Branding – Yesteryears and The Tomorrows

The term branding has been much bandied about, from teeny boppers to mature adults. And each has his or her own take on the subject. Almost everyone acknowledges the origins of the term – when farmers and shepherds branded their cattle with different geometrical shapes using hot metal rods to differentiate their cattle from the rest. Perhaps that gave rise to the emblems of today, updated with different color schemes.

The Elements of a Brand

Today an emblem is just one element of a brand. We have logos (the stylized written type/font of the name), tag lines or slogans, color schemes etc which form units of a brand. This is as far as the physical aspect of a brand goes. Marketers then went on to add more differentiators to brands. They began using images/visuals/pictures et al which gave meaning or meant something to the consumer, not just in physical terms. Thus mental images of a brand got conjured. Mascots or animated visuals also made a mark on brands. The race went on. From physical and mental differentiators, advertisers began using emotions to identify their brands.

Brands of Yesteryears

Thus brands got identified as persons/places/products which held a physical/mental/emotional association or connotation with its target audience or customer. Colgate toothpaste an ancient brand, which has succeeded to remain relevant today with a leadership ranking, differentiated itself and continues to do so, through the physical logo, the red and white colour scheme/pack, and mental/emotional connect with the elders in a joint family using and recommending it.  One of India’s leading radio and audio brands, Murphy used a cute baby girl with a finger on her lips, to symbolize the brand. HMV (His Master’s Voice)   an audio company of yesteryears, resorted to a dog listening to his masters voice (an emotional appeal) in front of a huge conical speaker – the audio system of that generation. Our very own national carrier, Air India, created the Maharajah, loved by the masses, for his turban and huge moustache. Perhaps one of the best cases of utilizing emotions to recall/differentiate a brand would be that of Fevicol.

What Will Tomorrow Bring?

Does the same branding hold good today? With so much clutter and competition in mass media, advertising and paid media is considered an intrusion. The emphasis is on the digital platforms through earned and owned media. The consumer is strictly selective of the media of his or her own choice. To that extent, branding too is undergoing a sea change or rather, becoming more complicated with other aspects thrown in, thanks to Social Media and platforms like FB, Twitter, Instagram, etc. Here brand conversations reign supreme. A dissatisfied customer or a poor client experience can cause havoc to a brand. Poor or bad reviews on sites like Zomato, Trip Advisor, etc are glaring examples on how marketers are held accountable for their service/products which in turn impacts their brands.  The online or digital media dispenses justice and has replaced the consumer courts.
Ironically it is this same medium that has also made or glorified brands like Infosys – even if the logo recall is not too good. What about the very popular, WhatsApp? Does it have a logo or any imagery attached? Brand conversations and experience, yes – outstanding! And can anyone ever forget the giant search engine – Google, which has become so generic and replaced the term “search”. It has dared to go against all branding norms and principles, changing its logo every single day!  Just google and check!
And guess what tomorrow will bring to branding.

I have spent my career in branding/communications and now am reinventing myself on the digital platform, beginning with content writing. Social Media too has my interest, however changing technology deters me. Loved reading but that has now taken a back seat as I find myself spending a lot of time on the net. Usually laid-back, but when given a challenge can be extremely determined and focussed.