Commercial brands began some 5,000 years ago in Mesopotamia when traders
needed some assurance of the value and origins of oils, wines and other
products, an anthropologist believes.
While many scholars trace the beginning of branding to the Western Industrial Revolution, David Wengrow,
an anthropologist at University College of London, presents evidence
that labels and stoppers on ancient containers actually functioned as
brand identifications that told a purchaser important information about
contents. A Science Daily
story "Cleopatra's Cosmetics and Hammurabi's Heineken"
that as urbanization took hold in Egypt and Iraq, local economies
began manufacturing alcoholic drinks, beauty products and textiles for
sale, and traders and consumers needed to know something about where and
how these commodities were made. Designs imprinted in the stoppers made
for bottles of wines and oils evolved into logos. Wengrow suggests
branding becomes vital because consumer products in any large complex
society need to pass through a "nexus of authenticity."
Wengrow explains his theory in "Prehistories of Commodity Branding",
in the February 2008 issue of Current Anthropology
. He says branding has for millennia shown a deep need for humans to find value ingoods they consume.
One of the oldest Western logo is the red trangle for Bass Ale.
It is made by the British Bass Brewing Company, founded in 1777, and
the red triangle was trademark Number One registered British Trademark
Act of 1875.
Ancient logos, their Nineteenth Century descendants
and the promotional images used today by Microsoft, Nike and Coca Cola
function pretty much the same way. Pavlov's dogs showed animals can
learn to associate stimuli with an unrelated experience, and modern
research suggests human affinity for certain brands may be similarly
learned. Research by John O'Doherty,
an associate professor of psychology at Caltech, shows two regioins of
the brain-the ventral striatum and the ventral midbrain-may play an
important role in choices we make about different brands of soup and
soap. A story in the New Scientist
our preferences for anitem are influenced by prior experiencesthat are
recalled and activated whenwe make a later preference-based decision.
And speaking of the amazing ancient art of textiles..."Gossamer Silk, From Spiders Spun,"
a New York Times
article by Randy Kennedy, tells the astonishing story of a British
art historian and an American fashion designer who managed to assemble
thousands of large female Golden Orb Spiders from Madagascar and set
them to spinning a wondrous gossamer fabric. Nicholas Godley, the
fashion designer, set up a system in which hired handlers gently pull
the thread dangling from the spider's spinneret. Then 24 spiders were
placed in parallel harnesses as a spool tugded out the rest of the web
in continuous strands. Next, the threads were twisted by human hands
into the strands that served as the foundation for the cloth. Simon
Peers, the art historian, had been fascinated by several
centuries-oldefforts to harvest spider silk for weaving. The Times
story reports that Peers has written the effort seemed "imbued with metaphor and poetry, with nightmare and phobia."
"Creepy, Crawly, Crafty: A Tapestry Woven by Eight-Legged Artists,"
an interesting Fast Company
story by Ken Carone, is also accompanied by captivating pictures.