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How brands have changed over time

How brands have changed over time
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This presentation is about how brands have changed over time. And I’m going to suggest that there have been five different versions of brand over the years. Here’s where the word comes from originally– ancient Norse. Now, that’s a Viking word all about burning. And over the years, you can see how the meaning has changed into, first of all a burning piece of wood, and then into the mark made by that burning item– for example, on cattle. That’s the branding of cattle. And then, a mark, not burnt, but usually printed on a product, a trademark. And then, finally, the idea of brand that we talk about in this course, which is all about an impression burnt into the minds of consumers.
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And the word has really taken off relatively recently. This is the Google Ngram Viewer, which counts the number of times a particular word occurs in all of the books digitised by Google. And here, I’ve asked it to count the number of times the word brand appears. And you can see that it really took off right at the end of the 20th century. Worth thinking quickly about why that is.
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So here’s our history of branding. Starting off at version 1. People, from about 1660, started to use the word brand to mean something that had been going on for a long time, which is the burning of a mark onto property, particularly cattle, to signify ownership. Here are some burned brand marks.
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And here’s an interesting character called Samuel Maverick, who was a rancher in Texas in America in the 19th century. He refused to brand his cattle, saying it was cruel. And that’s where the word maverick, meaning a nonconformist, came from.
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So there we have brand version 1. But that’s only the start of the story. Version 2 appeared from about 1820 onwards. And people began to use the word to mean marks made not just on property, but on products, made by the manufacturer to signify quality, and to get, if possible, a higher price. Here are some early registered brand marks, trade marks, from the 1870s. Worth thinking, what do they all have in common?
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And here’s a famous painting from 1882 called A Bar at the Folies Bergere in Paris. And if you look at the bottom right-hand corner of this picture, you will see something you should recognise, which I think shows how quickly the visual language of commercial branding turns into the visual language of culture.
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Advertising at this time was, in many ways, very straightforward. It simply told you what the functional benefits of the products were– delicious and refreshing for Coca-Cola.
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So there’s brand version 2.
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Version 3 appears from about 1920 onwards, with the rise of mass media. And the great idea here was that if we could associate our product with an idea to do with deep emotional benefits, or with an improved self-image, with pleasure, then people will not only by more, but they’ll stay more loyal. They will keep buying your product.
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One of the people behind this idea was a influential but now rather forgotten man called Edward Bernays, who happened to be the nephew of Sigmund Freud, the inventor of psychoanalysis. He wrote a book called Propaganda. He was one of the founders of the public relations industry.
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And as a result of all of this, advertising became more sophisticated. So by the 1950s, Coca-Cola isn’t just saying that it’s refreshing and thirst-quenching. It’s saying it’s a sign of good taste. If you want to look good to your friends and feel good about yourself, then drink Coca-Cola. Much more sophisticated. And in the 1960s there was a thing called the creative revolution in advertising, which produced even cleverer advertising, like advert for Volkswagen, which appears to say that Volkswagen Beetle car are lemons. But actually, it’s saying that VW is incredibly good on quality control, and very rigorous at picking out any faulty cars– any lemons– from the production line.
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So that’s brand version 3.
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Brand version for is really interesting. More recently, from about 1980, people started to use the word brand to refer not just to products, but to organisations. This is a practise that had been going on for a long time, called corporate identity. But it began to be called corporate branding. And the idea was that you could get consumers to feel quite a strong sense of belonging to a particular organisation, so they would keep buying from it.
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And a great master of this art was, and still is, Apple. This is a still from a very famous advert in 1984 that launched the Apple Macintosh. And that refers to George Orwell’s book 1984, suggesting that the traditional computer industry was like Big Brother, and that the Apple Mac was the thing which liberates you, the individual, from the world of Big Brother.
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And another brilliant corporate brand is Virgin, which has been able to use its brands to move from one industry to many.
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So there’s brand version 4.
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And then finally, much more recently, from about 2000 onward, we’ve seen a new breed of online businesses. And their brands work in a very different way. They are intended to create network effects, to get more and more people using that particular online service, because that service enabled people to do things they couldn’t do before.
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So here are some examples. Google saying search. You can search for anything in a way that you could never do before. YouTube. You can upload films. You can publish your films in a way that was impossible for. AirBnB saying you can list your space. You can rent out your house or your apartment to others in a way that you could never do before.
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So that’s brand version 5.
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So what happens next? All five of these versions of brand are still in use. It’s not that one succeeds the previous one. They’re all still in use. But what would you say was the dominant one in the world at the moment? And what’s going to happen next?

Brand has become big business in the last 20 years, but it’s been around for centuries. This slideshow looks at how its meaning and role has changed over time. Think about what changes, what stays the same as the concept evolves over hundreds of years. How did we get to where we are with this concept, word and idea?

Try drawing a mindmap or timeline to capture the concepts as they evolve.

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