February 5, 2023

What is a brand?

In today’s business world, more than having a great product is needed to ensure long-term success. Even established corporations recognize the value of building a solid brand. But what exactly is a brand, and how can it benefit you and your business? Let’s delve into the fascinating history of branding to find out.

A Brief Historical Journey

The concept of a brand dates back to ancient times. In Norse, “brandr” meant “to burn,” and it later referred to a burning piece of wood or a torch. Around 1500, branding livestock became common practice, allowing ranchers to distinguish their ownership and identify stolen or lost animals. This practice extended to other areas, including pottery markings and engravings on metal wares, aiding in identification and authenticity.

Branding also played a role in the marketplace. Street vendors in ancient Egypt, Rome, and Greece used markings, drawings, and colours to differentiate themselves and catch the attention of potential customers. They understood the importance of visually standing out, particularly in societies where not everyone could read.

The invention of the Gutenberg Printing Press marked a significant milestone in branding. Mass-produced printing materials, including advertisements, emerged, reaching larger audiences through flyers, posters, and newspapers. As the industrial revolution brought about mass production, companies utilized distinct typography, colours, shapes, and designs to differentiate their products from competitors and establish brand recognition. This trend continues to this day, exemplified by the unmistakable appeal of Coca-Cola.

While there are countless historical examples and influences, such as the development of graphic design, colour psychology, and typography, we’ll conclude our historical lesson here.

Defining a Brand

So, after this journey through history, can we definitively answer what a brand is? If we base our understanding solely on the history lesson, we might consider a brand a logo, a specific product, or even an identity. However, these components contribute to developing a visual identity—they do not fully define a brand.

David Ogilvy, the father of modern advertising, described a brand as “the intangible sum of a product’s attributes.” While this definition captures some essence, marketers have recognized that branding goes beyond product attributes. It encompasses the power to influence emotions and perceptions.

Marty Neumeier aptly defines a brand as “a gut feeling towards your product, service, or company.” This definition acknowledges the subjective nature of branding and highlights the role of emotion and perception in shaping a brand’s identity.

Today, with the advent of social media and evolving consumer behaviour, branding has become even more vital. Brand strategy is not exclusive to large corporations—it can profoundly impact businesses of all sizes, from startups to small and medium enterprises or even local mom-and-pop stores.

Consider why you prefer Apple over HP, Nike over Adidas, or your local butcher over a supermarket chain, and you’ll begin to grasp the power of branding.

Until next time!

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