A History of Branding

To know where you’re going, you need to know where you’ve been; famous and powerful words that couldn’t be more true and are applicable to many different scenarios. When it comes to the branding of a business, the evolution of this process is nothing short of amazing.

What’s great about branding is that it’s always constantly changing, yet it stays true to certain core values. For example, social media has changed the way companies brand themselves and their overall reach, yet the elements that make the particular business strong and trustworthy in the first place is still what is most important.

“One of the first companies to establish today’s idea of marketing and brand building through rigorous go-to-market plans and communication strategies was arguably Procter & Gamble. ‘All thy garments smell of myrrh and aloes and cassia, out of the ivory palaces whereby they’ve made thee glad’ (Psalm 45.8) was supposedly the inspiration for Harley Procter in naming ‘Ivory Soap’. And as a very devout, proud and shrewd man it doesn’t surprise that he took God as the ultimate, though indirect (and unpaid we might add) endorsement, while his overall marketing strategy was completely down-to-earth, focused on the functional and rational. ‘99 and 44/100 per cent pure’ was what we today would call his promise, benefit or USP – Unique Selling Proposition – and ‘floats in water’ was his RTB – Reason To Believe – because ‘only what is so pure’ is lighter than water.

And that’s the point: When Harley Procter – and with him others like Coca-Cola or The Quakers (of Oats fame) – started what we now call ‘branding’ in the commercializing world of the early 20th century, their focus was on exactly this: functional benefits. Brands for them were first and foremost a way to signify and guarantee superior quality. The idea was to physically distinguish their product from the competition and build a quality reputation, which would allow them to charge a premium.

The consumer relationship, if that term is even appropriate for those early days, was thus one that was supposed to be based on trust. They tried to build a trust bias, an emotional shortcut to stir purchase decisions and to ensure customer preference and loyalty. The interesting thing is that today, in many ways, we are closing the circle and getting back to exactly the same point.”

In order to be successful with any brand strategy it’s imperative to blend the old with the new. Using new mediums to connect with your audience is important, but staying true to the values which the company is built around and focusing on maintaining the trust of your audience and providing the best customer service and product/service possible is key.