From its first uses, in Old French, la marque (mark) has the meaning of sign that proves the singularity. It also has the sense of reference or boundary. La marque may become a sign of infamy: from the Middle Ages, it is affixed to prostitutes or criminals. One of the highlights of The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas was when the D’Artagnan has discovered the fleur-de-lis that was branded with a hot iron on the shoulder of Milady, which designated her as a former convicted prisoner of the king (although in reality the beauty has never stood trial).
However, like everything else that singularizes, la marque may also have a laudatory sense: we speak, thus, of “un homme de marque”(a man of mark) about a man who distinguished himself or who holds a prestigious position.
Then, comes the concept of image de marque (brand, image, corporate image): equivalent of good reputation which is attached to individuals and must be an object of an attention. From that moment, we look after our image (“on soigne son image de marque”).
Later, in the industrial era, the economy has been changed radically. The companies and the shops enlarge and acquire distinctive signs. Zola wrote in 1883 in “The Ladies’ Delight”:
“Si l’ancien commerce, le petit commerce agonisait, c’était qu’il ne pouvait soutenir la lutte des bas prix, engagée par la marque”.
“If the old-fashioned trade, small trade was agonizing, it was because it could not keep up in the struggle of low prices set by the brand”.
Over time, the companies refine their communication. One can say that they also acquire a personality (reflection of that of their consumer-type). Or even, they attribute a spirit. That way “marque” (mark, brand) could be perfect for relaxation moments for everyone without exception, another one will be ideal for high quality services… For consumer, it is necessary to understand not only somebody who buys products, but also it is necessary to understand the job applicants: it is in the best interest of a company to have a good image de marque (corporate image) which would convince the best team to work at it.
”L’image de marque”, ”la marque” did they become then only commercial attributes? Yes and no. Even if the image de marque has never ceased to apply to individuals, this sense was slightly obscured. However, a recent tendency makes “la marque” trendy for individual persons again. Some people advise to develop their own mark in the field of personal development. Everyone is encouraged to develop their uniqueness according to several aspects, which decline from the competences and the behaviour to the physical appearance Moreover, women are particularly encouraged by the magazines, to “mettre leur marque” (put their mark) on their clothing. It also concerns men, more and more.
The concept of marque returns to its origins (first of all related to the individual persons), but everything has changed: at present, we are products and sellers of ourselves.