Friday, September 13, 2019

Historical Brands in America

John Jacob Bausch & Henry Lomb


I recently purchased The Branding of America book by Robert Hambleton at an art gallery used book sale. One of the things that I immediately found fascinating (though not surprising in retrospect) is that most of the earlier brands in America were named after the people who founded the brands versus using coined or associative descriptive names, which is a much more common approach in contemporary branding.

Here are some examples:

  • Colgate: William Colgate
  • Levi Strauss: Levi Strauss
  • Borden's: Gail Borden
  • Steinway: Heinrich Engelhard Steinway
  • Campbell's: Joseph Campbell
  • Heinz: Henry John Heinz
  • Bissell: Melville Reuben Bissell
  • Gillette: King Camp Gillette
  • Kraft: James Lewis Kraft
  • Maytag: Frederick Lewis Maytag
  • Schick: Jacob Schick
  • Bausch & Lomb: John Jacob Bausch & Henry Lomb
  • Westinghouse: George Westinghouse
  • Johnson & Johnson: Robert Wood Johnson & James Johnson
  • Dow: Herbert Henry Dow
  • Ferris Wheel: George Washington Gale Ferris
  • McCormick: Cyrus Hall McCormick
  • John Deere: John Deere
  • Yale: Linus Yale
  • Otis: Elisha Graves Otis
  • Crane: Richard Teller Crane
  • Pitney-Bowes: Arthur H. Pitney & Walter Bowes
  • Remington: Eliphalet Remington
  • Colt: Samuel Colt
  • Smith & Wesson: Horace Smith & David Baird Wesson
  • Winchester: Oliver Fisher Winchester
  • Studebaker: The Studebaker brothers
  • Buick: David Buick
  • Packard: James Ward Packard & William D. Packard
  • Ford: Henry Ford
  • Chevrolet: Louis Chevrolet
  • Chrysler: Walter Percy Chrysler
  • Pabst: Frederick Pabst
  • Saks: Horace A. Saks
  • RJ Reynolds: Richard Joshua Reynolds
  • Spalding: Albert G. Spalding
  • J. Walter Thompson: James Walter Thompson
  • Woolworth: Frank Winfield Woolworth
  • Sears: Richard W. Sears
  • Dow Jones: Charles Henry Dow & Edward C. Jones
  • Wrigley: William Wrigley Jr. 
  • Elizabeth Arden: Elizabeth Arden
  • Kresge: Sabastian Spering Kresge
  • Orvis: Charles F. Orvis

As an outlier, George Eastman named his company Eastman Kodak Company in 1892. The word Kodak was registered as a trademark in 1888. George Eastman said, "I devised the name myself. The letter 'K' had been a favorite with me - it seems a strong, incisive sort of letter. It became a question of trying out a great number of combinations of letters that made words starting and ending with a 'K.' The word "Kodak" is the result." The coined name 'Kodak' became the brand. 

Compare all of these brands with some of today's entrepreneurs and their brand's names:
  • Microsoft: Bill Gates
  • Amazon: Jeff Bezos
  • Patagonia: Yvon Chouinard
  • IKEA: Ingvar Kamprad
  • Virgin: Richard Branson
  • Starbucks: Howard Schulz
  • Tesla: Elon Musk
  • Google: Larry Page & Sergey Brin
  • Facebook: Mark Zuckerberg
  • Yahoo!: Jerry Yang & David Filo
  • Lululemon: Chip Wilson
  • Airbnb: Joe Gebbia & Brian Chesky
  • Uber: Travi Kalanick

It is interesting how entrepreneurs have largely moved away from naming brands after themselves to creating coined, associative descriptive or fanciful names. This is an example of how branding has evolved over time. 

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