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Religion, it can be argued, is the origin of branding. All religions had intangible ideologies, but they physically manifested with tangible architecture. This comprised the genesis of branding, but without commercial give and take. I’m naming this sanctified unification through fraternal relationships as Brand Friendship. Afterward, when formal monarchies materialised, the monarch’s emblem was the brand that symbolised his power to conquer lands and make people subservient.
Historical perspective: The commercial branding era started in Europe after the 17th century when Christianity liberalised the pursuit of literature, science, art and technology. Following Britain’s 1760 Industrial Revolution, European inventors Louis Vuitton and Cartier, among others, manifested their brands prominently through luxury products that carried their seals. Inventors Karl Benz, Ettore Bugatti and others shaped precision engineering automobile brands. Henri Nestle created milk powder and condensed milk for infants as a substitute for breast milk. European brand creators promoted their brands more prominently globally in luxury and sophisticated engineering categories, not in mass scale production. That’s possibly because scale was not paramount in Europe, which is made up of small nations.
Branding of giant companies: North America’s cowboy branding culture had no monarchical influence, hence a different approach. Hot stamping of American Wild West farm animals was done to identify their different owners. The 19th and 20th centuries saw an American shift towards inventive power by distinctive inventors like Proctor & Gamble (P&G), Thomas Edison (GE), Graham Bell (telephone), James Casey (UPS), George Eastman (Kodak), Charles Flint (IBM) and Henry Ford (automobile). They started with a commercial trademark which extended to stylised graphic branding up till 1960. Giant American companies established their power through such symbols. They mastered mass market production and masterminded the religion of commercial branding with mass scale industrialisation while providing affordable pricing to customers through inventive mass production processes like the Taylor system at Ford Motor Company. The two World Wars helped businesses become global.
So clearly, both in Europe and America, the branding culture started with inventors.
Departure of digi-tech: From the 1970s onwards, entrepreneurs like Bill Gates, Steve Jobs started to create a digital interface for customers.That stretched to a new branding dimension with Google, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and others. This led to uncontrollable mass production of digitally driven products and services with cost reduction and no industrial frontier. These happenings created a huge disruption of absolute behavioural change in the human being, what I call the departure of Brand Friendship in the commercial world.
The customer is in command today: Digital technology’s biggest contribution to the world is bringing extreme proximity among human beings. No longer can corporations have commanding power over their customers. Previously, the distance between a company’s boardroom and customers was wide. If your company was expanding globally, you continued…