Who Can You Trust?: Brands, Deception, & Markets

Who Can You Trust?: Brands, Deception, & Markets

History Hangout: Conversation with Jennifer Black


Would branded goods, by any other name, not smell as sweet? Branding is one means by which businesses try to communicate with consumers, cultivate trust, and capture market share. The practice has a long history in America and was central to the attempts of producers to differentiate their products, consumers to navigate the uncertainties of the marketplace, and forgers to cash in on the value of a brand name.

In a pair of book projects, Dr. Jennifer Black, associate professor of history at Misericordia University, investigates the cultivation of market-trust via branding, and the subsequent attempts by fakers to pass off their goods as the genuine article. Branding Trust: Advertising & Trademarks in Nineteenth-Century America (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2023) reveals the process by which innovations in marketing techniques created the modern American brand landscape. In her new project, Consuming Deception, Black looks at the flip side of the coin, where fakes and forgeries attempt to make a living off the value of the value of established brands. Black examined numerous Hagley Library collections to tell her story.

In support of her work, Dr. Black received funding from the Center for the History of Business, Technology, & Society at the Hagley Museum & Library. 

The audio only version of this program is available on our podcast.