Branding History

While the concept of creating a brand is thousands of years old, the modern day description of the word ‘brand’ began simply as a way to tell one person’s cattle from another by means of a hot iron stamp.

The act of marking livestock with fire-heated marks to identify ownership has origins in ancient times, with use dating back to the ancient Egyptians. In English lexicon, the word ‘brand’ originally meant anything hot or burning, such as a firebrand, a burning stick. By the European Middle Ages, it commonly identified the process of burning a mark into stock animals with thick hides, such as cattle, so as to identify ownership under animus revertendi. The practice became particularly widespread in nations with large cattle grazing regions, such as Spain.

These European customs were imported to the Americas and were further refined by the vaquero tradition in what today is the southwestern United States and northern Mexico. In the American West, a branding iron consisted of an iron rod with a simple symbol or mark, which cowboys heated in a fire. After the branding iron turned red-hot, the cowboy pressed the branding iron against the hide of the cow. The unique brand meant that cattle owned by multiple ranches could then graze freely together on the open range. Cowboys could then separate the cattle at round-up time for driving to market.

It made perfect sense for marketing experts to borrow the term. In the marketing world, it originally referred to the logo — similar to the hot iron stamp — on a product in the open marketplace. When consumers saw the logo, they could easily identify the manufacturer of the product. However, the term has evolved significantly over the years.

“The intangible sum of a product’s attributes: its name, packaging, and price, its history, its reputation, and the way it’s advertised.”
— David Ogilvy (1911 – 1999), was a notable advertising executive. He has often been called “The Father of Advertising.”

“Brand reputation can be either a common surrogate indicator of product quality, or an effective strategy to reduce risk when ease of evaluation is low.”
— Benny Rigaux-Bricmont. Author, Influences of brand name and packaging on perceived quality.

“Simply put, a brand is a promise. By identifying and authenticating a product or service it delivers a pledge of satisfaction and quality.”
— Walter Landor (1913 – 1995) a brand design legend and the founder of Landor Associates. A pioneer in the field of branding and consumer research.

“A set of assets (or liabilities) linked to a brand’s name and symbol that adds to (or subtracts from) the value provided by a product or service…”
— David Aaker, Vice Chairman of Prophet, a global brand and marketing consultancy firm. He has authored over 100 articles and 14 books on marketing and branding.

“Branding is so much about psychology it’s almost frightening,”
— Robert Opie, Consumer Historian and Curator of London’s Museum of Brands, Packaging and Advertising.

A brand is an evolving perception — based upon every interaction with the product — that lives in the mind of the consumer.
— Lorenz Advertising.