Branding, The Symbols Of Commerce

I wonder how old you were when you started to notice branding? Do you remember as a child you were told to write your name on your school pencil case?, I wrote mine on my rubber and my ruler and even tried to write on the side of pencil which proved difficult.
A little label with my name on it was sewn into my jumper, blazer and sports kit. This was obviously to claim ownership of my belongings just in case they got lost, but in theory this was my personal branding at a very early age.

Origins of Branding

Branding in its most primitive form is well known from the cattle industry. Cattle owners in the US and Australia cannot store their “stock” in the same way that other business owners can. To be raised healthy and productive, these vast quantities of cattle have to roam large land areas. In most cases these areas stretch to thousands of acres which are difficult to watch over, or to ‘shepherd’ in the normal sense of the word.

A cattle owner originally marked each cow or bull with their unique symbol by burning them with a hot iron. This is where the word brand came into use. A stolen animal could be easily identified by the brand mark and this helped reduce theft.

Carpenters and joiners would mark their work by carving a unique symbol in the project they are working on, these marks can be found sometimes partly hidden on the underside of maybe a chest of drawers or tables, but can easily be seen marked in the oak beams of old timber frame houses.

A very important event occurred in the UK in 1876. Bass Ale presented their barrels with their standard branding of a red triangle. Most people recognized it and thought nothing more about it. The stock was unloaded and moved and no one knew how this was different from the day before. The difference was that the red triangle was now a trademark. No other company in the UK, perhaps the world could use that symbol to represent their product.

While the legal concept was new, the logo, the symbol and the ale that it represented was not. Most people would know immediately what was in those barrels without even reading it. Branding had been used for years prior to the advent of the trademark, but now it was official.

Other items were marked through the ages into modern times. Cigars, wine, spices and imports. These started with the marks of the family’s house that owned and distributed them and expanded into companies when several people worked together as company owners. These served the same anti-theft purposes in the beginning, but then it got to where customers and clients used the branding marks for identification. Owners of inns would swear by wine with the mark of the house of “whomever” or the baker would only use flour from the “X trading company”.

Modern Day Branding

Today, branding has become so important that new companies will spend tens of thousands of pounds paying third party consultants to design and deploy their brands. Choice of colors, content and wording all play a part in making the popular brands of the day. Everyone can recognize a McDonald’s or Coca cola logo from a mile away. We no longer need to read the words for such big brands, but rather recognizing the shapes of these logo in an instant because we have seen them a thousand times, they are now embedded into our sub conscious.


Modern day cattle advertising.

If you’re in the process of designing a logo for your start-up or you’re rebranding your business, take time to think about your logo. You may be turned off by the seemingly touchy-feely interpretations that professionals put to their logo designs, but there is psychological theory to back up what they say.

All the elements of a logo can infer meanings to our subconscious, from evolutionary responses to more modern day associations within our day-to-day lives. These interpretations are the basis for judgements about the organization behind the branding. Your logo will communicate a level of expectation, like quality, price and experience and getting it wrong can cost you dearly as you attract the wrong kind of customer.

Although you can change your logo over time, assigning time and money to the process now will pay dividends in years to come. You’ll have an instantly recognizable logo that will help you build loyal customers who promote your company for you.


Dean Williams is a design and marketing blogger working for Print-Print Limited, promoting business and building brands through quality print marketing. If you’re interested in small business promotion then please get in touch

About Dean Williams

Dean Williams is a design and marketing blogger working for Print-Print Limited, promoting business and building brands through quality print marketing. If you’re interested in small business promotion then please get in touch
  • Abbie Dulwich

    Really like this blog, it helped me answer a question for my college paper.