Welcome to all that seek knowledge and harbor an abundance of curiosity.
I’m Alley Jean and we will be taking my time machine through history to witness the evolution of branding. So let’s go! Come on Kingsley (my English Cream Golden Retriever) get in! Let’s set the controls for 1877. But, before I pull the lever to begin our travels I want to quickly inform you of the origins of the modern word, “brand.” The word was derived from the ancient Norse, Scandinavian word, “Brandr” meaning to burn. Now, many, many ancient civilizations use what I would think of as “proto-brands” or “ancestral brands.” Such as wax seals on letters, coin stamps, battle flags, and even vessels to carry goods.
These proto-brands for ancient civilizations were information that completed at least one of three functions.
- Information regarding place of origin.
- Information used to allow basic functions of marketing such as transportation, sorting and storage.
- Information on the quality to remove risk and uncertainty in the customers purchasing decision.
Since the Industrial Revolution, it is now understood that branding is not just a graphical representation of a product or service. Branding is the communication of features and benefits that reach its audience with an emotional connection. Our focus will be on the 18th, 19th, and 20th centuries where modern branding began.
So let’s pull the time machine lever and off we go to 1877!
So here we are in Staffordshire England. Let’s make our way to the local pub. Here we are in the pub. This is a place to meet, relax, where people drink and talk and traditionally play games like cards and billiards. And this is why we are here, a bottle of Bass Ale made by the Bass Brewery. Here this brand, with its iconic red triangle logo, will soon become one of England’s biggest beer companies.
This logo is the first trademark ever registered in England. Let’s have a taste. The taste of this ale has a thick body while still being thin with a caramelized sweet malty taste upfront. Very good indeed! Little do they know they will be producing 1,500,000 barrels annually by 1890.
Now this red triangle on the bottle is our focus. For the time, it was practical to use just the shape of a triangle because there were few logos of any sort back then. In its simplicity, the red triangle signifies vital energy and the brand name is underlining the logo in a handwritten authenticity. Let’s have a few more sips.
This logo and branding will become culturally significant. A striking emblem of trust. Bass Brewery will go on to become a pioneer in international branding. It becomes so iconic you can find it in the painting (A Bar at Folies Bergere) by Edouard Monet. This is proof that a simplistic logo can be striking and timeless and still express reliability.
I was finishing my bottle of ale and hadn’t noticed the great struggle Kingsley had been going through. As he patiently sat next to me at the bar he had eyed up a turkey leg being held by a passed-out bloke at the table next to us. The man had taken one bite and out he went. The leg was still clutched in his hand and fell to his side. Kingsley’s eyes were glassed over being overtaken by the aroma. His mouth was foaming to the point of looking rapid. Finally, he could take no more and stripped the meat right off the bone startling the man. The man held the stripped bone up in front of his face and fought to focus on it. Then he peered down at Kingsley and pointed. He shouted above all others, “That beast ate my turkey leg.” The tavern went silent. “Sir, sorry sir, please let me get you another, I quickly told him. “No!” he answered. “That ghostly critter belongs to me now!” I shot up from the barstool and began singing Celine Dion’s (My Heart Will Go On). I sang as if our lives depended on it. Every man in the pub was hypnotized. Some went into a catatonic glee while others placed their hats on their hearts. An abundance of turkey legs was thrown at our feet. Even the drunken scary man threw his bone to Kingsley. Everyone was now standing. I slowly glided to the door singing in octaves I didn’t know I had within me. As I finished the song we slowly backed out the door and the place erupted in applause. I must admit I stepped back into the tavern soaking up the frenzied approval. Then Kingsley and I ran our bloody bums off while everyone waited for an encore. I probably had a dozen marriage proposals coming my way which made me run faster!
If you are wondering why I chose that song to sing it is because I was just thinking about when the Titanic sank in 1912. There were 12,000 bottles of Bass Ale on board. Boy if that story can’t get any sadder. Oh, Jack, I would never have let you go!
Back at the time machine, we set the controls for home. (sounds of blasting off.) Join me next week for another Alley Jean’s Brand Time Machine travel!