The world’s first and only generic brand


A story about the history of branding and the original anti-brand, which inevitably became the name of mainstream products.


Samuel Maverick, the original

Manufacturers began identifying products by placing a mark on the package in the 19th century when production of household goods moved to factories. Several sources cite soap as among the first goods so named. Appropriately, soap remains among the most broadly and diversely branded products.  Ironically, the notorious entertainment brand it spawned, the soap opera, is not about coming clean, nor is it a musical.

The word brand comes from the Middle English pronunciation of the word burn. Marking things like livestock or wooden crates required imprinting with a hot branding iron. Incidentally, the term “brand new” originally referred to something “fresh out of the fire,” not an elaborate product launch.

Think knockoffs are a problems today?

People who grew up on TV westerns (the audiences and the genre are both dying breeds) know why branding cattle was important.  Back in the day, when range land was not fenced, grazing cattle intermingled freely.  Therefore, ranchers engineered the grueling chore of holding down every newly born or acquired animal and burning a unique logo into his, her or its hide.  Once branded, each rancher could easily find his property at roundup.  The brands also proved ownership in rustling cases or other ownership disputes.


Brett Maverick aka James Garner

However, many rustlers were very good at modifying original brands. Clearly, these were precursors of people hawking knockoff purses, pens and polo shirts.  Modern beneficiaries of early branding are scriptwriters, who continue to thrive on the endless potential for deception in branding.

The only westerner not wasting his time branding was the Texas rancher Samuel Maverick, whose legacy has been far-reaching.  By concluding that it was pointless for him to waste time branding, if everyone else did it, his name became a word defined as “independently minded” and its use remains common.  Americans have always admired contrariness.

Can we postulate that Samuel Maverick was a visionary who made the first business case for selling generic products?  Did he calculate that forgoing the costs related to branding, he could sell his cattle for less and earn profits equal to the other ranchers? Unfortunately, he did not.  In truth, Maverick was not into branding because he was not really into ranching either.

For Ford the typical Maverick was worse than just an oxymoron

So, it was many years after maverick became a word that the Maverick brand came into being. The 1960s television series, Maverick, propelled the career of a young James Garner who played one of two lovable rogue brothers.

Ford Maverick

Ford Maverick brought shame to the name.

In 1969, the television series’ popularity or the lure of marketing a rogue brand inspired Ford Motor Company to name its new compact car Maverick.  As one of the last domestic car models to take advantage of blind brand loyalty, the Maverick was hugely popular at first.  But, it was no maverick, just another in a long string of poorly made American cars that enabled Japanese manufacturers to successfully imprint their brands into the minds of American consumers.

Relevant to the discussion on branding, our culture received one more endowment from Samuel Maverick.  His grandson, Maurice Maverick, was a U.S. Congressman from Texas who, in 1942, coined the term gobbledygook, which best describes subjects such as brand planning process, brand engagement, brand cohesion, and the like.

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