The Origin of Brand Advertising

In the last decades of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th, manufacturers started making use of advertising and representatives in order to avoid the power of the wholesale traders.

One of the first advertising agencies was founded in New York in 1864 as Carlton and Smith, an advertising broker buying and selling space in the popular religious journals of the nineteenth century, the firm was purchased and renamed by James Walter Thompson in 1878. It is said that as early as 1874 William Hesketh Lever, one of the founders of Unilever, began advertising and selling a soap called Lever’s Pure Honey in Europe14. Similarly in the US five years later (1879), Harley Procter, one of the founders of Procter and Gamble (P&G), branded a white soap with the name “ivory”. Ivory’s ad from 1881 is one of the earliest copy ads identified today. This ad from P&G highlighted the attributes and functional benefits of the product. Stating that the “ivory soap”  “floated” and that it was “99 44/100% pure,” a dual claim which today is one of the oldest and most famous ad slogans ever.

Another good example of one of the first copy ads ever is the first Coca-Cola ad from around 1886:
COCA-COLA SYRUP AND EXTRACT For Soda Water and other Carbonated Beverages. This Intellectual Beverage and Temperance Drink contains the valuable Tonic and Nerve Stimulant properties of the Coca plant and cola (or Kola) nuts, and makes not only a delicious, exhilarating, refreshing and invigorating Beverage (dispensed from the soda water fountain or in other carbonated beverages), but a valuable Brain Tonic and cure for all nerve affections Sick Head-Ache, Neuralgia, Hysteria, Melancholy, etc. The peculiar flavor of COCA-COLA delights every palate.

This early ad already attempts to identify Coca-Cola with a personality: “Intellectual Beverage”; with emotions “Temperance Drink”; functions “delicious, refreshing, brain tonic and cure for all nerve affections” and emotional benefits “exhilarating, invigorating beverage”.

Through this example we can see that “branding” was ahead in the business world compared to its academic development already from before the 20th century. However this is a very innovative example for that period. At that time most of “branding” was based on basic advertising strategies, which included the name of a product and a description of the product’s characteristics.

In this way, by 1911 Coca-Cola became the largest single advertiser in the US with a budget of 1$ million per year. This is basically how “brand advertising” surged in the business world, as a development of writing copy and placing advertisements in journals and magazines. Furthermore, these services were generally outsourced and done by agencies and representatives, which meant that there was little or no strategic management involved.

In the beginning of the 20th century, James Walter Thompson published a house ad explaining trademark advertising, in an early commercial description of what branding meant. During the following three decades one of the best known advertising copywriters was Claude C. Hopkins.

His work was based on direct response and “Scientific Advertising” (counting the number of sales orders generated by a coupon in a print advertising and quantifying the cost per order).

Advertisements written by Hopkins were full of copy, giving rich detail of “why” the reader should buy a brand. Another important evolution came in the early 1920s when Bruce Barton turned General Motors (GM) into a metaphor for the American family, “something personal, warm and human,” while for him, “GE” was not so much the name of the faceless General Electric Company (GE) but rather “the initials of a friend.” In 1923 Barton said to the GM president Pierre du Pont “I like to think of advertising as something big, something splendid, something which goes deep down into an institution and gets hold of the soul of it.”

In other words, Barton’s work meant analyzing and understanding an organization’s “soul” to then communicating its personality and characteristics externally through ads. This example shows the early evolutions, which lead to the leap from pure advertising to a more management lead activity.


The Origin of Branding read here

Branding during the Industrial Economy read here

The Origin of Brand Advertising read here

The Origin of Brand Management read here

The Origin of the Marketing Concept read here

Marketing Communication, Positioning and Differentiation read here

The 80s-90s and Brand Equity read here

New Trends in the early 2000’s read here

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  1. Pingback: Evolution and Trends of Brand Management | iUriel

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