HISTORY OF BRANDS IN 12 OBJECTS
The consumer revolution has shaped the way we live, shop, eat, communicate and entertain ourselves. At the Museum of Brands, we tell the extraordinary story of achievement and innovation, through things that have been largely discarded – packaged products, leaflets, posters, toys, magazines, postcards – from Victorian times to modern days. History of brands is the story that created our modern world.
In the Victorian era, the expansion of the railway system helped brands to grow their national profile. It also encouraged them to create a striking and unified identity that could be applied consistently across the country. By the early 20th century, many of Britain’s iconic brands – such as Colman’s and Bovril – had begun to develop the visual identities they are known for today.
During the First World War, the need to encourage recruitment was paramount. Lord Kitchener fronted this appeal – ‘join your country’s army!’. For the first time, posters began to use psychological persuasion, such as the one that looked ahead to the moment when a father might be asked by his children, ‘Daddy, what did you do in the Great War?’
This era focused on design and technology. The newly created Radio Times became the UK’s best-selling periodical, growing with the popularity of the wonderous wireless. Special issues featured a colourful cover that reflected the latest art deco style of the day.
As Britain recovered from the Great Depression, there was an explosion of new brands. Business was especially busy for brands that catered for the increasingly popular cocktail parties. These occasions provided biscuit companies with an opportunity to create entirely new types of products, such as Twiglets and Cheeselets.
With austerity and rationing during the Second World War, packaging for many brands had to adapt. Scarce resources were needed for the war effort. So, to save on paper, labels on bottles and cans were reduced in size, and some products normally sold in tins were replaced with cartons. A shortage of full-cream milk resulted in milk chocolate bars being made with skimmed milk.
Self-service supermarkets began to open during this decade. This meant that brands had to sharpen their shelf appeal with more colourful and distinctive designs. The latest innovative products included frozen foods and sugar-coated breakfast cereals, such as Frosted Flakes and Sugar Puffs. Commercial television arrived in 1955 and promoted the latest detergent powders – Tide, Omo, Daz.
The Swinging Sixties saw a transformation in British culture with the arrival of James Bond, the Beatles and the mini skirt. The newly created, trendy and fun, Austin mini car epitomised the buoyant mood. The stylish E-type Jaguar was an export success, adding confidence to England’s pride at winning the World Cup.
Flower power, hippies, teenyboppers and then punk. For many, the 1970s were coloured by the emerging phenomenon of youth culture. Aqua Manda was the defining scent of this generation: a perfume whose floral notes and brightly-coloured packaging perfectly captured the zeitgeist.
The 80s started the personal computing revolution. As Apple and Microsoft battled it out Stateside, British computing brand Amstrad was making waves in the UK following its appearance on the Stock Exchange in 1980s. Large and unwieldy by modern standards, these unassuming devices nevertheless paved the way for the tech-centric world.
Cool Britannia ruled in 1997 with the arrival of New Labour. Music industry promoted this mood; the 1990s music groups weren’t just bands, they were brands. Spice Girls, Boyzone and Oasis were global, distinctively recognisable and commercially successful.
The 2000s was Apple’s decade. Specifically, the introduction of iPhone revolutionised the tech industry and, by extension, culture. Its reach was global, its brand was everywhere, and the smartphone industry which followed has connected us to people around the world like no other technology had before.
Many of the breakout brands of this decade have not been brands in the traditional sense: tangible products in a store. Instead, Uber, Deliveroo, Tinder are changing the way we travel, eat and love through devices held in the palm of our hand. Meanwhile, the biggest brands in the world are deeply rooted in the digital economy: Google, Amazon, Facebook. Understanding how technology brands are shaping our lives – and how century-old brands are changing in the digital era – are just some of the issues the Museum of Brands encourages visitors to think about.
Visit the Museum
Museum of Brands showcases more than 12,000 original objects which shaped the society we live in. Travel back in time and learn about the history of brands in Notting Hill, London – just two minutes from the charming Portobello Road Market. Book your tickets online to save time.