Branding evolution

The notion of branding as part of ancient trading can be traced to the Greek and Roman empires, before the modern industrial revolution. During this period, market awareness was created through carving out shop route signs and product descriptions, in stone along footpaths. This method progressed on to the early sixteenth century when whisky distillers began to ship their products in wooden barrels with the name of the producer burned into them. The sole purpose of this method was to differentiate the maker of each type of whisky from his competitors and to aid consumers in identifying the original products from cheaper substitutes.

Branding can also be traced back to pre-historic times when cattle-rearing men imprinted their names or a distinctive mark on their livestock to differentiate one farmer's livestock from the others. This system was also used to separate the good quality cattle from the low quality ones, and helped consumers to make better purchasing decisions by associating certain attributes to certain cattle farmers.

These elementary methods indicate that early traders understood the underlying principles of branding even without exposure to sophisticated business techniques.

The development of branding was further enhanced by the industrial revolution, urbanization, improvements in transportation and the social infrastructure, beginning from the late eighteenth century. This period brought about the introduction of city signs on products as a form of brand symbol. The method was adopted to indicate the origin of products, which often had certain 'associations' and 'perceptions' among consumers. Certain product manufacturers such as Twining of England introduced branded products as early as 1706. It was also in this century that Schweppes introduced its branded drinks in 1798. Branding methods, however, became more prominent towards the end of the industrial revolution in the latter part of the nineteenth century.

Branding, as we know it today, has advanced from crude methods of differentiation to a refined and indispensable business concept for any enterprise that desires long-term benefits. It plays a key role as the most important intangible asset generator for an organization. The luxury fashion sector in particular recognizes the crucial role of branding and therefore applies branding as a core competence and central factor of all business strategies.

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