From Calvin Klein’s designer jeans to Nike’s infamous swoosh trademark, branding is an integral component of the advertising industry in which a collection of images and ideas connect consumers with specific attitudes, feelings, and perceptions about products and companies, invoking a sense of trust and status. Branding has transformed advertising, culture, and the economy, changing the ideas that consumers have about the products they use, the companies that produce them, and ultimately their relationships with the product and company.
Since the 19th century, manufacturers branded products with logos and slogans intended to attract consumers and develop a system where consumers bought only that brand and ultimately other products from the company. Manufacturers struggled with the challenge of making sure the brands of their products were the first chosen by consumers. Many companies launched extensive marketing campaigns designed to define the brands and the quality of the product. These types of campaigns continued throughout the 20th century, to the point where specific brands became a stand-in for the actual names of products. Levi’s, for example, is a particular brand but often used as a stand-in for jeans.
Characters and celebrities further the disconnection between brand and product, creating new stand-ins for products, while they instill more value and brand recognition. Celebrity endorsed and named perfumes, for example, demonstrate the level of cross-industry branding that occurs in the cosmetics industry; Halle Berry and Britney Spears did not necessarily start as models or cosmetics spokespersons, but their perfume lines attempt to tap a market ruled by name recognition. Brand recognition of beauty products extends beyond perfumes, with entire product lines of beauty and health products recognized by the manufacturer as the first priority. For example, film actress Catherine Zeta-Jones is the current face of Elizabeth Arden products. The marketing and selling of these products has also extended to branding the sales associates working at cosmetic counters or driving a pink Mary Kay Cadillac.
Critics have argued that brand advertising and branding have created new forms of monopoly, especially where price competition and ownership is involved. Since a logo or product name can be associated as a popular name for a generic product, the company that owns the trademark and copyrights to those symbols and images profits from further connection and usage. Branding is also criticized for the degree to which it has entered popular culture and shaped the daily lives of consumers.
In modern advertising, manufacturers and companies continue the extensive marketing campaigns that have roots in 19th-century industrial America. Today’s advertisements seek to connect brands and products with much more than consumer expectations or experiences. In addition to addressing consumer hopes and reactions to products, manufacturers have also created characters to promote brands and used celebrities or persons of knowledge to create excitement and interest in products, both established and new. The advertising aspects of branding create new values for the product and the manufacturer. New images and connections can attract consumers to associate quality with the product; they will often pay higher prices to acquire the branded items like Gucci bags or Coco Chanel couture. At the same time, higher prices have also led retailers to create their own generic brands that are not supported by such advertising campaigns, but can still create the same connections with consumers.