Nostalgia is a very powerful thing. When done well, branding and packaging are very powerful things too. Tapping into all of these fonts of power is London’s Museum of Brands, an enormous and comprehensive celebration of the brands of yore, and with them, the lives of the people who bought them.
This month, the museum is moving from its former site in Notting Hill to a larger venue in Ladbroke Grove, taking on more space to house increasingly large visitor numbers. But why are people so excited about things as seemingly banal as a pack of biscuits from years gone by? “Whether you’re a CEO of a global megacorp or a little old lady from Bolton, everyone relates to things from their childhood,” says Chris Griffin, The Museum of Brands chief executive.
“You connect to things like that in an emotional way, which brings back memories. Our little old lady will enjoy the nostalgic elements; our megacorp will see how brands manage to tap into memories, and see what he can learn from them. The museum can offer some deep learning about branding, design and communication.”
At its new home, the museum will boast a new Time Tunnel – its centrepiece, which shows the story of the “consumer revolution,” as well as a cafe and education centre. According to Chris, the space will also have increasingly tight ties with the brands of today, and pieces on show range from 200-year-old exhibits to products “which came out yesterday – or even that are coming out tomorrow.”
The crux of the thing isn’t just about marvelling at the graphic design of yesteryear, or the “I remember Opal Fruits!” factor, but about the underlying message that brands offer as much of a social history as written documents, photography or film.
“I suppose what we’re trying to do is tell one massive story of the progress of consumer society,” says Chris. “We’re not just presenting the brands or the advertising, but the context of what the consumer was responding to at the time. Things like the fridge or the microwave changed the way consumers reacted to brands. You can see how war-time packaging took on a very different look because of restrictions on materials and ink; then the dynamism of the 1950s influenced by America. There’s learning on so many levels.”
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