With this study, brand managers can have an overview of the major concepts and characteristics of brands over time, while academics receive a mapping of the most analyzed topics and suggestions for future research. Based on the documents published in Scopus and Web of Science databases using the word “brand”, this article aims to provide an overview of the brands and suggest opportunities for future research. Text mining clustering allowed the processing of a large amount of information and organized the first overview of the concepts that have been studied. Thus, first, we examine the existing definitions of a brand. Then, we provide a historical perspective of the topics associated with brand constructs and their associations and present a framework for the psychological characteristics of the branding process. Finally, we present the future trends.
Originally the term “Brand” referred to a piece of burning wood. In the Middle Ages, it becomes a verb meaning a permanent mark with a hot iron. In the seventeenth century, it represented a mark of ownership (Ries & Ries, 2005). Yet, it is in the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries that it grows in relevance and started to designate goods, services, and institutions, but now also destinations, people, and robots. Brands are present in human lives in the physical, online, or virtual world (Loureiro et al., 2021).
Brands and studies on brands have rapidly evolved over time and there is a need to map such evolutions to guide both researchers and practitioners. Other reviews discuss some particular aspects of branding by focusing on specific concepts—for instance, authenticity (Nunes et al., 2021), engagement (Bilro & Loureiro, 2020), love (Gumparthi & Patra, 2020), or human brand (Osorio et al., 2020)—or are devoted to a certain context (e.g., Bhattacharya & Sen, 2003; Hollebeek et al., 2014), period of time (Górska-Warsewicz & Kulykovets, 2020; Barros-Arrieta & García-Cali, 2021; García-Cali), or are dedicated to the global versus local symbolism of the brand (Liu et al., 2021), lacking a more holistic perspective of brands. Because brands and their concepts are a core topic in marketing, it is relevant to aggregate the knowledge to offer a summary view on the topic.
This overview of the extant literature identifies important steps in the progress of the research on brand. Thus, earlier studies started to be more dedicated to brand choice, quality assurance, brand equity, perceived risk, or corporate reputation. In the late 1990’s the concerns about the relationship between brand and consumers become more relevant. In the twenty-first century, the studies on the psychological consumer perception of brands become gradually more frequent, such as: brand personality, brand experience and brand love. In those days, social media and e-commerce shifted the focus on physical goods/services to online ones. Brand engagement and co-creation both online and offline are key words for academics and brand managers. More recently, brand authenticity and brand coolness are relevant to better understand the preference of consumers. As brands are conquering virtual and artificial contexts, the studies on this topic gain popularity.
The academic audience can benefit from this research by having a summary of the literature and suggestions for future research. Hence, this article offers a timeline on the evolution of the content of publications, where it is possible to observe the most analyzed concepts in each decade. Thus, this article provides readers with an overview of how concepts, meanings and trends in branding have evolved over time. Secondly, academics can use the framework for the psychological characteristics of the branding process in their research, where it is possible to understand the associations between core branding concepts. Thirdly, Table 2 can be a guide for potential further research on the topic.