A static question, with answers that just keep changing over and over again. Branding in simple words is the promotion of products and services with different marketing tools and a dynamic marketing mix. Branding has existed since the 1500s but has evolved into a proper disciple much later.
Branding is highly dynamic in nature; it can change overnight and has the power of changing perspectives. It is a very important tool for companies to promote and sell their products/services to consumers.
The industrial revolution from 1750-1850s brought about mass production. Markets became heterogenous and consumers now started having choices. The years after that saw a tremendous increase in inventions. Coca Cola (1886), Colgate (1873), Unilever (1929), Lego (1932). Companies started branding their products and services through newspapers. Print ads were available at the time. The posters included informative ads about the products.
The beginning of the 20th century saw a shift in advertising, and now brands made use of radio stations using jingles and melodious tunes for branding their products/services.
Soon after the radio came televisions, the first television ad ever was made by Bulova Watches in 1941, right before a New York baseball game. Televisions picked up massive popularity. Brands started targeting customers through these mediums and rose to success.
The decades of 1950s and 1960s are known as the “modern ages” of branding. This was the time when, the term “USP” (unique selling proposition) was first used by Rosser Reeves. The branding structure here included the usage of USPs massively on all marketing fronts to sell the products. The durability, strengths and other unique propositions of the products were advertised. Coloured televisions gained attention of audiences, large colour posters and billboards were used. Companies now started hiring brand managers, in order to have a competitive advantage and to outdo its competitors.
Something a little special happened in the 1960s, where branding started focusing more on tapping the emotional side of buyers than the USPs of the products. When a consumer is tapped emotionally by using psychological tactics, the buying pattern has a considerable change, which could result in good sales or vice versa. The era of 1960s also saw the method of targeting the younger demographics as the youth are the trendsetters of tomorrow, as seen in ads by Pepsi. This methodology is still followed by many companies.
Overall branding here was slowly shifting towards impacting the consumers emotionally, and the marketing mix was customized in a similar manner.
Slowly after in the eras of 1970s-1990s, branding started picking up, companies started focusing on their logos, identities etc. The brands evolved; branding shifted from informing the customers to becoming more intimate. Different companies started having different USPs, competition increased but so did the consumer choices. Employee participation was encouraged, revamping of brand slogans were focused on. As an example, the tagline by L’Oreal put out by a female copywriter in 1971, “Because I'm worth it” changed the way women were seen. This was self-empowerment and women were now shown powerful and not just housemakers.
The era after this was commenced by the digital age (late 90s early 2000s). Televisions broadcasts had taken over print media and steadily different forms of advertising in forms of mobile and email started falling into place. Brands became stronger and started multiple expansions globally after the changed economic reforms of different countries. Mobile phone marketing and telemarketing became evident. Customer segmentation also started taking place.
Soon after the digital media took over all traditional forms of advertising, and branding was changed forever. With the growth of mobile phones along with the advancement in information, communication technology many applications took birth. Facebook (2004), Blackberry Messenger (2005), Twitter (2006), Instagram (2010) etc. New applications provided new opportunities for brands to form their bases, target more specific demographics and run ads respectively. E-commerce started growing and the world started becoming a smaller place. Companies began having online presences and branding was not just related to the products it also included institutional messaging and campaigns to make the world a better place. Celebrity endorsements increased substantially. The market gaps were filled with an overload of products in the market.
The days today, (2010s-2020s); tremendous changes resulted in more e-commerce websites, online and personal selling both, more customization and evolution of brands with the changing times. Viral marketing, moment marketing became the new trends. Then the pandemic hit. This again resulted in changing brand strategies. Today having an online presence is the only way you can ensure that your business is functional. A lot of more applications have entered the market, product innovation for increase in sales is mandatory. Consumer is the king, so branding is focused in that sense. Many great campaigns by companies like “Kuch Meetha Hoajaye” by Cadbury, “Share A Coke” by Coca Cola etc. impact the emotional sentiments of users and increase brand awareness and sales.
Thus, to conclude it's safe to say branding is not fixed. It keeps changing again and again. We are at the golden ages of branding with a beautiful combination of traditional and modern marketing tools. The strategies used today may continue for a long time or become redundant immediately. Branding is a disciple where a new morning brings a new chapter. For any brand/company to progress it is evident that they need to adopt the changing strategies to be at the top or as market leaders.