A history of the concept of branding: practice and theory

Wilson Bastos, Sidney J. Levy

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

136 Citations (Scopus)


This inquiry aims to contribute to the literature on the historical developments that have influenced the origin, uses, and meanings of branding. In this qualitative work an historical methodology was followed and, according to Howell and Prevenier's guidelines, a wide variety of sources were selected of the data presented. Moreover, this study draws on three important perspectives – that of the practitioner, the scholar, and the consumer – in order to offer a thorough view of the relevant issues concerning the evolution of branding. The investigation suggests that various forces (e.g., the media, economic developments during the Second World War, marketing research and theorizing) have enacted a comprehensive transformation in the concept of branding. First, the paper offers evidence of the link between fire/burning and the origin of branding. Second, it shows that, in its early days, branding was characterized as a phenomenon with limited applicability. Third, the paper demonstrates how that phenomenon was transformed into a multidimensional, multifunctional, and malleable entity. Last, it presents recent evidence from both business and academia that shows the current, complex status of the concept of branding. The paper is novel in its large perspective and integrative narrative, and the unusual exposure of its various conceptual issues and links. It should be of interest to marketing historians, brand managers, and scholars of branding.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)347-368
Number of pages22
JournalJournal of Historical Research in Marketing
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 3 Aug 2012
Externally publishedYes


  • Brand image
  • Brand management
  • Brand research
  • Branding history
  • Evolution


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