self-expressive benefits.
More and more, brands are now standing for something – a greater purpose that is not only meant to resonate with customers but all stakeholders – including employees, investors, and more. The most powerful brands are the ones that are able to reach their customers and all those involved with a set of shared values, culture, and sense of identity. Now is the time to ask yourself: Am I maintaining and growing my brand to its highest potential?