First stop–dictionary.com — where I find that the word is associated with both positive, negative and one obscure meaning.
1. Kind, grade, or make, as indicated by a stamp, trademark.
2. A mark made by burning to indicate kind, grade, make, ownership, etc.
3. A mark formerly put upon criminals with a hot iron.
4. Any mark of disgrace; stigma.
5. Branding iron.
6. A kind or variety of something distinguished by some distinctive characteristic: a brand of humor.
7. A burning or partly burned piece of wood.
8. Archaic. a sword.
It’s an appropriate definition considering the marketing efforts of today’s brands often impact consumers in very different ways. From the nostalgic feeling we get from major brands like Crayola to the adverse reactions we feel when brands go awry (e.g., BP). Brands can be indelible, and they often leave a mark (albeit not usually a physical one). But one definition leaves me baffled: 8. Archaic, a sword. Do you see the correlation?
Check back as I followup with more history of brands (and swords).
Photo of sword from the Crown Jewel Collection, Rosenborg Castle – Copenhagen, Denmark
photo: courtesy of McLavey travels