Table: Wielding a Mean Branding Iron

Over the past two decades, factors ranging from the rise of the global economy to the rise of the Internet have helped make brands more powerful than at any time in history. Here are the milestones along the way:

JUNE 22, 1984

British record mogul Richard Branson launches an airline, extending the Virgin name from music to planes. Virgin goes on to encompass stores, movies, and financial services in one of the great brand-building stories of the '90s. Marketers take note that a strong, fertile brand can go in all sorts of new directions.

APR. 23, 1985

To stem defections to rival Pepsi (PEP ), Coca-Cola (KO ) introduces a new, sweeter formulation of its iconic soda pop, only to bring back Coke Classic 77 days later amid one of the biggest consumer backlashes in marketing history. The debacle offers one of the first glimpses at the latent power of brands.

NOV. 30, 1988

As the takeover era reaches a climax, buyout firm Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co. submits the winning bid for RJR Nabisco, walking away with a brand portfolio that includes Oreo cookies, Winston cigarettes, and Hawaiian Punch--all for a record-setting $25.4 billion.The vast premium paid over book value in this and other acquisitions brings home to corporate leaders just how valuable brands can be.

APR. 2, 1993

Philip Morris (MO ) takes decisive action against discount cigarettes that are stealing share from mighty Marlboro by slashing prices 20%. Other premium makers are forced to follow, and consumer-goods stocks tumble amid fears that brands are losing clout. Suddenly, "brand management" becomes part of every manager's vocabulary.

MAY 5, 1994

With companies in all industries starting to focus on building brands, IBM makes marketing history by consolidating its entire $400 million global advertising account at one agency, Ogilvy & Mather, citing the need to get maximum leverage from its marketing efforts.

MAY 15, 1997

With less than two years of operating history and no profits in sight, online bookseller (AMZN ) goes public at $18 a share and the dot-com boom is born. Shares later reach a high of $106, forever changing our notion of what it takes to build a dominant brand.

Before it's here, it's on the Bloomberg Terminal.