The Art of Brand Building: The Old Science of Survival

If you think that the idea of branding is modern, then you are mistaken. Since the time people created goods to trade or sell, or as far back in time as when people owned cattle, there have been trademarks, symbols, signs or posters, pictorials, and hawkers. In order to distinguish their goods, craftsmen imprinted trademarks on their goods and creations to signify the maker and origin. Ultimately, trademarks assured the buyer or trader of the quality of the merchandise. To denote ownership of property, at first cattle were branded with paint or pine tar; later, unfortunately, as seen in the history of our forefathers, cattle and sheep were branded with hot irons. Sadly, humans were also branded for various reasons. Slaves were branded to mark ownership; criminals were branded with disgrace.

Times have changed. In the 1800s, people bought goods out of need through barter trade. As the years passed, towards the end of the 19th Century, we saw a massive shift in attitudes to products and purchasing of things. This push was led by a collection of new technology and methods of communication such as the invention of mail order catalogues, the advancement of railways and the expansion of the postal service. The age of communication was born, giving people the ability to shape their worlds. The population was empowered to buy status. By the 1920’s, especially in the West, society evolved from a culture of need to a culture of desire.

The end of the Second World War saw a manufacturing boom as many factories, which were set up in order to produce military equipment, could now be used to manufacture products. With the mass production capability, brands could now reach most of the population. By 1960s, the stiff competition had begun and companies had to distinguish themselves from competition through unique key selling points. Companies had to differentiate their services and their identities in terms of logos and slogans. During the 1980s era, brands began to personify themselves to the consumers as offering more than just a product. Brands began communicating aspiration and identity.

Today, brands have built emotional connections by meeting human needs. We have thousands of companies, with thousands of taglines and logos, each calling out to the attention of the consumer. Our attention spans are incredibly short and brands are dying to capture us with their adverts, billboards and communications. In the age of technology, unfortunately, brands live and die by the will of the consumer in an instant.

The rise of mass media in industrialized countries contributed greatly to the rise of a “brand world” and a desire for brands. The psychology of brand communication has influenced the growth of brand name. We believe that brand name X cleans your clothes better than the others…the power of branding. We spend millions of shillings on commercial spots, exhibitions, marketing collateral so that we can resonate with a consumer-top of mind awareness through a consistent look, style, image and personality of the brand.

But what is in a name you may ask? Everything! A great name identifies you. A great name speaks for you. It offers the unusual. Building a name, a brand… takes time and effort. It is not a quick fix; brands have been built before. It requires dedication, money and love. You cannot build what you do not believe in.


Take a look at the Java House Brand that has consistently grown to be a homegrown brand. Every corner of Nairobi, now has a Java House, making it one of the favourite coffee spots for business meetings, lovers or just people looking to find a chill spot.

Everyone has sampled the ‘coke side of life’. The Coca-Cola brand is present in every country and arguably it’s the world’s first true global brand having started from humble beginnings through a Pharmacist, John Pemberton. Coca-Cola began its marketing through a newspaper advert that invited people to try the new and popular soda fountain drink. The brand began with a great vision and soon communicated this through a marketing campaign. Look at the brand now, it keeps reinventing itself, currently focusing on promoting global happiness, communication that is focused on tying its brand association to happy feelings.

Another global giant is Google. Google began its mission of organizing the world’s information and making it accessible and useful. Google has redefined the world of the internet space. The key to the growth of this brand has been tapping into the consumer’s needs. How can we make the user experience smoother and enjoyable? The consistency of the brand through Google Images, Google Stories, Google News, Gmail among others, and integrating these services has grown the brand to great levels globally.

Other great brands such as Virgin, Apple, Cytonn, P&G, among others, have one thing in common-blending analytics, strategy and creativity.

There is no successful recipe to building a great brand; it lies in innovating yourself for the future. The challenge for today’s brands is designing brand experiences that are strategic and relevant to the consumer—and that is simply the smart business of creating clients, actually partners for life.


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