Your Brand, Your Business, Your Beautiful Product

by on January 17, 2011

Gloria's beautiful quilt, photo by rsgranne

Gloria's beautiful quilt: Photo by rsgranne

“Beautiful forms and compositions are not made by chance, nor can they ever, in any material, be made at small expense. A composition for cheapness and not excellence of workmanship is the most frequent and certain cause of the rapid decay and entire destruction of arts and manufactures.” ~ Josiah Wedgwood

Branding isn’t a new concept; it isn’t even a centennial concept. In fact, branding started back in the ancient days of Babylon, Greece and Rome, when men wore dresses (sure, they called them togas) and the term “Spartan” was coined.

Potters carved their initials, symbol or recognizable mark in their handiwork. Gold and silversmiths marked their work; papermakers left watermarks. Cattle and other livestock have worn literal brands since 2000 BC, if not before.

Why? What did a brand mean to our ancestors?

For cattle, it was a mark of ownership. Their unique brand made it easy to recognize a rancher’s livestock (because all cows look alike, you know) in the event that the livestock strayed or were stolen. If they sold good milking cows or healthy livestock for food, that unique symbol became a sign of trust. You always know you have a good milking cow if it wears the XYZ Ranch brand.

Marks made by the crafter of a product were used for the same thing plus some. For example, Josiah Wedgwood was a master potter who sold high quality work. British nobility bought from him, as did an Empress of Russia. Josiah’s pottery brought high acclaim and several reproductions. Many people tried to replicate both his work and his branding mark – because Wedgwood pottery meant high quality.

While there are many other examples, Josiah Wedgwood is also an excellent example because of another relevant creation of his: direct marketing. Credited as the inventor of modern marketing, Josiah set out to find new ways to get products sold after he lost his leg to a childhood disease. He couldn’t turn a potter’s wheel after that, but he sure could turn a phrase (pardon the pun).

So what does all this have to do with you? What does it have to do with modern day branding? What does it have to do with your products?

Brands Still Mean the Same Thing

In ancient days, that unique mark meant more than, “yeah, that’s my cow”. It also meant:

  • “I made this product.”
  • “I’m responsible for this product if something goes wrong.”
  • “This product has passed my quality assurance test.”
  • “You’ve used this product before, liked it, and now recognize my brand as one you can trust.”

Isn’t it amazing how brands have carried over the same ideas today? Brands are valued for exactly these reasons. A brand is more than your company logo; it incorporates everything you want consumers to feel about your business.

Lessons in Branding

Josiah Wedgwood taught more than how to make high quality pottery. He also taught life lessons that any marketer or business owner should pay attention, such as finding branding opportunities everywhere. Building on success, in other words.

After selling a set of pottery to the queen, he began calling himself the “Potter to Her Majesty”. He changed the product name from “creamware” to “Queen’s Ware”. What happened? People bought the Wedgwood Queen’s Ware because royalty bought it, never mind that it was also beautiful and utilitarian. The man was a marketing genius.

Here are a few more branding lessons you might want to keep in mind:

  • “Branding” is interchangeable with “reputation”. When you say, “I’m building my brand”, what you really mean is you’re building your reputation. What does your reputation say about you?
  • Branding happens whether you mean it to or not. Just by running a business and selling a service/product, you’re developing your brand. If you don’t plan and work towards building a positive one, you end up with whatever your buyer or – oh horrors! – your competition defines for you.
  • Colors say something about your brand. Oh my, yes, it’s true. Rather than try to add more to the content mill about branding and colors, let me point you toward Your Brand’s True Colors. Even though it’s a few years old, the article’s information is still highly applicable.
  • Get emotional. This doesn’t mean cry and blubber because your brand got a bad review or so-and-so said they don’t like you. This means create an emotional connection. Don’t just pretend to understand your consumers’ pains… really take the time to try and understand. Brainstorm:

“Okay, I’m the consumer. I step in my house and it reeks. My carpet is dingy, spotted and smells like dirty feet. I can’t get the smell out of my nose. I really need a carpet cleaner that will take care of the smell and bring back the brighter colors without the carpet matting up.”

Ad: Tired of smelling dirty feet when you walk in the house? Bring back brighter colors and a fresh home with Clear Colors Carpet Cleaner – guaranteed to have your carpet looking (and smelling) brand new.

  • Mona Lisa your branding. I came across this very inspirational article while (gasp shock) looking for inspiration for this one. The article is about creating curiosity with your brand, process, product, etc. Any article that starts out with “Have you mistakenly trained your branding to fall over and play dead?” is a must read in my book.

Take time with your brand. Decide what you want to say and how you’re going to say it. Much like when branding cows, you’re pretty much stuck with the mark you make on the buying world. Taking the branding part of your business lightly is a good way to find yourself singing for your supper.

In conclusion, remember that your company brand is extremely important. It signifies to the consumer everything positive (or negative) about your company, product, service, etc. You can’t afford to treat it as an unimportant nonentity that just “happened” to come along.



{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

Glenn Ferrell July 13, 2011 at 8:03 am

Nice, thoughtful, engaging post, Jahnelle !

I’m a sucker (maybe just a fan) for ancient branding stories. And since I’m also a fan of good wine … did you know that there was a huge trade in branded wines in the Agean that started as early as the 5th century BC ? Chios, Lesbos and many other city-states had a state-sponsored “brand” or mark that went on every amphora that was exported. Huge quantities of this stuff was consumed by wealthy city-states like Athens (see Plato’s Symposium, Athenaeus Dino-Sophists, etc.).

You can see these brand marks in the museums in Athens (if you can thread your way through the riots.) Brands identified quality and taste and therefore supported substantial demand, and therefore pricing. (Karl Marx – eat your heart out.)

The Greek vines eventually found their way to a little Greek colony – now Marsailles – and we get the beginnings of French wine – from there to California — from there to my fridge :)

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JRPittman July 13, 2011 at 9:02 am

Thanks, Glenn :) I’m glad you think so! I don’t know as I’m a fan, in particular, of “ancient branding stories” as I am so much a fan of ancient history. – But then, what you shared IS ancient history lol. Very interesting, and I really appreciate you sharing this example of how branding works, even way back when. A strong brand (i.e. one that says “quality”) = increased demand = higher pricing.

And to think, if those amphoras hadn’t been branded and hadn’t been quality, you might never have been able to find it in your fridge (very convenient, not having to go to the store for it :P ) Thanks again for your comment!

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Gabriella July 13, 2011 at 10:24 am

Ahh yes wine in a box, gotta love America! lol Not to get picky but Italians have over 5000 grapes while the French only have 12… Just saying ;) Kisses & hugs from Italy.

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Glenn Ferrell July 14, 2011 at 7:26 am

Ha ! You’re showing your colors :) (Hey… I’ve got a case in the basement too… but it’s not sideways.)

Never read Pliny but I’ve got a book (“Siren Feasts”) that says he’s the guy to go to if you ever feel the need to understand Italian wine history. Anyway – I do have a new theory — maybe bottles of Italian wine consumed is inversely proportional to Klout scores… some sober work to do when you get home :)

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Anita Carvallo January 29, 2011 at 5:33 am

This is the 2nd instance I have encountered your site in the last few weeks. Seems like I ought to take note of it.

Site: Orange Messagerie

Reply

Eugene Knus January 27, 2011 at 4:23 pm

Valuable information and excellent design you got here! I would like to thank you for sharing your thoughts and time into the stuff you post!! Thumbs up!

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John January 17, 2011 at 2:44 pm

I liked how you used the ancient days of Babylon, Greece and Rome to show how valuable a brand is. I didn’t know color played an important role in branding, definitely something to think about. I agree with all your points. More companies should take pride in their brand and try to always improve it.

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