The meaning and origin of the brand come from German, "burn." In the 1400s, the word "brand" was used as a verb: "to impress or burn a mark upon with a hot iron, cauterize; stigmatize," originally for criminals or enslaved people. Then, in mid 15th century, the word started to be used to mark ownership or quality of the property.
This branding method (burning with iron) was permanent for organic surfaces like the human body or wooden products. Branding was a tool for differing criminals from innocents, enslaved people from free people. Farmers used this technic to differentiate cattle ownership. Every farmer branded their cattle with the specific logo or symbol of a farm.
Differentiation was always a part of human societies. Think about countries, armies, tribes, and hunter-gatherer bands. You can quickly discover that everyone had special flags, logos, uniforms, badges, and war paints to differentiate themselves from others. Think about the army for stuff that differentiates officers from regular soldiers: "unique uniforms, caps, and rank stripes." Tribal chiefs wore different things from others. Witch doctors had different types of paint on their faces (or a mask), feathers on top of their heads, and a wand for dancing and healing.
We can also see this kind of differentiation in nature. You have to be similar to your species, but you have to be different from other members of your species to be noticed. For example, having long or colorful tails or singing and dancing helps male birds to be seen for breeding. This genetic differentiation spreads through generations and creates diversity. After a while, diversity becomes a competitor for breeding. Every individual has to find new differentiation points for breeding.
Think about homo sapiens or troglodytes. You have limited sources to maintain your life. You have only the ability to shape the stone as a tool. You have axes, spears, and knives; all made with stone. Yet, instead of sharpening your axes, knives, etc., you prefer to produce necklaces, bracelets, and earrings. Why?
I think we have an instinct to be different from others and also evolved to notice the differences. In addition to this biological perspective, we have practical reasons to mark people, cattle, and products, as I mentioned before.
Whether etymological, social, biological, or practical, the origins of branding lie in differentiation. If you are talking about "a brand," you are talking about differentiation from other products or commodities. If you are similar to other products, if there is no noticeable difference from others, you are just a commodity. Understanding branding and its origin is essential because of that. If you are a marketer, an entrepreneur, a local restaurant owner, or an employee, you have to understand the meaning of branding and find ways to differentiate yourself from others. The practice of doing this is what we call marketing. I believe that everything is a kind of marketing.
An elevator pitch for investors, courtship of a bird, an excellent presentation for the board, a date with your potential partner, or a promotion for your product are all marketing.
Welcome to the world of marketing!