This evocative, yet slightly jumbled, time tunnel offers a fond reminder of the domestic brands, packaging and advertising we grew up with, highlighting the way they have evolved with design trends and how Britain’s favourite brands developed the strong emotional bonds they have with their consumers today.
In the middle of its renovation, the hidden Notting Hill museum offered discounted entrance to half of its collection, spanning across 120 years and with branding, advertising, and packaging being such a wide territory to cover, the museum is rational in mainly focusing on food and drink in its displays; something which appeals to everyone.
In the two rooms on show, the rich history of our consumer culture unfolds in the form of several full glass cabinets, categorised by decade. Filling the otherwise empty rooms, these cabinets captivate your attention by providing a sense of familiarity, showcasing examples such as Toblerone, who’s image remains unchanged from it’s origins in 1908.
Unlike Toblerone however, the aesthetics of the majority of brands have changed with history. Key historical events listed next to each decade’s cabinet, although not contextualised with the exhibition itself, allow visitors to make the connection between how events have informed the redesign of many brands. For example the industrial revolution’s part in progressing the packaging of some products from hand wrapped to mass produced by machine, as well as the introduction of plastics which increased the protection and shelf life of many items.
Ideo’s creative director, Paul Bennett defines branding by suggesting a large part is companies targeting the lifestyle of the people they are selling to (TED, 2007). This is very clear in the exhibition with advertisements subtly changing their portrayal of women in the early 20th century, evidently sparked by the Suffragette movement. With food brands especially, their largest buyers were women who would be shopping for their families, at this point images of women waiting on their husbands would have discouraged many supporters of the suffragette movement from purchasing from that brand.
The exhibition establishes the origins and importance of brand identity, explaining that trademarks were used to create recognition and confidence in a company, as well as legal protection. Colmans’ bulls head, and the Guiness harp were among the first logos to be used in the 19th century and both remain on their packaging today, however signatures were also employed by a lot of brands to ensure customers bought the right pack, as used by Kellogg’s, “Look for the signature, W K Kellogg”.
For a little taste of nostalgia, The Museum of Brands, Packaging and Advertising is well worth the visit however more information about the items on show would have strengthened the exhibits and for me would have left a better lasting impression.
TED (2007) Paul Bennett: Design is in the Details. Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7g0O003kufA (Accessed: 12/01/16).