I can visualize and hear one of my all-time favorite character actors, Slim Pickens, shouting, “What in the wide-wide-world of idiotic terminology does the word, BRAND, stand for?”
Millions from all walks of life can’t explain adequately why brand and branding became obsessive words uttered predominately by PR, advertising, and marketing gurus.
The basic question for enthusiasts offering an interpretation is why do they define so differently? Yes, general agreement appears among certain advocates. Even so, was either word necessary in the first place? I leave that question for debate.
Eons back something meaning “brand” was uttered in different languages.
Brands and branding began as symbols and artwork – very early artwork. It indicated item ownership or possession of a skill. Part of the evolution was sordid, but other branding methods were creative and valuable.
Going back nearly 3,000 years, bce, Egyptians etched their identities into products they hand-made. Pottery, bricks, warfare tools, and a few other objects crafted by artisans and masons appear as the earliest references.
Branding for identification slowly evolved. One “for instance” is the paper watermark, which designates who long ago produced different kinds of thin writing sheets.
During the Renaissance period, artists like Michelangelo introduced a new type of personal branding. Rather than symbolism his using a signature became popular.
Brand derives from an old Norse word, brandr, mesning “to burn.” We’re familiar with periods when people branded, or burned, symbols on hips of cattle and horses to affirm title. That practice gave way primarily to under-lip tattooing or ear piercing, each considered more humane.
However, innocent civilians eventually suffered from branding. Painful tattooing with instruments unlike the vastly improved present ones, the scarring of convict and, concentration camp prisoners were repulsive techniques.
Adolf Hitler in the mid-1930s chose “branded” when describing how the 1919 Treaty of Versailles impeded Germany’s future. His expression motivated followers to join him in ignoring that document because as he insisted, it marked unwelcomed victors from World War I as Germany’s overbearing “owners.”
Still a product, service and identity – even an ideology.
But something happened to cause a verbal phenomenon thanks to innovators insisting that branding be more inclusive.
James Walter Thompson, legendary advertising icon, started the idea ball rolling in 1889. His work produced gigantic profits, helped companies improve their individualism and their logos. They paved the way for advocates easily enamored with what now is a trend among enthusiasts.
In that group was the father of modern-day branding, David A. Aaker. He expanded the theory dramatically. Check out his commentaries.
Maybe if greater numbers in the business world would read some of his books, we might find less confusion than is evidenced during group discussions and arguments centered around these two words.
From a practical standpoint brand or branding applies to techniques, strategies and objectives, all which go beyond the usual commercial marketing, advertising, merchandising and product or service promotions.
Your brand is your reputation
Frankly, your brand is your reputation; it helps identify where you rank among competitors.
In simple terms, branding is effectively organized promotion of, and justification for, services, products, merchandising efficiencies, and advertising in all forms
But equally as significant and never off the branding apex is reputation. Reputation rather than image reigns. [Read about reputation control versus image by tapping here.]
Without question, branding’s major objective must be reputation focused. That boils down to perceptions among opinion customers.
Reputation control is among the five top CEO responsibilities. We say so not just in consideration of responsibility but also because responsibility is the constant companion of accountability.
Previous mentions of J. Walter Thompson and David Aaker, Ph.D. call for brief elaborations.
Dr. Aaker, professor emeritus at the University of California, Berkeley’s Haas School of Business, specializes in marketing with a focus on brand strategy. Creator of The Aaker Model, he views brand equity in the forms of awareness, associations, and loyalty.
He envisions brand as a product, organization, person and symbol. Reputation isn’t ignored, though we propose that in the present marketplace, insufficient attentionresults from influences erroneously considered higher priorities than deserved.
Want a for instance or two, or . . .?
Try speaking with a live person allegedly at most medium and large size businesses.
Doing so once was a cinch. No more! And should you finally get through after incessant delays coupled with irritatingly scratchy music, where the “please continue to wait as you are very important to us” announcement drones constantly, another excuse saying “we are experiencing an unusual number of calls today, etc.,” you face more obstacles.
Now comes someone barely uttering English, talking too rapidly while on a poor connection: someone who can’t satisfy your reason for calling and refers you to someone else. Hence, we must restart the entire process.
Reputation branding? Yep, but 180 degrees in the wrong direction. Well, so much for a truthful side comment.
Mr. Thompson startled and educated the business world in advance of Dr. Aaker’s fame. Actually, before JWT various branding ideas surfaced without the current terminology. For instance, brand marks appeared on almost anything a manufacturer used in accomplishing tasks for others.
Wine barrels appeared with burned-in logos. New items on retail shelves carried a distinct name, identification or bit of artwork. These were brands.
Late in the 19th century companies stepped back, surveyed their product marketing investments and came away shocked. Frontrunners suddenly realized anyone could copy almost anything with a product name, logo and description. Facing severe vulnerabilities, they presented their situation to Congress. In 1875 individual properties gained federal protection through the Trademarks Registration Act.
Enter Mr. Thompson. Surprising to many even those in associated fields is the fact that during this period advertising was insignificant as a sales aid. Outlets as we find in the 21st century weren’t around early in JWT’s era. He tackled the problem.
Mr. Thomson opened the first creative department to design and produce content, mostly in print, for his customers. New patrons flocked to the agency and in 1889 he featured his own product to let people know that 80 percent of all advertising in America came from JWT in New York.
Two years later he published books about advertising opportunities, emphasizing trademark advertising, no matter the market. The guru’s “Blue and Red” books crammed with novel ideas, didn’t escape reviews by lesser ad agency executives. The father of all this worried not; he already was too far out front.
His experience prodded others about advantages of being innovative, of being first with promising methodologies and having the courage to commit resources in uncharted territory.
An old adage warns that if you don’t tell your story someone else will, usually in a way you will regret. Another way of looking at this matter is accepting the premise that one’s brand is a solemn promise to customers. It lets them know what they can expect from your products and services rather than what they might receive.
Many advocates argue that branding separates organizations from similar businesses. Wrong! It does only when distinct differences are perceived by consumers.
Finally, branding success requires a total check-up to determine organizational health. Only after understanding positives and negatives can strategies and tactics be used to their fullest potential.