The Birth Of Brand Image

Guest AuthorJune 13, 20112 min

This is David Ogilvy’s Centennial – he was born 100 years ago this month, in 1911. He was the most famous advertising man in the world, and to a large extent still is. He was the most important man in the business, changing it in fundamental ways.

In 1955 — 56 years ago! — he delivered a speech to the American Association of Advertising Agencies in Chicago in which he injected the concept of brand image into the marketing world. Brands and brand image are so ubiquitous in our conversation today that it’s hard to remember when they were not with us.

“I didn’t invent brand image. I pinched it,” he volunteered. He took the idea from an article in the Harvard Business Review by two academics, Burleigh Gardner and Sidney Levy, and put it into his own sweeping terms:

“Every advertisement is part of the long-term investment in the personality of the brand.”

The concept was not entirely new in advertising circles, but after putting the spotlight on it, Ogilvy was dubbed the “apostle of the brand image.” Brands took on greater importance as products themselves became increasingly similar, and branding became central in advertising discussions, eventually entering the language in worlds far removed from marketing.

Ogilvy was a colorful, idiosyncratic personality. In his early years, he affected a full-length flowing black cape with a scarlet lining. He occasionally wore a kilt and was driven around New York in a Rolls-Royce, before most people had seen either. In later years, he wore a double-breasted dark blue blazer – scarlet-lined. He was charming, witty and immensely quotable.

Not only was he early in recognizing the importance of brands, by the time he died in 1999 he had rewritten many of the rules of Madison Avenue and had become a brand unto himself.

Contributed to Branding Strategy Insider by: Kenneth Roman, former Chairman of Ogilvy & Mather and author of “The King of Madison Avenue: David Ogilvy and the Making of Modern Advertising.

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One comment

  • Al Pittampalli

    June 13, 2011 at 8:24 pm

    Just read Ogilvy’s book recently. It’s as relevant today as it was when it was written (maybe more). It’s interesting to know he got the concept of brand image from the HBR. Thanks for this nugget, Ken.

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