“A good name is better than precious ointment” – Ecclesiastes vii. 1.Brands are like people, they are the sums of many parts drawn together into one distinctive personality. Once that personality is crystallised by years of consistency its totality is expressed in a symbolism that’s extremely difficult to change whether consistently good or consistently bad.
Eventually, brand personality can be encapsulated into a trade mark or logo which, the moment it is seen, unlocks in the mind of the consumer a whole matrix of attitudes, emotions, likes and dislikes.
It has become appropriate to apply the description ‘brand’ to entities other than commercial goods or services. The Royal Family is one (indeed, it’s often described as The Firm). Other examples might be Roman Catholicism, the Labour Party, Israel, the USA, Auckland University, the Black Caps or the Maori tribe Ngai Tahu.
Their perceived rating will depend upon the point of view of the consumer. No doubt respect for the Labour Party brand will be significantly different among National Party supporters from those who wear red ties on polling day!
Adolph Hitler was probably the worst brand in remembered history. So bad that even if he had lived a long time in holy orders after inventing Nazism (another bad brand) he would have had a hell of a job changing his already formed brand image. To some, admittedly, the brands ‘Hitler’ and ‘Nazi’ were once heroes, but to the vast and ever growing majority they became anathema. They did not survive because their ‘public’ turned away from them.
Over the years, New Zealanders have readily espoused many brands both of local and overseas origin; have grown to trust and even love them, and have treated them almost as members of their family. Until Britain joined the European Economic Community in 1973, New Zealand abounded with British and, to a much lesser extent, American or Australian brands of products imported either whole or in parts for local assembly, supplemented by New Zealand made brands of goods based upon primary produce or those easy to manufacture. Thus, in the latter years of last century, we emerged each morning from under our Kaiapoi or Mosgiel blankets, shampooed with Loxene and washed with Lifebuoy under a Topliss shower; we breakfasted on Creamota, Weetbix or Kiwi bacon; spread Fernleaf butter on our Tip-Top bread and topped it with Marmite or Vegemite.
We dressed in Jockey underpants, Bob Charles tops, Summit business shirts, Klipper ties, Berlei brassières, Canterbury hosiery, Holeproof socks, Rembrandt suits, frocks from Smith and Caughey, Kirkcaldie’s, Ballantynes or Arthur Barnett and wore Monarch shoes from Hannahs buffed with Nugget shoe polish.
We went to the office or factory in an Austin car running on ‘clean burning’ Europa; wrote with a Bic or Biro; typed on Imperial typewriters.
Speights,On the farm we sheared sheep with Lister gear; ploughed behind Fordson, Ferguson or International Harvester tractors; gave the farm dogs Tux biscuits, enriched the pastures with ‘basic slag’ from Farmers Fert, and owed money to Dalgety’s, the BNZ, ANZ or the Bank of New South Wales.
Our communications were via government-owned monopolies: the P and T Department controlled all postal and telegraphic services long before the brands NZ Post and Telecom were conceived. We listened to public broadcast radio stations, the YAs, YCs, and commercial ZBs on plastic or plywood wireless sets with brands like Philips, Ultimate, Majestic and Bell; brands which transferred to television sets from the early 1960s.
Beers from Dominion Breweries and NZ Breweries were New Zealand originated and jealously provincial: Waitemata Bitter, Red Band or Wards; and some of that rugby tinted provinciality still remains, witness Speight’s in Otago (the blue and gold of the Highlanders). Other national beers came later; brews like Leopard, DB, Steinlager, Lion and the ill-fated Lucky. And as our marketplace opened up, in came the sophisticated exotics: Rheineck, Heineken, Stella Artois and Carlsberg.
Wine hardly existed before the 1960s; where it did, few drank much beyond the sherries of McWilliams. Just a few wine brands have survived to the 21st century, among them are Babich, Corbans, Mission, Nobilo, Selak, Te Mata and Vidals. Montana, now New Zealand’s biggest wine brand, was just beginning to flex its muscles in 1970. Cresta d’Ore might yet make a come back!
Practically all spirits and liqueurs were imported. Scotches like Johnny Walker and McCallums were favourites as were Gordons gin and Martell brandy, later to be joined by Smirnoff vodka, Bacardi and Coruba rums, and Jim Beam or Jack Daniels bourbons. The Wilson Distillery in Dunedin launched its home-made whiskies, Wilsons Malt and 45 South which somehow never hit the high spots but were nonetheless slightly better regarded than non-alcoholic Clayton’s, ‘the-drink-you-have-when-you’re-not-having-a-drink’.
Homes were roofed with Monier Tiles or Decramastic; Fibrolite sidings were painted with Berger, British Paints or Dulux; walls papered with Ashley. Bremworth or Feltex covered the floor of our Neil, Merritt, Keith Hay or Fletcher homes wherein Laminex woodgrain tables supported Crown Lynn crockery. In the kitchen Big Ben pies were warmed over in a Shacklock or Atlas range while our F andP, Prestcold or Kelvinator fridges, Norge freezers or kitchen cupboards were a cornucopia of products carrying the brands or sub-brands of Wattie’s, Sanitarium, Kellogg’s, St George, Craigs, Bushells, Choysa, Bell, Nescafé, Gregg’s, Aulsebrooks, Griffins, Cadbury, Diamond, and the various offerings of barely remembered dairy factories up and down the country.
Hurricane or Cyclone fences enclosed lawns mown every Saturday by a joker wearing Skellerup gumboots and pushing a Masport or Morrison clockwise around a Hill’s Hoist draped with clothes washed with Taniwha or Sunlight soap in a Hoovermatic! Meanwhile, around and above us, NAC was flying DC3s internally, TEAL’s Electra fleet was our international carrier, PanAm ‘The World’s Most Experienced Airline’ connected us to the USA. Our almost anonymous meat went to the United Kingdom in New Zealand Shipping Company refrigerated freighters.
NZR ran both our railways and long distance buses; and George Bettle offered by mail order mysterious marital supplies in plain wrappers in the classified columns of Truth, that great medium for the prurient, whose furtive readership far excelled Woman’s Weekly, the Listener, the Freelance, Auckland Weekly News, Hoof Beats or Friday Flash! Ah, yes, Friday – an hour’s frantic swilling before six o’clock in De Bretts, the Hotel St George or Perry’s Occidental or, more civilised, taking in a movie in a Kerridge-Odeon or Amalgamated theatre and having a care not to send the Jaffas rattling down wooden steps into the one-and-sixpenny stalls…
Enough! The well-remembered favourite brands inventory is endless; make your own list.
To apply a brand to goods or services is to enter an unwritten contract of reassurance which acknowledges that the only guarantee of a brand’s survival is the continuing patronage of its trusting consumer. It promises the consumer that the brand owner is so confident, so earnest of intent, that he is prepared to live or die by the brand’s purity of purpose. At times the brand might falter but receive forgiveness in view of past good character. At times a brand might die because technology has sent it past its use-by date; or because it has been killed off in a merger or takeover. But a brand that lives on, adapting to change and satisfying its user, maintains its place as a trusted friend of that great family of consumers for which the part-art, part-science of marketing exists.
© DON DONOVAN