We’re surrounded by brands. They are so ubiquitous that we rarely stop to question why they exist in the first place. What are they here for? Are they here to provide a veneer of acceptability to capitalist enterprise? Are they the product of mass media? Are they a vehicle for the manipulation of people in society? Are they an inevitable manifestation of the human condition?
It’s difficult to judge what makes a brand great without a clear point of view on what role they are supposed to fulfil in the first place. If we view them as oil in the cogs of capitalism, then value creation is the ultimate measure of greatness. But if we believe they play a greater role than mere profit generation, then we need a more ambitious set of standards.
So why do brands exist?
Let’s go back to the beginning. Right back to the earliest recorded civilisations. The year is around 2300 BCE and we’re in the Indus valley. Merchants in the ancient city of Harappa use distinctive seals to demarcate their goods. These seals perform a clear functional role: to convey the identity of the sender of merchandise – they represent a mark of origin. A guarantee of quality. But the seals also contain symbolic value: some contain totemic animals like unicorns and antelopes; some are some show deities like the God Shiva, who was venerated for fertility and hunting prowess. It’s difficult not to interpret these as the earliest known example of brands. They existed in the oldest known civilisation and they have existed in various forms ever since. Along with cooking, sport, folklore, language and superstition, brands are human universals. They are a chronic aspect of humanity.
Why?
In the 5th Century BCE, the Greek philosopher-poet Xenophanes of Colophon noticed the tendency of different civilisation to create

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