This weekend we went to check out the Pompeii exhibit at the Cincinnati Museum Center. If you haven’t been to see this yet you should definitely go check it out, now through August 12, 2012. I could have spent hours perusing the ancient vessels, artifacts and artwork that were so well preserved by the volcanic eruption of Mt. Vesuvius in 79 AD.
I found it intriguing that among the artifacts that were excavated from that time period were bronze stamps used for branding products. The stamps were used to label products – bricks, pottery, lamps, or even loaves of bread – with the trademark of the maker. Even in 79 AD, people must have found some value in a name or a particular brand of product. It was interesting for me to see that these people who lived almost 2000 years ago had many of the same interests that we have, they had a highly sophisticated society who valued art, jewelry, perfume, fine food and wine, and who sought out branded merchandise.
When looking at advertising from a historical standpoint, the concept hasn’t really changed much, only the vehicles we use to deliver the message. In 79 AD, they didn’t have radio, TV, Computers, smart phones or Facebook, but they had something just as valuable, maybe even more valuable, “word-of-mouth” and signage. Another interesting part of the exhibit, were portions of ancient walls with ancient graffiti. The graffiti was written in an ancient form of Italian and contained messages from the people of that time, the messages contained everything from restaurant reviews, to disgruntlement about political figures.
Branding, something I do on a day-to-day basis, seems like a very modern notion, especially when I turn on the TV, Computer, or Radio and am bombarded with thousands of adverting messages in a single day. I usually think of my favorite brands like, Apple Computer, Sony, Keen, etc. – but really it’s not a modern notion, but an ancient concept that has been developing for thousands of years.
To answer the question, “What was the first branded or trademarked product?” I don’t know the answer to that, but there may be lessons to be learned from the ancients when it comes to branding and advertising. Maybe they knew something that we don’t about how to brand and trademark ideas. Let me know what your thoughts are on the topic, this blog is open to your comments and we welcome a lively discussion and would like to hear your thoughts on the subject.