Post by
Nasir Uddin
August 15, 2023
Last Updated
February 14, 2024

The term "brand" has experienced explosive growth in popularity in the fields of business and design over the past three decades. In the 1960s, during the time period depicted in the television show "Mad Men," a Cambrian explosion of brands, ranging from cigarettes to soap, has come to define modern marketing.

People have been using the word "brand" since the 19th century, but its origins can be traced back to the Old Norse term "fire-brand," which centuries ago referred to a hot piece of wood that was used to permanently mark property, most commonly animals. 

Speaking of this, let's learn how people used to brand their businesses or products in ancient times and find out the similarities and differences between then and now. 

Ancient Babylon (2300 BC)

Barkers in ancient Babylon told customers about spices, rugs, wines, and other goods that had come in on ships. They did this by shouting out their sales pitch. People put up notices written on papyrus for various reasons, like finding lost items or offering rewards for runaway slaves. 

Ancient  Egypt (3000 BC)

In  Ancient Egypt, Greece, and Rome, where most people couldn't read or write, merchants put up visual signs and painted their storefronts to show what they were selling and what it was for (Just like we now use pictures/graphic images in digital platforms). 

The writing on the walls of the ancient city of Pompeii shows that writing was also used for advertising. Also, symbols were used to distinguish who cattle belonged to so they could graze together (Just like trademarks and Logos work nowadays).

Ancient Roman (500 AD)

During the time of the Romans, firebrands started to have more than one meaning. Some symbols were thought to be magical and usually protected the herd. By the 5th century AD, this was common all over Europe because the Roman Empire had grown so much. A thousand years later, the Spanish, Portuguese, and English empires spread brands all over the world.

With the rise of industry after these empires grew, wood fires were no longer used to brand animals. Instead, metal branding irons were used, and the word "brand" was used to describe the mark they made.

branding in Ancient Roman (500 AD) : Source -

The Sung Dynasty (AD 960)

The Sung dynasty was a time in Chinese history that started in 960 and ended in 1279. It was a very wealthy and technologically advanced time in China. During this time, block printing, paper money, and, most importantly, a type of printing where the letters are arranged differently for each page were invented. Even though their language had more than 10,000 characters, it still required a long time to print. But these changes made it possible for the first kinds of branding, such as printed wrappers, signboards, and printed ads.

White Rabbit
Source: Twitter

From The 1600s to the 1700s

In 1625, the first advertisement appeared in a newspaper in England, the first form of modern mass media. Boston Newsletter published the first known newspaper advertisement in America in 1704, at the very beginning of the eighteenth century. Early newspaper advertisements were limited to one newspaper section and primarily consisted of simple announcements. To attract the attention of readers, many newspaper advertisements repeat a line of copy multiple times. One could view this as the precursor to the advertising slogan and the belief of a modern advertising titan in the effectiveness of repetition in advertising. Advertisements would eventually appear throughout the newspaper, as they do today.

During the 1700s, trademarks and stamps became widespread. A trademark became invaluable to governments, manufacturers, and consumers. Governments deemed it necessary to impose patent, trademark, and copyright laws as incentives for the advancement of science, technology, and the arts. 

In the late 1400s, Italy enacted the first patent laws, and craft guilds in Europe prompted the first trademark laws to ensure the differentiation and identification of goods and services. In addition to identifying and distinguishing products, trademarks assisted consumers by indicating origin and quality. Currently, trademarks are required to be registered with national governments. In the 1700s, the first copyright laws were passed in England.

Read Also: Comprehensive Guideline To Design Systems

1732 - “Content marketing Evolution” 

Benjamin Franklin is considered one of the pioneers of content marketing. He published Poor Richard's Almanac under the pen name Richard Saunders for twenty-five years. His almanacs included weather forecasts, poems, recipes, tidal predictions, divinations, scientific data, and advice for making money in the industry. According to the introduction of the almanac, "Richard Saunders" was a poor farmer who was forced to publish the almanac in order to appease his wife. 

At that time, it sold as many as 10,000 copies a year, making it a bestseller of its day. And he reaped a great profit from it; not only Almanac became a huge hit, but his printing business also escalated significantly. 

And in 1867, the Hartford Steam Boiler Inspection and Insurance Company started putting out "The Locomotive," which is still the name of the company magazine.

These are the first examples of the main idea behind content marketing, which is that you can get people interested in your product or service by giving them helpful information that shows them why they need it.

Content marketing Evolution

In 1895, John Deere, a company that made farming tools, started publishing "The Furrow." This was the most successful time this strategy was used. The magazine was made to help farmers improve their businesses by giving them tips.

But the success of the magazine wasn't just because it had a lot of information. It also had interesting stories that people liked to read. With this strategy, millions of people had read The Furrow by the turn of the century. There are currently around 550,000 regular readers of The Furrow. The main point is? Content that is good stands the test of time. Putting the reader first will keep them coming back.

The 1750s-1870s: The Industrial Revolution

During the 18th and 19th centuries, Europe and the United States underwent profound changes as a result of the introduction of cutting-edge industrial manufacturing techniques. Due to advancements in productivity and technology, this period in history marked the beginning of the mass production of goods. An increase in available goods meant that buyers had a wider variety of options. Companies suddenly felt an increased pressure to differentiate themselves and claim ownership in the face of increased competition.

Then the trademark entered the market. Trademarks can be anything from a word or phrase to a symbol, design, shape, color, or combination of these that have been registered with a government agency or gained secondary meaning through use.

In response to the growing importance of registered trademarks in the 1870s, the first Trademark Act was enacted by the United States Congress in 1881. This marked the first time a company could legally protect its brand name and use it as a weapon against imitators and competitors.

This signifies how important every organization is to establish a brand for itself. It's so important to have a unique identity so that you don't just get lost in the crowd. 

If you are wondering exactly when branding was considered seriously, it was in the 19th century. 

From 1870’s- to 1900s: Innovations start from here 

The century began with the establishment of a number of companies that would eventually become global leaders. Coca-Cola (1886), Colgate (1873), Ford Motor Company (1903), Chanel (1909), and LEGO (1932) were all pioneers, innovators, and brand-builders.

When these brands were introduced, they were ahead of their time. Ford Motor Company was the first to offer gasoline-powered, American-made automobiles, and Chanel was the first to offer suits for women at a time when they were primarily associated with men. These brands were the first of their kind and innovative, which made them instant market leaders.

During this era, newspapers and magazines were used to promote brands. Print allowed brands to differentiate themselves through the use of words, logos, and illustrations. Frequently, advertisements were extremely informative and detailed about how products functioned and their capabilities.

1950s an Later

In the 1950s, Chanel advertisements shifted to focus on the status symbol of wearing and owning Chanel rather than the product itself. Branding is so powerful that it can change the way we think about a whole product. Chanel changed the suit and made it something women could wear to work, which was a new idea at the time. It was a big hit right away because Chanel was a well-known brand and made it seem like every modern woman needed one. This change made the brand less about the product and more about how people saw it meant to own Chanel. The message was that any modern woman could be glamorous if she wore Chanel.

Apple went a step further with this in 1997 when they started the "Think Different" campaign. What seemed like a simple campaign changed how people thought about the struggling brand. The most interesting thing about the campaign is that it only advertised the company's name and didn't show any products. It didn't focus on Apple or its product, but it did show that Apple is still the market leader. It was clear what it meant: talented and creative people who want to change the world use and like Apple products. 

This campaign changed how marketing and branding campaigns were run and laid the groundwork for the campaigns of today, which are based on how people feel. Another evolution occurred in this era. 

20th Century: Start of Colorful Packaging  and Advertisements 

Beginning in the 20th century, the invention of plastic made packaging goods simple, inexpensive, and hygienic; consequently, packaging became widespread. Companies that sell products adopt the term brand to describe the packaging designs that distinguish their products from those of their competitors.

After World War II, the invention of television led to a surge in advertising. The ability to place advertisements before and after shows facilitated the targeting of products to customers who desired them and the creation of advertisements tailored to customer preferences. Incorporating an understanding of customer behavior and underlying motivation into marketing, brands began to represent more than the product they were selling. It began to reflect the values and beliefs of those it served.

The practice of maintaining brands in order to increase market share is referred to as marketing.  Strategies were developed to help brands grow into personalities, movements, and ways of life that are representative of the company's products, culture, employees, beliefs, and aspirations. Branding came to life through radio jingles, catchphrases, and targeted messaging.

First Paid Commercial 

The first paid radio commercial was played on WEAF in New York in 1922, promoting a brand-new apartment building nearby. Nearly 90% of American radio stations were playing advertisements by 1930. Manufacturers would sponsor not only individual programs but entire shows at this time. This raised the bar for brand identity significantly. It was able to be heard, remembered, and related to.

1960 to 2000: Brand Evolution 

As brands changed over the years, they had to freshen up or even start over to stay relevant, meet changing tastes, and stand out in a field that was growing all the time.

Organizations realized that one way to give a brand a facelift and give it a boost is to update the campaign slogan. To succeed in today's fast-paced branding landscape, companies must innovate rapidly and constantly outpace the competition. Even if the brand is already well-known, a catchy slogan can help boost sales.

Such as the "Because you're worth it" campaign by L'Oreal (written in 1973). Or, "It's a great time for the great taste of McDonald's." - McDonald's (1984). Or, as the saying goes, "Folgers in your cup makes waking up the best part of the day." (1984). These catchphrases each helped propel a well-known company to the next level of brand recognition.

As evidence, consider the many Coke logos the company has used over the years. Over the years, they went through about 40 different catchphrases!!

Over the years, Coca-advertising Cola's slogans have reflected the company and the culture at large. Coca-Cola slogans are an easy and direct way to spread the word about the company. Among the most iconic of these is the 1971 "Hilltop" commercial that aired to the tune of "I'd Like to Buy the World a Coke." Although it wasn't meant to be a slogan (the ad was part of the "It's the Real Thing" campaign), the song and its lyrics have become so iconic that many people still consider them to be one.

One of the most ideal examples of content marketing through which organizations started to build brand awareness.

Creation of Marvel Characters 

Comic book heroes were introduced as a powerful form of content marketing in the 1980s. Comics based on action figures such as Spiderman and G.I. Joe were created by Marvel and DC. The stories gave new life to the toys for a new generation of kids, creating a connection that continues to this day (as evidenced by the barrage of superhero movies).

LEGO is another toy brand that has entered the content game. While "The Lego Movie" is undoubtedly LEGO's greatest content marketing achievement, the brand's accessibility to consumers was greatly aided by the 1987 launch of Brick Kicks magazine, which included product pricing, comics, games, contests, modeling tips, and more.

This term, "content marketing," was first used in 1996 by John F. Oppedahl at a convention for journalists. This formally accepted a method that had been used for centuries and laid the groundwork for "modern" content marketing.

2000 Onwards - to date, “beginning of Internet Marketing.” 

With the proliferation of home computers and internet usage in the 1990s, the most significant change in the content marketing landscape occurred. This gave rise to email and websites, which presented marketers with new and exciting opportunities. Many businesses shifted their marketing budgets from television and radio to websites and email newsletters, which we now refer to as digital marketing.

Brands made their websites where they shared content meant to get more people to know and like the brand. They promoted their content by sending email newsletters to a list of people who had signed up for them.

From the printing press to radio and television, new technologies have made methods that have been used for thousands of years more effective and widespread (i.e., more invasive). Even with all of its wonders and paradigm shifts, the internet has only changed how old things are done. In reality, not much has changed if you think of the Internet as a place.

Sites try to get people's attention by using pop-up ads or, even worse, by turning on sound and video by default. Public figures often promote goods they like on blogs and social media (or their own products). You can promote your product's advantages in a variety of places, including display ads on websites and paid search ads in the search results. Due to their obvious placement, search engines are where most people start their research. Instead of booklets in our hands, we now receive spam and junk email in our email inboxes, the internet's equivalent of litter.

Marketing is now classified as "creating a long-lasting, mutually beneficial relationship between brand and customer" rather than "advertising a product or service to a customer in the hopes of making a sale," thanks to the use of social media.

Content marketing over the past two decades has been marked by the emergence of multi-channel approaches, social media, and search engine optimization (SEO).

Social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, and YouTube have rapidly overshadowed more traditional methods of reaching out to consumers. Because of this, content creators and distributors now need to be very strategic in their methods.

Many well-known companies have revised their content to fit a variety of online platforms. They improved their content marketing strategies by being more flexible and creative to set themselves apart from rivals.

The most popular social media app that changed branding for good is “Facebook.” 

Facebook allowed businesses to go beyond traditional advertising. Whether a company is sending out direct mail marketing or making a TV ad, they all focus on making sales and give the audience little to no information that they can use.

Facebook made it possible for brands to connect with customers and audiences by putting interesting content right where they look: on their timelines. When logged into Facebook, users can view their friends and family's activity feeds. Well, they can also check out what their preferred brands are up to because of social media promotion. Promotional content need not be limited to price reductions; it may also take the form of an article, a game, a freebie, or even a recipe. It is a subtle way to make your brand seem friendly and in touch with its customers.

Also, Facebook ads let brands reach out to a very specific group of people. If you want to market a family doctor's office, you can reach out to people in your area. This is just one example of how you can make your Facebook advertising campaigns very targeted.

Wrapping Up 

Brands are now defined by the messages they send, the actions they take, and the opinions of their consumers. The new relationship between the company and the customer necessitates extensive brand adaptation. In today's competitive market, businesses cannot afford to take their brands for granted. The most powerful brands are those that adapt and evolve. They are adaptable while remaining true to their core values.

Consumers seek a connection with a brand. In order to cultivate this relationship, businesses and the content they distribute must be customer-focused. Consequently, it is not about being "friends" with your customers; rather, it is about being a reliable resource that facilitates meaningful interactions.

By paying attention to the expectations of your customers and incorporating them into your brand strategy, you will generate more buzz and interest in your product or service.

Audiences are now tech-savvy and can quickly distinguish between sponsored and unsponsored content. The purpose of branding has shifted from selling a product to selling beliefs and values. The majority of brands have transitioned from purely descriptive content to content that is more interactive, information-based, and versatile.

In Musemind, this is what we strive to do; with our designs, we make sure to add brand value to your business. Because to us, every client is a commitment to a better, sustainable future.

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Nasir Uddin
CEO at Musemind
Nasir Uddin, Co-Founder and CEO at Musemind, brings over a decade of experience in dynamic UX design. With a background at prestigious companies like Panther, On Deck, Microsoft, and Motley Fool. His leadership has transformed Musemind into a trusted destination for comprehensive product design solutions.
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