BRAND - Why it Matters and What it Means
People feel a magical connection to the brands they love. When this happens on a large scale (NIKE, Apple, Coke, Google) it can totally reshape the world. When you get right down to it, a brand is an effort to distill a complex idea into a simple mark. Brands that matter do so because the ideas they distill are ones that resonate with people. The story they tell is one we want to tell ourselves. They connect our worldview with a product or service.
The cool part about this is that it’s kind of what humans are all about. We’ve been working on ways to simplify our ideas for thousands of years. We even invented 26 “brands” that we now use to write out all our crazy ideas and post them on the internet. So, any conversation about why brand matters would be remiss to leave out the history of what brand means.
Those Poor Cows
The term as we know it today stems from the Norse word “Brandr” which means a burning. I like to think it started innocently. Like one day a guy had his pottery stolen, but he couldn’t prove that his annoying neighbor did it because all the pots looked the same. Then next thing you know he marks all the pots in his house. One thing leads to another and now all his tables, chairs, pottery, and cows have been burned with his symbol and his kids have their address on all their backpacks and underwear. It’s with this that the brand becomes about belonging. It’s a way to quickly differentiate what is yours from what is someone else’s.
Because craftspeople were also marking all their belongings and works, by the 1800’s, the idea of a brand had become about the quality goods. Roman glass makers, the bakers of pompei, and silversmiths are just a few examples of those who were marking their products to show off their craftsmanship. Then, the mass production of goods started to shift our understanding of the brand yet again. Companies started to produce so much that they needed to expand to new markets, but they found themselves competing with local products that already had the trust of the townspeople. They began to package goods individually, using advertisements to build trust from consumers. In 1899 this culminated in the Uneeda Biscuit campaign. The first multimillion dollar ad campaign from the company that would become Nabisco.
Hangin’ with the Cool Kids
Competition was so fierce by the 1960’s that companies had to find new ways to differentiate themselves. Mass media gave them the chance to connect their brands with the emotions of their customers. Images of people smiling made us want to drink coke, take a smoke break, or reminded us that blondes have more fun. The celebrities from our favorite movies and shows were telling us about all the products that would make us just like them. This time brands weren’t only about the quality of a belonging, but about a way to belong.
Welcome to the Family
The internet has changed things for brands yet again. The mass market is starting to break into segments, so running a TV spot no longer reaches all the customers you could want. The most fundamental change is that customers now have a huge say in what brands do. Social media has given us a voice to tell our friends about and cheer on the brands we like. It’s also given us a way to complain and shame brands that fall short of our expectations. Kickstarter, and websites like it, lets us decide what brands get started. Sites like Yelp, Amazon, Twitter, Youtube, and Facebook need us to constantly make content for them. Customer’s aren’t on the outside of the brand anymore, they are participating.
Do you have questions about building or creating a brand? Not sure where to start? We can help! Contact us today.