9. Sonic Branding: An Introduction

13 years ago CEO Daniel M Jackson wrote a book that marked a seminal moment in the history of sonic branding. The book is called ‘Sonic Branding: An Introduction’.

In this week's extract Daniel tackles the issue of how to define a brand, without falling into the trap of believing that brands are scientific..

Chapter 7

The Nature of Brands - A historical perspective

We will start with a couple of traditional definitions of a brand. First, 'an identifying mark burnt on livestock'; and second, just as prosaically 'a type of product manufactured by a particular company under a particular name'. I work with a number of brands but the last time I checked I was working with no cows' arses. Therefore, interesting as the history of domestic cattle may be, I think we can go straight on to the second, that a brand is a type of product manufactured under a particular name.

This definition certainly tallies with what is thought to be the world's first brand. In c.200 BC a Syrian sandal maker marked his sandals with his name and opened up a whole kettle of fish. The first brand was marked only with the maker's name. Every subsequent brand has also been marked with a name. Names are also fundamental to humanity. Talmudic scholars tell us that something cannot exist until it has a name and that a name is fundamental to the essence of being. In fact, the name of God is taken to be so important, that it is not meant to be spoken aloud. This is heavy, spiritual stuff, however, so it you want to know more, check our the Talmud. Suffice to say, it is an ancient Hebrew text that contains foundations for music of the moral law of the Western world. It has a lot to say about pretty much everything and were it to address the subject of brands, it would tell us that they need denominations.

The strongest brands today started out in the nineteenth century with just their good names. Brands like Kellogg's, Coca-Cola and Marmite showed then, and show us today, that the right name has always been fundamental to the success of a brand. In terms of communications and marketing, these goods only needed a name because the products themselves were genuinely different or superior to goods that had gone before. The products were unique without having to consciously engineer a unique selling point. Quite simply, all they had to do to stand out in the grocery shops was have a label that stated their name and thus differentiated them from the generics.

The growth of these brands shaped the understanding of what constituted a brand and for some time, a definition of a brand as a named good held sway. If all the other cereals are sold out of bags labelled as 'corn' or 'barley', then a box with Kellogg's written on it will clearly stand out; so the name-based definition was still accurate 120 years ago. The world's view of brands has changed somewhat more in the last 120 years than it did over the preceding 2,000. For a start, there are more brands around these days and differentiation means working a little harder than just having a name. Names are still important but today we understand that there are other factors that define a brand.

Daniel Jackson - CEO, CORD