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A BRIEF HISTORY OF BRANDS AND THE EVOLUTION OF PLACE BRANDING

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A BRIEF HISTORY OF BRANDS AND THE EVOLUTION OF PLACE BRANDING

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The present work synthesizes the main proofs related to the fact that the brands and the process of branding are as old as the human civilization, initially through the appearance and use of the "proto-brands" concept ever since the beginning of the human existence, and then, in different forms and different historical periods, brands show a dynamic of their existence. It is highlighted the aspect according to which brands, in different historical periods, have two invariable characteristics related to information transmission to the interested parties: information related to the quality and information which indicates the origin of the product (that sometimes includes differentiated information in order to help the marketing process, such as assortment, storage, transport, etc.).
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Bulletin of the Transilvania University of Braşov
Series VII: Social Sciences • Law • Vol. 9 (58) No. 2 - 2016
A BRIEF HISTORY OF BRANDS AND THE
EVOLUTION OF PLACE BRANDING
V.-A. BRICIU1 A. BRICIU2
Abstract: The present work synthesizes the main proofs related to the fact
that the brands and the process of branding are as old as the human
civilization, initially through the appearance and use of the “proto-brands”
concept ever since the beginning of the human existence, and then, in
different forms and different historical periods, brands show a dynamic of
their existence. It is highlighted the aspect according to which brands, in
different historical periods, have two invariable characteristics related to
information transmission to the interested parties: information related to the
quality and information which indicates the origin of the product (that
sometimes includes differentiated information in order to help the marketing
process, such as assortment, storage, transport, etc.).
Key words: proto-brands, marks, place branding.
1. Introduction
The brand term has been used very often in the specialty literature, but the given
meanings have varied with time. It derives from the word “brandr”, from the old northern
Scandinavian language, which means “to burn” (Khan and Mufti, 2007, p.75). It refers to
the producers practice to engrave the brand on their products. In English vocabulary, the
word brand initially referred to anything that was hot or burning, like a piece of
“firebrand” (Rajaram and Shelly, 2012, p.100). So, looking back centuries ago, the proof
of brand existence is founded in the spaces or locations that usually the selling of the
cattle was expected, in places where people were drawing certain representative symbols
of those animals. Starting with the 14th century, when the international commerce has
bloomed, lots of branding forms have been born or developed (the consumer, products,
services, corporative or place branding), and the owners of goods used certain symbols to
differentiate and promote their products..
2. The valences of marks and brands from a historical perspective
For the beginning, we can consider desirable the observation through which, at the
common knowledge level, it is appreciated that “the mark and brand tend to have similar
definitions” (Yang et al., 2012, p. 315), but the similarities are just on the surface, these
are apparent since “mark usage can be traced back to the 5.000 BC, much earlier than the
1 Faculty of Sociology and Communication, Transilvania University of Braşov, victor.briciu@unitbv.ro
2 Faculty of Sociology and Communication, Transilvania University of Braşov, arabela.baican@unitbv.ro.
Bulletin of the Transilvania University of Braşov • Series VII • Vol. 9 (58) No. 2 - 2016
138
birth of brands. The mark origin was evidenced in the Lascaux Caves of Southern France
were ownership marks with symbols were found” (Yang et al., 2012, p. 315). Brands and the
process of branding are as old as the human civilization, first under the “proto-brands” or
ancestral brands (Moore and Reid, 2008, p. 5), being assimilated to the meaning that we give
today to marks (Yang et al., 2012), followed by their transformation “with the birth of mass
marketing in the 1870s when packaged products became popular” (Yang et al., 2012, pp. 315-
316).
The historical perspective of brands evolves “from focusing on ownership to
emphasizing quality” (Yang et al., 2012, p. 316) and the information which indicates the
origin of the product (Moore and Reid, 2008, p. 6).
From the oldest times, people have used different engraves in order to recognize their
cattle. For almost 4000 years, brands have been used in order to establish the cattle
livestock, and this procedure had started approximately in the year 2000 BC. The term
maverick which initially meant unbranded calf, “comes from Texas rancher Samuel
Augustus Maverick who, following the American Civil War, decided that since all other
cattle were branded, his would be identified by having no markings at all”, explain
Rajaram and Shelly (2012, p. 100).
The cave paintings from the south-western Europe, from the Stone Age and Early
Bronze Age, show branded cattle, as well as paintings and Egyptian funerary monuments,
approximately 4000 years old. Initially, “the brands were painted on with pine tar or paint
in early history. Later, when the vast trail herds of cattle were driven north to market, hot
iron brands were used”. (Rajaram and Shelly, 2012, p. 101)
Brands were used also to identify goods property. Chinese ceramic goods, but also
Indian, Greek and Roman objects had different engravings to identify the ceramic type,
and information related to the property, the source of the materials and the period of
realization. “Some of the earliest examples of marked pottery appeared in China 4.000 –
5.000 years ago. Marks placed on Greek vases could denote not only the makers of the
pieces but also the merchant who bought the items `wholesale` and then sold them to
others in the marketplace. Archaeologists have identified roughly 1.000 different Roman
potters’ marks in use during the first three centuries of the Roman Empire, which would
seem to indicate that a large number of individuals were each producing a relatively small
number of goods” (Rajaram and Shelly, 2012, p. 101). Other different proofs that testify
the existence of the first branded objects also appear outside the Roman Empire: “There
were trademarks on pottery in Mesopotamia (now Iraq) dating as far as 3000 B.C. At the
time of the Pharaohs to identify their own products, brick makers in ancient Egypt placed
symbols on their products. Quarry marks and stonecutters’ signs have been discovered on
materials used in Egyptian buildings as much as 6.000 years ago. These marks and
similar markings on ancient buildings in Greece, Israel, Syria and Turkey seem to have
more closely resembled modern trademarks in terms of their function. Quarry marks
indicated the source of the stones used in buildings, and stonecutters’ signs, which might
helped workers, prove their claims to wages. Medieval stonemasons in Germany
developed a very elaborate system for crafting individualized marks that identified their
work, but the purposes underlying the markings were the same. Bricks and tiles from
Mesopotamia and Egypt bore inscriptions indicating the name of the monarch who had
commissioned the structure or who held power during the time of its construction. In
contrast, Roman builders stamped their bricks and tiles to indicate the source of the raw
materials used or to identify the person who either made the object or built the house in
V.-A. BRICIU et al.: A Brief History of Brands and the Evolution of Place Branding 139
which it was used. Even the signatures on paintings of famous artists like Leonardo Da
Vinci can be viewed as an early branding tool.” (Rajaram and Shelly, 2012, p. 101)
That is why, in this context, in the 12th century, England asked the producers of bread,
gold and silver to print unique or personal symbols on their own products, mainly to
make sure about the measurement’s honesty. In the Medieval period, printing houses,
paper producers and other members of other guilds have begun to use watermarks
(Rajaram and Shelly, 2012, p.101). In 1618, it’s recorded a case in the English justice
that brought the problem to a different level, showing the connection between the brand
and quality: “an owner manufacturing quality cloth took a rival to court for using the
mark in their low-grade fabric” (Yang et al., 2012, p. 317).
People also have been branded over time. Fugitives, slaves of the galley, gypsies,
people without shelters and hooligans have been marked with different “symbols of
shame” (Rajaram and Shelly, 2012, p. 101). “Between 1600s and 1800s, criminals were
branded (again literally), as a form of punishment and identification. For instance, in
England, they branded an S on a person’s cheek, while in France, they branded a fleur
de lis on the shoulder” (Rajaram and Shelly, 2012, p. 101).
We consider that “proto-brands” represented the attached information or the form of
packaging of the object or the product, expressing one of the three characteristics: place
of origin (expressed by a mark, signature or even by the physical properties of the used
raw material), the achievement of a basic function of marketing (assortment, transport
and storage) and the highlighting of the products quality.
The factories established during the Industrial Revolution time introduced the mass
production of goods, requesting a larger marketplace for the buyers who were used to
local products. In this context, “it quickly became apparent that a generic package of soap
had difficulty competing with familiar, local products” (Khan and Mufti, 2007, p. 78).
In the 19th century, in parallel with the development of packaged goods,
“industrialization moved the production of many household items, such as soap, from
local communities to centralized factories.” (Khan and Mufti, 2007, p. 78). When
transporting these goods, the factories were branding their own marks on the used
barrels, this way expanding the meaning of the term early brand to trademark (Rajaram
and Shelly, 2012, p.102). These new packaged products had to convince the market that
the users or the consumers could have the same amount of trust in these foreign, non-
domestic products: “Campbell soup, Coca-Cola, Juicy Fruit gum, Aunt Jemima and
Quaker Oats were among the first products to be ’branded’, in an effort to increase the
consumer’s familiarity with their products. Many brands of that era, such as Uncle
Ben’s rice and Kellogg’s breakfast cereal furnish illustrations of the problem.”
Rajaram and Shelly, 2012, p.102).
This new phenomenon created or determined a glut of branded products, of high
quality and having identical sizes and shapes „after the 1862 Merchandise Marks Act
and the 1875 Trade Marks Registration Act. [...] Bass & Company, the British brewery,
claims their red triangle brand was the world’s first trademark. Lyle’s Golden Syrup
makes a similar claim, having been named as Britain’s oldest brand, with its green and
gold packaging having remained almost unchanged since 1885. Another example comes
from Antiche Fornaci Giorgi in Italy, whose bricks are stamped or carved with the same
proto-logo since 1731, as found in Saint Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City” (Rajaram and
Shelly, 2012, p. 102).
According to Keller (1998) the branding process faces three different stages in the
Bulletin of the Transilvania University of Braşov • Series VII • Vol. 9 (58) No. 2 - 2016
140
twentieth century, i.e., the predominance of the commercialized brands (1915 - 1929), the
challenges for the brand producers (1930 - 1945) and the establishment of the standards
regarding the brand management (1946-1985) (apud Khan and Mufti, 2007, pp. 78-79).
3. The dynamic of branding perspectives
Ever since 1970s the managers related upon a cognitive model of branding, named by
Holt (2004) mind-share branding (of mental associations) or by other authors positional
branding (Pryor and Grossbart, 2007, p. 295), and only from 1990 a series of experts
have transformed this model, on emotional and relational basis, into what today we know
as emotional branding. Only with the growth and the influence of the internet it develops
a third model, the viral branding. Together, these three models could include, from a
theoretical point of view, almost any attempt of branding by any agents, consultants,
holders, etc.
In the next table (adapted after Holt, 2004, p. 14) are compared the characteristics of
this different perspectives on branding, alongside with the forth one, the cultural
branding model, proposed by Holt (2004).
The four branding model axioms comparison Table 1
Cultural
Branding Positional Branding
(Mind-Share
Branding)
Emotional
Branding Viral Branding
Key Words Cultural icons,
iconic brands
DNA, brand essence,
genetic code, USP
benefits, onion`s
sheets model
Brand
personality,
experiential
branding, brand
religion,
experience
economy
Stealth marketing,
cool hunt, meme,
grass roots,
infections,
seeding,
contagion, buzz
Brand
Definition Performer of, and
container for, an
identity myth
A set of abstract
associations
A relationship
partner
A communication
unit
Branding
Definition Performing myths Owning the
companies,
associations
Interacting with
and building of
relationships with
customers
Spreading viruses
through top
customers
Brand
Success
Exigency
(Required
for Success)
Performing a myth
that addresses an
acute contradiction
in society
Consistent expression
of the associations
Powerful
interpersonal
connection
Mass traffic of the
virus
Most
Appropriate
Applications
Identity categories Functional categories,
low-involvement
categories,
sophisticated products
Services, dealers
and retailers,
products and
special services
New fashion, new
technology
Holder’s or
Company’s
Role
Author Steward: consistent
expression of DNA in
all activities over time
Good friend Hidden master of
puppets:
motivates certain
consumers to
V.-A. BRICIU et al.: A Brief History of Brands and the Evolution of Place Branding 141
Cultural
Branding Positional Branding
(Mind-Share
Branding)
Emotional
Branding Viral Branding
promote or
advocate for the
brand
Source of
the
Consumer`s
Value
Buttressing identity Simplifying decisions Commit to the
brand,
relationship with
the brand
Being cool and
fashionable
Consumers’
Role - Personalizing the
brand`s myth in
order to fit personal
or individual
biography
- Ritual action to
experience the
myth when the
product is being
used
- Ensuring that
benefits become
salient through
repetition
- Perceiving benefits
when buying or using
the product
- Interaction with
the brand
- Building a
personal
relationship
- "Discovering"
the brand as their
own, DIY
- Word of mouth
4. Conceptual delimitations and historical perspectives of place branding
Branding of different places, locations and spaces, term associated to the post-modern
period, has European roots, with a powerful practical load and theoretical evolution from
British pioneers S. Anholt, K. Dinnie and W. Ollins.
The concept of country branding is also a practical opportunity for branding agents and
a scientific research field multi and inter-disciplinary, with an alternative often met in the
specialty literature as nation branding, which is, in turn, subsumed to a larger area, known
as place branding.
Despite the recent waves of interest and discussions, at national and international levels,
both from the academic environment, the practitioners, the responsible figures from the
public sphere and the ones targeted by the implementation of this phenomenon, the
research and the establishment of universal valid criteria, at least to the defining level of
this field of interest, of the notions that compose it and differentiate it from other related
fields (e.g., destination branding, place marketing, etc.) and some applicable and
functional methods and techniques, haven’t succeeded by now to cover the whole
knowledge area, this construct still being a very hazy one.
In addition, at the same level for this discussion, in the academic discourse are to be
found we can find other concepts, synonyms with place branding: thematic branding,
regional branding, geographic branding or geo-brands.
Therefore, from the first few steps, where usually we should have certainty or to know
the concepts that we are about to follow, to operationalize other concept, we are
confronted by inaccuracies, by valences, by an incapacity to classify, insertion or
grouping, because of the multitude of approaches, incongruities, haziness and, specially, a
confusion in defining these branding forms - as a prominent lineage of a field (even with
theoretical background or having practical valences) still in evolution.
Bulletin of the Transilvania University of Braşov • Series VII • Vol. 9 (58) No. 2 - 2016
142
5. Conclusions
We can observe a gradual transition and evolution of brands, from communicating the
information, having a utilitarian nature, regarding the origin and quality (to reduce the
risks and the haziness in the first human civilization periods – i.e., highlighting the
transactional side of the brand), to the addition of more characteristics, over time. Modern
human civilization brands include both the informational characteristics of proto-brands
and the ones associated to the building of an image (including status, power and intrinsic
value) and brand personality - i.e., emphasizing the transforming side of brands, as “the
postmodern consumers are into a process of continuous search for experiences” (Nechita,
2014, p. 270). In addition, the dynamic of the brand term involves an ever growing
complexity, including images or meaning (power, value and/or personality) alongside
other initial elements. In this way, “since the 18th-century England and France, there has
been a massive development of the knowledge, procedures, and theories within branding.
Contemporary branding theories have their origin and evolutionary starting point in the
mid-20th century, primarily due to the development of commercials in mass media”
(Hampf and Lindberg-Repo, 2011, p. 1). A different aspect in this paper targets the
confusions that are made between marks and name-brands, but, following the purpose
and the value chain of these, we can conclude that: “a mark represents a legal claim of
exclusive ownership right for an entity (e.g., company, organization, individual, product
or service). It tends to be grouped together with intellectual property and used as an
expression by the mark authority […] As for a brand, while securing the ownership is the
foundation, its emphasis is on the market awareness, reputation, and prominence and their
implications for the firm” (Yang et al., 2012, p. 317).
References
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Holt, D. B. (2004). How Brands Become Icons: The Principles of Cultural Branding. Boston,
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Khan, S. & Mufti, O. (2007). The Hot History & Cold Future of Brands. Journal of
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