“Branding” as been around for millennia. There are depictions of people branding cattle with hot pokers going as far back as 2700 BC, and the origins of the word is from that very process, coming from the Old Norse “brandr”, meaning to burn. Originally, this practice was used merely to label cattle to designate ownership and deter theft, but it quickly became clear that alongside ownership, a brand could also signify the origins of the product.
Brick-makers and potters in Etruria, Greece and Rome were some of the first people to understand the value of adding their mark or brand to their products meant that they could differentiate themselves from their competitors – and their brand could mean higher quality and more reliable products that could then justify a higher price. These marks varied from the thumbprint of the potter to more abstract designs such as crosses, stars, and fish – the first logos.
These brands help buyers know the manufacturer of their products and soon developed into a way to give them some recourse if the product was found to be sub-standard. Medieval England saw laws passed that made it a legal requirement for all bakers and silversmiths to add their individual marks to their goods and products, so that if they did not meet the standards expected those manufacturers could be held to account.
Today, most consumers take brands into account for everything they buy from clothing to smartphones, but it is not just the finished product that is branded – a multitude of parts within every complex finished product like a car or an aeroplane is also marked to designate the manufacturer, but also other pieces of information like serial numbers, date codes, and barcodes, which help reliably identify parts for warranty and regulatory purposes.
These marks need to be identifiable for the lifetime of the product, so for longer life products such as aeroplanes, which will often stay in service for over 30 years, permanent marks are added to each element by processes such as indenting, embossing, or dot marking (also know as dot peen marking, pinstamp, and micropercussion). These methods create marks that are not only long-lasting but easily identifiable by machine, and can display 2D barcodes, logos, and alpha-numeric characters.
We’ve come a long way from marking cattle with the name of our tribes by hot irons, but marks of origin remain an important signal in helping businesses and consumers pick a product they know they can trust from a company they know they can rely on.
Photographs by Pexels / Technomark