Back in my day when I was in journalism school, when we walked uphill both ways (seriously, they should have handed out topographical maps of my campus), we always demanded that a clear distinction be drawn between the “news” side and the “advertising” side.
After all, we newsies were the serious, honest ones. We weren’t trying to sell anything.
Of course, in the real world, the lines are a little blurrier. Journalism outside the classroom is all about how many eyeballs have seen your story, how many Facebook likes it got, how many people could be bothered to comment. And if you don’t hit those targets, you aren’t selling your words and your publication hard enough.
And then it hit me: We are all marketers. No matter where we’re employed or what we do, we all work in advertising.
We are all peddling our wares, whether that’s cans of Heinz or how good we’ve made the company’s quarterly figures look or the blog posts we write in our free time.
We want people, our audience, to form an emotional attachment to our creations, and therefore to us, and therefore to our brand.
#572: Visit the Museum of Brands
This cute museum is tucked away in a quaint mews in Notting Hill, ironically hardly advertising itself and you have to do a little hunting to find it. Inside are stacks and stacks of packages, all the way back to the late 1800s and up to the childhood era of my younger siblings (which was yesterday, I think).
There aren’t many places where Tamagotchis and anti-Nazi posters can co-exist quite like they do here.
Even Donald Duck gets in on hitting Hitler in the face.
The museum ushers you through the decades room by room, and in each room, you’re in a glass case of emotions. You move from distant nostalgia for vintage designs into the eras that your grandparents survived, with ration books and bare metal containers when design was deemed to be too much of a luxury.
And then comes the dreams your parents instilled in you, like owning any kind of original Beatles memorabilia.
And finally you wonder into a room that could have been your own, well at least if you were one of those cool kids who had everything.
And then you get distracted and spend the next 10 minutes looking up Tamagotchis on eBay and finally settle on the iPhone app.
One of the best parts of the museum (for design nerds like myself) is the rooms that are filled with a single product, and you can see how the design adapts and changes through time. Hint: We like faces and coupons.
My hippie self would slap my normal self for feeling such a connection to all this … stuff. These brands, these products, these companies aren’t people. But unless you live completely off the grid, these brands infiltrate our lives so often, and usually without us paying much attention outside the grocery store.
Robert Opie, who has collected the contents of the museum since he was 16, said, “My museum is not just about the history of packaging. It’s about the story of Everyman.”
This museum is us, and we are as much of the exhibit as the brands.