Friday, February 10, 2012

The Evolution of Branding

What exactly IS branding? These days…it can actually be quite confusing. Look up “branding” on Wikipedia and you’ll get a multitude of different approaches, variables, and branding concepts. As a designer, it’s my job to understand and help to develop appropriate branding for each of our clients. However, the interesting part of branding, for me, is it’s evolution.

Centuries ago, branding was the conventional method cattle owners used to distinguish whose livestock belonged to whom. By burning a distinctive mark onto the flesh of an animal, farmers were able to identify and prove (or establish) ownership. Throughout history people were likewise branded as slaves or criminals, and in Nazi Germany Jews were branded by the yellow star. Later negative connotations were used for branding as well, such as being branded as a liar, cheat or thief.

Today, branding (as it applies to advertising) provides your target market with a way to identify your company. It communicates what sets you apart, and this idea of modern branding was only born 50 or so years ago driven by the consumption of the masses and the desire to appeal to that mass market. Every day and every moment presents an opportunity for you to promote your brand and build strong brand recognition. Marketing messages were primarily product-focused with emphasis placed on communication about the product. However, the average consumer will see or hear close to 3,000 marketing messages per day….that’s entirely too many to pay attention to.

So, the question is “how do you adapt to the changing marketing climate?”  The answer lies in having a deeper understanding of your brand. A crucial factor in brand survival is making an emotional connection with the consumer. The way to distinguish your brand from the clutter, is to be relevant. How many commercials do you get stuck in your head, or can you repeat word for word? Not very many, but the ones you do remember stuck with you for a reason.


More and more people today are forced to work longer hours, to commute further, and therefore are connecting through social media. This must be integrated into any successful branding campaign, but it’s not the end all be all. We, as marketers must really dive in and understand our clients and their marketplace. We’ve got to do the research up front in order to determine how best to build brands and meet that emotional connection so that people will remember. And actually, a lot of what it takes is doing things the good old-fashioned way.

People yearn for the emotional connection that they’re missing due to increased workload, overwhelming amounts of marketing, and increased technology.  Depending on your medium, creating a brand that will touch as many of the five senses as possible, as well as establishing an emotional connection will enhance the probability that your brand will be recognized – and chosen.  And that, in fact, is what branding is all about!What do you think? 

Which brands are doing a particularly good job of capturing our imagination?

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