This week, we wanted to explore what branding means to the totally uninitiated, a fresh perspective on what branding truly means to a layman. Here’s what we discovered:

The first thing that comes to mind when I brainstorm the word and concept “branding” is its possible history. Images of slaves being marked by hot brandished irons leaving an indelible mark and distinct identity as to who the slave belonged to comes to mind. Thousands of years ago, this was the original tattoo, the “brand” the slave carried as a subjugation of personal identity to that of his or her master for quite possibly the rest of the slave’s life. It was a (more often than not unwilling) renunciation of personal freedom for a lifetime of servitude, freedom being something we take for granted in today’s modern society.

The irony is that in today’s modern civilisation, we give up our personal freedom to acquire esteemed Brands that run the hamster wheel of much of current existence: Consumerism. Mother picks up the kids from the most expensive international school in town (to increase their chances of getting into even more expensive institutions of tertiary education – branded, invariably: the Oxbridges and Ivy Leagues of the world) in her BMW SUV in tortoiseshell Gucci sunglasses; she checks the time on her iPhone X and again on her Jaeger-LeCoultre watch, slips the phone back into her Prada handbag…or she aspires to. It’s a lifestyle built on brands. You get the general idea.

Homo sapiens are a tribal species. To buy into a brand is to purchase an Identity. Does hubby endorse Manchester United, Liverpool, Chelsea or Arsenal? What does that brand say about him? Or perhaps he is into digital photography. Nikon or Canon? Is he a corporate slave? Which company is he a corporate slave to? Which camp do you belong to? Who do you play for? Whose side are you on? Who is your family; what is your tribe?

In this age of increased globalisation and political correctness, human beings are facing a collective existential crisis. We can see it in increased vice in urban lifestyles. Mixed marriages are on the rise, and with that more third-culture offspring, as well as blended families (not that any of that is a bad thing). Do I hyphenate my husband’s surname onto mine? Does being a stay-at-home Dad bother me? Really?

Famously, careers built on the same company for twenty odd years are increasingly staggered amongst eight or more companies in half the time span as employees search for personal growth and job security becomes a thing of the past. More and more people are searching for meaning and relevance in their professional and personal lives. In that search, brands are or have become expressions of individual lifestyle choices, both as the brand that is being consumed, and as a matter of personal branding. I shop at Uniqlo; I am down-to-earth, practical yet stylish. My favourite toiletries and cosmetics are from The Body Shop; I care about animal rights and vivisection, and about a fairer world in general.

In fact, one could even postulate that in today’s world brands and branding could be viewed as a pillar of society: constant in an ever-changing world, that outlive the founder (think Mac) as an answer to the ever-searching question: who are you and what do you stand for? Branding is about Identity, the distinction of self. What the brand does and does not stand for. Easy identification from the use of colours, logos, or fonts that make instant recognition and association with a host of select properties possible. Brands are an expression of the self, and are at once both philosophical and very real constructs in the psyche of the modern man.

The age of modern civilisation is the age of the brand.

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How would your brand participate in the golden age of the geek?

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