History repeating itself

Are companies too quick to change their branding or ditch an ad campaign?  We take a look at how history can repeat itself in marketing and beyond.

The old adage of holding onto something for long enough and it’ll come back into fashion seems truer today than ever. Perhaps it’s this age of austerity that we’re living in or that these items have an emotional pull that makes us look back fondly on a certain point in time. Maybe it’s just that we like to get our money’s worth out of a product! Whatever the reason, many things that were sales successes decades ago are among today’s must haves.

If you were a child of the 1970s and 1980s you probably got busy with the fizzy and were used to the iconic sound that a Soda Stream made. The machine and the bottles have undergone a few redesigns over the last 30 years, but Soda Stream’s sales are once again rising – up 25% in 2013. If you’re still using the version with the glass bottles you’ll probably be seen as the height of retro fashion.

When it comes to toys and games, some things have an enduring appeal. Board games such as Monopoly and Cluedo have remained popular for over 60 years, and building just wouldn’t be the same without Lego. One game that became popular with youngsters again recently was Subbuteo. Originally manufactured in the late 1940s the game was a mainstay of kids’ toy boxes until the mid 1990s when production stopped. With lots of accessories you could recreate your favourite teams and even stadia! Production started again in 2012 and youngsters once again discovered the joy of Subbuteo – also the injury your finger sustained from flicking the little figures…! With the FIFA World Cup just round the corner, players young and old will no doubt be laying the green Subbuteo cloth over the kitchen table and getting competitive with the plastic men wobbling about after the ball.

Even computer technology launched in the 1980s is being reinvented. The Sinclair ZX Spectrum was a popular home gaming computer and over its 10-year production run around five million of the British-built devices were sold. Now mobile games firm Elite Systems is aiming to reinvent the iconic computer as a Bluetooth keyboard that can play an array of classic games on phones and tablets. ‘Head over Heels’ or ‘Arkanoid’ anyone?

As was shown last year it is not just products that can be successes 20 years later, but music too. In 1994, when starring in Byker Grove as PJ and Duncan, Ant and Dec reached number one with ‘Let’s Get Ready to Rhumble’ and in 2013 after performing it on their Saturday Night Takeaway show it hit the top of charts once again as a result of downloads.

Over the last couple of years two things have become fashion must haves – quilted jackets and leather satchels. Walk down the street in any city recently and you were bound to see someone in a quilted jacket. They were the height of fashion in the 1970s and early 1980s, were revived and remodelled in the 1990s as puffa jackets, before Barbour added their twist in 2012 and every clothing manufacturer jumped on the bandwagon. The humble leather school satchel that carried every primary school pupil’s jotters until the late 1980s has also become a must-have accessory. The bag has been jazzed up from its brown origins and can now be bought in all sorts of vivid colours.

An old schoolbag is now the height of fashion

An old schoolbag is now the height of fashion

Even the royals are famous fashion recyclers. The Queen has been known to dust off the same outfit time and again; recently she was snapped wearing a coat that she bought in the 1960s. Her Majesty’s make do and mend attitude has also rubbed off on her children. Princess Anne has been known to sport outfits 20 years after she first wore them and Prince Charles has been seen wearing 40-year-old shoes and darned jackets.

Marketeers and advertisers aren’t averse to delving into their promotional archive and blowing the dust of successful campaigns from bygone years.   We’ve seen many of them do it and to great effect. Milky Way revived its ‘Red car and the Blue car’ advert 20 years after it was aired, while Persil, Fairy and Tennent’s all looked to their advertising past for inspiration for TV campaigns 25 years on.

When it comes to brand identity, however, some firms don’t bother undertaking rebranding exercises. Instead they just update their brand to prevent it from becoming dated. Shell’s Pecten has stood the test of time over the last 114 years, with only its shape and the typography used altering slightly. The most drastic changes were the introduction of red and yellow in 1948 and then the removal of the word Shell in 1999.  This is how it has evolved.

Motor manufacturers are another example of brands that rarely change their logo. Mercedes-Benz, Audi, Volkswagen, BMW, Ford, Chevrolet and Toyota have all made few changes to their identities. However, Fiat has changed its logo several times throughout its history and the most recent incarnation from 2006 takes inspiration from the badge of the 1930s that adorned vehicles for more than 30 years.

Regardless of whether it is something in our home, an item of clothing or even an ad campaign, hang on to it for long enough and it will be back into vogue before we know it. Maybe we should also take the view of ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’, and save ourselves a lot of hassle and money. Let’s hope we’ve seen the back of some things though. Do we really need shellsuits again…?


Sending Christmas Cards

100_5817_1The tree may not yet be up, but the next stage of Christmas is well under way here at Innes Associates – the task of sending out Christmas cards.  As writer’s cramp has set in, we thought we’d rest the pen for a moment and give our fingers a workout on the keyboard by investigating the tradition of festive card giving.


The tradition of sending good wishes goes back many centuries.  There is evidence of printed cards being produced in Germany in the 14th century, where images were carved onto wooden blocks that were then covered in ink and used to print on paper.

Sir Henry Cole is credited with devising the concept of sending a greetings card at Christmas.  The first Christmas card was illustrated in May 1843 by John Callcott Horsley.  The picture, a family with a small child drinking wine together, proved controversial.  Two batches of 2,050 cards were printed and sold that year for a shilling each, which in Victorian times wasn’t cheap.

However, the idea caught on and children – including Queen Victoria’s – were encouraged, Blue Peter style, to make their own Christmas cards.  The early Victorian era also saw industrial colour printing technology becoming more advanced, meaning the cost of producing cards dropped significantly.  Together with the introduction of the halfpenny postage rate, the Christmas card industry took off.  By the end of the 1880s sending cards had become very popular, creating an industry that in 1880 produced 11.5million cards.

The advent of postcards spelt the end of elaborate Victorian-style cards, but by the 1920s, the popularity of cards with envelopes was on the rise.  Modern technology has also had a go at killing off the Christmas card.  The internet and e-mail has led to the introduction of e-cards and many companies, and individuals, now plump for this option at Christmas.

E-cards versus real cards

Over the next few weeks your inbox will be pinging to the sound of many e-cards arriving and then entertaining you with static content or an all singing all dancing festive production featuring Santa Claus and Rudolf.  But once you’ve enjoyed it, you’ll probably hit delete and consign the sender’s yuletide wishes to the digital recycling bin.

Instead why not let the festive cheer that you send out remain around the recipient’s office for more than a few minutes?  Over the years at Innes Associates we have posted charity cards and sent e-cards, but this year we’ve gone for the custom-designed card that follows the style of our brochure.  They’ll be hitting the bottom of a post box in the next few days, before starting their journey to the offices of our clients, suppliers and contacts.  Instead of the ping of the incoming e-card, our recipients will enjoy the thud of a real card landing on their doormat or desk that will, hopefully, take pride of place for many weeks.  They might even think about us when they take their cards down in the New Year.

With more e-mails being sent by companies – some legitimate and informative, others just downright annoying – our inboxes are becoming clogged up.  Whereas if something arrives through the post personally addressed to us, we will usually take time to open it and read it – as long as it’s not a bill and doesn’t look like junk mail.

Christmas card recycling

Christmas card recycling

Although some people have concerns that printing, mailing and delivering cards is detrimental to the environment, many cards are now printed on recycled paper and several large retailers have card recycling points in their stores each January.  Another green option is to use your old cards as shopping lists.  We’ve designed our cards to have lots of white space on the back so they can be used for this purpose!

Posting cards also supports the economy and creates thousands of jobs.  Royal Mail recruits 18,000 additional staff at Christmas time to handle more than 130million items of festive mail each day, which is nearly double the amount it usually handles.

The era of the Christmas card is certainly not over, 2011 saw a 3% rise in card sales compared with 2009.  And although the cost of postage has increased, consider sending cards as an investment in maintaining relationships with clients, suppliers and other contacts.

So why not send a card, put a smile on someone’s face and support the Great British economy in the process.  After all, Christmas is about giving.

Some facts about Christmas cards

  • The tradition of sending and displaying cards is stronger in Britain than any other country.  The sending and receiving of cards is an important part of our culture.
  • The world’s most expensive Christmas card cost £22,250.  It wasn’t diamond encrusted, but an original card from 1843 sold at auction in 2001.
  • It is estimated that £50million is raised each year for good causes through the sales of charity Christmas cards.
  • If you were to purchase an 1843 one shilling Christmas card, it would cost around £3.52 in today’s money according to the Measuring Worth website.
  • According to the Guinness Book of Records, the world’s smallest Christmas card was created in Glasgow in 2010.  You would need a high power microscope to view the card as it measures just 200 x 290 microcentimetres, and 8,276 cards would fit on one postage stamp.
  • In the 12 years that the Woodland Trust has run its Christmas card recycling scheme, more than 600million cards have been recycled.

Interesting Aberdeen: City with a Ghostly Past

His Majesty's TheatreDid you know that Aberdeen is, according to some sources, one of the most haunted places in Scotland? There has been reported paranormal activity throughout the city, including at well-known venues such as Central Library, His Majesty’s Theatre, Ardoe House Hotel and Aberdeen Arts Centre. There have also been many reports of an entity grabbing peoples’ arms or legs on Union Street and holding on for several seconds before letting go. If you want to learn more about the darker and spookier side of the granite city, Hidden Aberdeen operate themed walking tours round Aberdeen. Visit www.hiddenaberdeen.co.uk for more information.

Interesting Aberdeen: Where is Pocket Park?

Pocket Park AberdeenIt was a question we found ourselves asking.  When Clare joined the team we thought it was only right that we got some new photographs taken – after all, we always tell you how important pictures are.  Having decided that we’d do our photo shoot outside, the photographer suggested we met him at Pocket Park.  The venue name was met with blank faces all round the office.  Having thought we all knew Aberdeen fairly well – some of us have lived here all our lives – we were stumped.  It is in fact on Schoolhill, just outside the Art Gallery where the statue of Major-General Charles Gordon stands.

Having looked at images of Schoolhill on the Silver City Vault website, it looks very much like Pocket Park was filled with rose bushes and surrounded by iron railings at the turn of the twentieth century.  The marks where the iron railings once stood can still be seen today.  The old photographs that are included on the Silver City Vault show the area outside the Art Gallery looking very different from the current concrete slabs shaded by leafy trees.

One constant, though, in the area since mid-1888 has been the statue of Major-General Charles George Gordon R.E.C.E who stands guard at the arch to the Robert Gordon quadrangle.  The 9ft bronze statue, created by Scottish sculptor Thomas Stuart Burnett, stands on a 9ft Correnie granite plinth and was erected and presented to the City of Aberdeen through the subscriptions – amounting to £1,000 – of the Gordon clan.

Major-General Gordon was born in January 1833 and served as an officer in the British army seeing action in the Crimean War, but he made his military reputation in China – earning the nickname Chinese Gordon.  He later became the Governor-General of Sudan, where he did much to suppress revolts and the slave trade.

He resigned from the British army in 1890, but at the request of the British Government Gordon went to Khartoum to oversee the evacuation of Egyptian soldiers and civilians following a serious revolt in Sudan.  It was here in January 1885, after protecting the city from Muslim reformer and self proclaimed Madhi, Muhammad Ahmad, for over a year, that he fell.  The siege of Khartoum is one of the most famous and heroic sieges in history.

His career, although sometimes controversial, has generally always enjoyed a good reputation, as can be seen in the 1966 film Khartoum in which he was depicted by Charlton Heston.