Leaving Your Mark

Posted: March 8, 2013

Topics: Culture

Isn't it interesting how certain words change meaning over the course of their lifetime? A good example is a particular word that we use constantly in the advertising industry: brand or branding.

If we take our 21st century consumer marketing hats off for a moment and look way back, over a thousand years ago, the precursor of the word was used in northern Europe to describe a burning piece of wood or torch. It wasn't long before "branding" became associated with the burnt imprint given to denote possession, or to mark criminals. Mark criminals? That's right, there was a time when a "brand" symbolized the poor reputation and unsavory characteristics of an individual. It wasn't until the 20th century, just a few generations ago, that branding (and the concept of a brand) began to evolve into what it is today.

But what exactly is that? Well, that could be answered in a lot of ways. Some might say that branding is the development of an identity through the use of distinctive visual elements and other marketing communications. It's also common to think of a brand as being one in the same as the product it's associated with: "Now 5x stronger than the other leading brand!" While both examples are true, they don't tell the entire story. The real essence of the modern concept of brand/branding, I think, still relates to the ancient definition, but flips it on its head. Not unlike the marking of criminals, branding is still intended to convey reputation, but now it's meant to reflect the positive attributes and distinctive characteristics a product or organization possesses. Take a look at the leaders in almost any industry – there's always a seamless relationship between what's being sold and the story being told. Apple, Nike, Mercedes Benz – these are the kinds of organizations that have connected deeply with their customers; where the brand becomes an experience.

A brand is more than just a beautiful logo, great colors and a slick website. And it's more than the sum of all your marketing efforts.

It's certainly more than a lasting mark given to unsavory characters.

Although Tiger Woods, JoPa and Lance Armstrong might tell you otherwise.

Jon Schofield is senior art director at PUSH 22. He's not afraid to use both sides of his brain to find the right solution for any creative challenge.