January 24


A (Short) Branding History

“The word “brand” is derived from the Old Norse word brandr, which means “to burn by fire.” … In 1876, after the United Kingdom passed the Trade Mark Registration Act, Bass Ale became the first trademarked brand in the world after submitting its now-quintessential red triangle for trademark status. The act gave businesses the ability to register and protect a brand marker so that a similar icon couldn’t be used by any other company. In addition to clinching trademark number 1, Bass’s trailblazing history includes its appearances in Édouard Manet’s 1882 masterpiece A Bar at the Folies-Bergère and Pablo Picasso’s 1912 painting Bouteille de Bass et Guitare, ostensibly providing the brand with the cultural distinction of “first product placement.” … A little more than a century later, we are living in a world with over one hundred brands of bottled water.”

Debbie Millman – Brand Thinking and Other Noble Pursuits (public library)

The origin of the word brand comes from the word “brandr” – to burn – referring to the practice of producers who burned their mark on products. Brands in the area of mass marketing originated in the 19th century when manufacturers starting using logos so their customers could recognize them.

During the period of industrialization, products were offered to many regions. This was the first time consumers had access to more goods, and by placing logos on their products, manufacturers were able to make sure that they could be recognized and bought by their consumers. But branding was not only about recognition, it also represented quality. Any product with an identifiable logo was synonymous of having good quality.


With the fast pace of new innovation and the introduction of new technologies, manufacturers had the idea that if a product was good enough, it could sell itself. However, this changed when more and more products were created and people suddenly had access to a wide array of options.

Manufacturers looked for different ways to differentiate their products by shifting their branding strategy to showcase superior features, better ingredients and functional benefits. While focusing on their product’s points of differentiation, companies also started focusing on how their product made consumers feel. This led them to build an emotional bond with customers through advertising. For this reason, some view branding and advertising as interchangeable.

The media proliferation of the 1950s and 1960s helped advertising become ubiquitous, which changed consumer sentiments towards their messages. Consumers suddenly felt bombarded by advertisements, instead of excited as they had felt previously.  Once again, companies had to find a new way to communicate with their customers. However, the arrival of the internet transitioned this communication from one-way to interactive.

At this point, we see how shifts in branding are closely related to social and economic trends, and nowadays, political trends.

With the arrival of social media, brands had another chance to improve their communication with customers, seeming more approachable and human in a different way.

Branding is no longer only about a great visual array of elements that allow customers to recognize the products or services they love. It has also become a promise that brands promote to their customers and their internal organization. It is a more holistic experience where multimedia channels and technology allow brands to deliver their mission and strengthen how they are perceived by the market, their consumers and even their competitors.

Because branding is now a mix of emotional bond, promise and what sets a certain product or service apart from the others, there is also a need to include the origin story as part of the branding message. This origin story helps brands talk to their customers on a personal level and allows them to be part of their evolution and growth.


The idea of creating a brand is to craft a message that will speak directly to your audience, allowing them to get to know you better, like you and trust you.

The great thing about using your origin story to craft your brand is that no one else’s story will be the same. Think of your brand as an extension of yourself, and people will follow you if they understand why you do it, not just what you do (tweet this!).


Branding, History

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