What’s the oldest logo you can think of? Coca-Cola? Jell-0? Alka-Seltzer? A few great brands of today date back to the late 19th century. Most to some period in the 20th century. You want an old brand? Instead of 100 years…try going back about 5,000 years.
The photo at left is of a Mesopotamian bottle stopper. Approximately 8000 years ago people starting marking stoppers with personal seals, in effect, creating the first branded goods. At least that’s the theory of David Wengrow, an archaeologist at University College, London. He believes that around 5,000 years ago, as cities grew and people had to start dealing with products produced by people they didn’t directly know, the symbols on those stoppers were likely used to ensure quality or embody trust for the people consuming the contents.
Sound familiar? “Ensuring quality”, “providing trust” for consumers – at their heart, these has always been the fundamental functions of brands and brand symbols. As long as people consume things they didn’t create themselves, there will always be a need for brands to ensure quality and embody trust. How brands do that, as well as what other real or perceived benefits a brand can provide may be changing. What’s worked for brands for over 5,000 isn’t going to stop working tomorrow. But change it will. So what are your thoughts: Is branding dying? Or just evolving? What are the clues you see that demonstrate the evolution?