A brief history of brand

Brand has been constantly evolving over the years – which era is your brand in?
WIth all the talk about brand, there is a tendency to forget that the way we think about them has been constantly evolving for years. So here is a brief history of brand – certain liberties have been taken in the name of space, time (and a good story).


In the beginning, there were cows.


The four-legged property of ranchers – but how to tell one cow from another? How about we burn a unique mark into their hide – let’s “brand” them. The more cows, the more marks, the better known the rancher was.


The brand came to represent and embody how the townspeople felt about the rancher: Did the sight of the brand on the cow and above the ranch’s gate inspire awe or loathing?


What a great idea!


How about we do the same thing with companies? Let’s create a brand, a logo, that will represent the company and put it on everything – our store, our literature, our products. Then people will easily know who we are. And the more they see it, the more successful we will be.


From the time Paul Rand drew the ubiquitous IBM logo, the deal was done. No company could be successful without a logo.


Then came the brand as message.


Thank you, Nike. Now it wasn’t enough to simply have a recognizable logo, companies needed to tell people in three words or less everything they needed to know. Slotted under the logo, it was seen to be the magic elixir that would shape how people would think about the company, its products and services.


Now let’s put it on everything that moves and everyone will believe what it says. Just do it. Right! Except that often the company’s actions didn’t meet the promise those words made.


Which brings us to perception.


Specifically, customer perception – what they think you are is who you are. The holy grail of brand today is to create the right customer perception – that perfect mix of emotion and smarts that will drive boat-loads of customers your way.


And the best way to “create” that perception – a louder, bigger message that is put in more places! Slapped on t-shirts and caps for employees and splashed across the pages of magazines, websites and television screens, how could anyone resist?


Thankfully that isn’t the end of the story…


The next wave


Today, there is another wave on the horizon. I call it the authentic brand. Authentic brands are deeply rooted inside the company. They are much more than the marketing veneer applied to the exterior face of the company. Authentic brands are honest. They are powerful mechanisms guiding decisions and direction across all functions of a company.


They connect with customers and everyone the company touches through those decisions and actions. They extend well beyond the boundaries of the marketing department and are lived and owned by the whole organisation. They are sustaining and sustainable.


So, which brand era does your company live in?


See you next week!




Alignment is Michel’s passion. Through her work with Brandology here in Australia, and Brand Alignment Group in the United States, she helps organisations align who they are, with what they do and say to build more authentic and sustainable brands.

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