By Rex Hammock

Fire-heated branding of farm animals originated in Egypt around 4,000 years ago as a technique to identify the owner of livestock. The practice of burning a symbol into the hide of cattle stayed fairly consistent for four millennia.

However, in recent years, other forms of livestock identification have been developed that are more humane and more effective, including freeze branding, inner lip or ear tattoos, earmarking, ear tagging, radio-frequency identification, and tagging with a microchip implant.

Something similar has taken place with the word branding that marketers use. For most of the era of mass marketing, the concept of branding was about creating a visual symbol and company name that captured the essence of an enterprise. The goal was to name a product and design a great symbol that would provide the foundation for stories and product mythology. The best brands would even inspire customers to share their own stories, enhancing the mythology. Branding would enhance and add value to something generic.

Like modern livestock branding, the idea of what it means to develop a brand will always evolve with new technology. Branding has become more than a representation of a company: Great brands have become communities, even causes.

Today, the practice of branding is as much about capturing and telling stories as it is about designing symbols. And today, the tools of branding include customer media and content that range from social media to coffee table books to streaming video to live events.

Great logo design is a part of great branding, as are design standards and font selection. But as organizations’ ability to use a vast array of emerging storytelling media grows, the options for what branding means will grow as well.


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