The Musings Of An Opinionated Sod [Help Me Grow!]

A Brand Is A Memory Not From The Brand …
September 26, 2007, 5:17 am
Filed under: Comment

So as I was walking through the streets of Barcelona, I passed a shop that I hadn’t seen for a long time …


Yep, C&A … the ol’ mass market clothes retailer that left the UK god-knows how many years ago.

To be honest the only things I can really remember about the place is …

1 There was a very rude joke about what C&A stood for – involving women’s pants. Take a wild guess …

2 Mum only took me there around the start of the school term.

3 The branch in Nottingham was huuuuuge.

On Saturdays, the friendliest busker in the World played there – a busker with talent and personality, which makes a change from the ‘statue’ trend that seems to be sweeping the World’s shopping thoroughfares at the moment.

5 A friend once pretended I was famous to see if the dumbo security guard would ask for my autograph. He did.

… and yet I still felt an irrational sense of warmth towards the place.

Of course I didn’t go in and buy anything … but I did find it interesting that an old looking logo for a brand I know little about [bar a bunch of associated memories] made me feel good inside.

And here’s the thing … quite often planners ignore the outside influence in the development of brand perception and focus purely on the relationship between consumer and brand.

Little Bad Habit #1

Many, many years ago I did a project with the jewellers Tiffany’s.  [Yes me, Mr Ugly Mug!]

Anyway, when we were doing the background research, the people we interviewed all kept telling us the same words as regards what they thought the brand represented: Classic, Sophisticated, Understated.

The thing that we found most interesting was that it didn’t matter whether they were male or female … a Tiffany’s owner or someone who had never set foot in a shop … they all pretty much felt the same way and we wanted to understand why.

Well after all sorts of research [which is a post in itself], we were able to prove that the simple answer to this ‘riddle’ was ‘associated memory’.

You see Tiffany’s was seemingly more closely associated with the movie ‘BREAKFAST AT TIFFANY’S’ than anything the brand had purposefully produced… and the star of this film, Audrey Hepburn, had come to represent all the traits people felt were the Tiffany’s brand – Classic, Sophisticated, Understated.

Now this was kinda scary for Tiffany’s because what we were saying was their brand had been created by factors outside of their direct control or influence, however this feeling was so prevalent within societies mind, that we just couldn’t ignore it in our brand development process.


Same thing happened when we were re-launching the Mini in the US.

When we talked to people about the car, the words we kept hearing back were things like [if memory serves me]  Mischievous, Fun, Fashionable, Energetic, Audacious … and where were these coming from? 

The movie ‘The Italian Job’ and 60’s model ‘Twiggy’ because she was the model [featuring photos that are still regarded as iconic today] when the Mini was originally launched.

Of course you can’t just take these elements and turn it into brand communication, however it can [in certain circumstances] form the foundation for the core brand idea – acknowledging you need to find category/consumer/competitive/cultural insights to make sure there is relevance and resonance with today’s customer. [Which in the case of Mini, all came together with a core idea of “Mini Puts The Fun Back Into Motoring”]

Lots of people talk about the need to be rigouress when planning – and by god they are right – but don’t just think that means you have to do the bare essentials well, it’s also means you have to think interms of breadth as well as depth.

I love planning, I love it when the unrelated actually proves to be related – but in my experience, that only comes about when you think, explore, talk, read, watch, collaborate, question and experience every aspect of the communication chain – including associated memories.

Planning is an outdoors activity – and by that I mean both physically and mentally.

40 Comments so far
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Chicken or egg? It occurs to me that neither Tiffany’s nor the Mini would have featured in those movies or original play if the “product” and its marketing back then hadn’t already generated the adjectives that your research unearthed a generation later. The associated memory followed directly from that marketing albeit with gaps of 30 or more years in between.

Upshot – you can justifiably point to the long-term effectiveness of your work when it truly reflects the product. Alternatively you can move into product placement.

Comment by John

True, but when we analyse the competition, we often forget to look at life.

Comment by NP

Interesting examples, I wonder how much what John says is true.

The Mini was a flop originally until they gave it to all the stars of the time (inc the beatles). So maybe part of that fun and fashionable association is still left over from that marketing drive.

Comment by Rob Mortimer

C&A are alive and kicking in Germany.

Comment by The Kaiser

Herren at C&A

Comment by NP

Damenbekleidung gibt’s auch.

Comment by The Kaiser


Comment by NP


Comment by The Kaiser

Without doubt the initial ‘marketing’ of the brand was driven by the “owner” [so to speak] but it developed via actions beyond their direct control or influence which ultimately impacted society to a much greater extent than any of their marketing plan could have hoped/achieved.

This is not about product placement – it’s about a brand being part of a particular culture which left such an indelible mark that we were able to leverage it in modern times for brand relevance.

Ooooooh look at me being all fancy pants!

Comment by Rob

That pants are from C&A, I can see it from here.

Comment by Seb

My point was that the products were “placed” within those cultural/artistic entities (by whom I don’t know – presumably a different mixture of the company and the creators of the art in each case) exactly because the original marketing (including product design) sought to make them iconic. They chose MInis in The Italian Job rather than some other small british car of the time exactly because they had been marketed that way. Thereafter, for sure there was no “control” over the ultimate impact but the vector (no vauxhall jokes please) on which they set out surely precludes a lot of potential outcomes.

And no it’s not product placement per se – that was just a wind-up. Much like those pants.

Comment by John

Actually John, the Mini was chosen to be used in “The Italian Job” by the then head of FIAT who loved the car so much, he pushed the film makers to use it even though they originally wanted his 126 (or 127) as the star. (This car was created as FIATs version of the car)
The film took the Mini into the fabric of English culture and society, the actual manufacturer had little to do with it though you are right to say it was originally created as the car about town but without any of the cheekiness the Mini became synonomous for and without any of the success it garnered after the film became popular.
Funnily enough I’m off to the Mini people now but I can assure you, Rob and his mobs work into associated memory was far more powerful in delivering an effective campaign than the UK version (Mini adventures) because even though they used a similar essence of an idea, it was expressed totally differently because they looked only at the current consumer attitude towards the car, not what the car meant to society in more ambigious terms.

Comment by Pete

Very true Pete, which is surprising considering how the design and feel of the car is very much based on updating the old mini charm. (and I know as I drive one)

Comment by Rob Mortimer

Lets not say any more Rob, the other Rob was instrumental in pushing that campaign through (he did some great active research about driving too)and I don’t need him reminding me I was firmly behind the UK direction. 🙂

Comment by Pete

so if petes married and robs married and petes straight and robs straight, why is it petes sucking up robs ass with all the compliments? fucked up world.

Comment by andy@cynic

Working for the diplomatic department again I see Andy. 🙂

Comment by Pete

That’s better. It was all getting a bit intellectual for me.

Comment by NP

im with you np, too fucking smartypants for my liking but pete wants to have gay love with rob so hes probably creaming his pants over this post. its just you and me np, whod of thought it.

Comment by andy@cynic

I’m in the mood for a fight. Who wants a go?

Comment by The Kaiser

youre on the wrong blog brown, go to one of the wanker blogs and tell them theyre a bunch of thick fucks then slowly kill them as they splutter, complain and look confused.

Comment by andy@cynic

Good point Boucher. We don’t want any code blue around here. OK, where should I go? Suggestions please people.

Comment by The Kaiser

any fucking planner blog marcus, they all have hidden gems of fuckdom. or you could try the major corporate design companies like landor, they deserve a good fucking kicking and you are the man who can do it. off to a meeting, i expect a full report on my desk by 9am tomorrow. kill.

Comment by andy@cynic

ooooh Landor is horrid isn’t it. Evil almost.

Comment by The Kaiser

Not criticising the campaign, as it had some gems, especially the “jumping over other ads” ad. Just wondered why the overall campaign didnt make more of the history of the brand.

I suppose maybe BMW felt their ownership could have affected it… I dunno.

Mr Kaiser, have posted something for you on my blog. Hope you enjoy.

Comment by Rob Mortimer

NP aint gonna be happy Mortimer

Comment by The Kaiser

I know, great isnt it. 😉

Comment by Rob Mortimer

i know why mortimer. they didnt have campbell. and more importantly, me.

Comment by andy@cynic

Fuck all this, have you seen the new Oliviero Toscani campaign? It’s on my blog. I’m so angry I really want to kill now.

Comment by The Kaiser

do it, kill and i expect that report on my fucking desk in 24 hours or youre in the shit.

Comment by andy@cynic

Andy, I’m not Billy. You can talk to Billy like that, but not to me.

Comment by The Kaiser

Apologies all round – I know not what i was doing. I certainly wasn’t commenting about any campaigns of recent times
but I headed shamefully close to Derridian wankery and that was a mistake as evidenced by the fact that we now have Andy declaring undying lust for NP.

Comment by John

Are you saying you don’t always agree with me Andy?

Comment by NP

dont fucking wreck a beautiful union np with some bravado declaration. remember you need me more than i need you unless i decide to enter the cynic swim off then ill come crawling. wheres my report brown? done it? slagged anyone off? and the way i talked to you isnt how id talk to billy, you get respect 🙂

Comment by andy@cynic

The fucking dog eat it.

Comment by Marcus

shouldnt talk about my ex like that

Comment by andy@cynic

evil shite!

Comment by The Kaiser

thank you

Comment by andy@cynic

nothing to do with c&a, but the new fiat “cinquecento” (500) has just been re-launched, taking a brand new leaf out of mini’s book and looks like it’s working well – i saw a new one the other day and they’re fucking fab and all the italians have got a renewed love for their little squinchy car.

Comment by lauren

Doesn’t it look amazing – I especially love the interior – infact I was describing it to a client the other day and summed it up as the bastard love child of the original mini with the modern VW Beetle … they thought I’d gone abit mad but hopefully you get what I am talking about, ha!

Fuck, maybe I have designer language traits too!

Comment by Rob

The Fiat 500 is a wonderful piece of car design, I want one.

Comment by Rob Mortimer

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