If brands have learnt one thing in the past year it is the importance of their story, their history however long or short. In a world of uncertainty consumers are looking for reassurance and credibility at every stage of the buying process – particularly when it comes to luxury. Heritage delivers depth and authenticity to the value perception of a brand, particularly in times of global market volatility. It takes consumers on an emotional journey and because that history is shared it enables the consumer to feel part of the brand, not just able to relate to it.
As David Golding wrote for the Museum of Brands seminar, “It is worthwhile figuring out your brand history and often your hidden and hitherto unexplored brand history that may already evoke a visceral emotional connection”. Now more than ever brands need to invest in exploring and analysing their archives not only to conserve their visual history but also to mine the richness of what has already been in order to maximise what is to come.
Just as the Prada strapline for S/S 2021 challenges the consumer with the unexpected question, “Is new Relevant?”, so brands need to challenge themselves to open and explore the hidden boxes in basements, the seemingly endless archival material that makes up the residue of their history, to unearth the forgotten moments of magic, to reinvigorate their brand message. It is these nostalgic images and the stories they tell that can refresh the brand’s position for a modern audience and deliver a more sustainable, more relevant and more powerful future. As Grammy-winner Dua Lipa writes of her winning album, Future Nostalgia, “To me, future nostalgia means bringing sounds and influences of the past into the present and creating something that will shape our future”.
It is this that led Victoria and Katie Bridgeman to establish The Brand Archivists. Victoria’ s background as CEO of Bridgeman Images and Katie’s as a global account director at Saatchi and Saatchi enabled them to see the critical importance of archives and storytelling in branding today. “The moment you mention archives to brand people they tend to look both guilty and perplexed. Archives still sit, often ignored, if not forgotten, in basements and warehouses, a shameful secret like a ghost in the attic-but the stories within are waiting to set the brand on fire for the next generation. The mention of archives would, in the past, have caused creatives to run to the door not wishing to associate with something misguidedly seen as low budget and passe - the opposite of an of- the -moment- no expense- spared photoshoot, but times have changed, and those brands who have understood the importance of their past and invested in their archives have prospered. Diageo has a whole archive department dedicated to cataloguing every bottle and label ever created for each of their brands with a foresight that rivals any museum. Yves Saint Laurent have opened two museums in Paris and Marrakesh to celebrate the work of its founder and Shonagh Marshall, who recently archived Alexander McQueen’s collection agreed, “The motivation often lies in the sense of building out of the past for the future. Brand and cultural heritage intertwined”.
Successful luxury corporations, often the owners of multiple brands, are finally waking up to the relevance of these archives, not only as important records of cultural development for which they stand as guardians for future generations, but also for the opportunity that they represent to help them engage with an increasingly curious and hungry online audience. The scene in Frederic Tcheng’s acclaimed docufilm Dior and I perfectly illustrates the symbiosis between past and present, and the importance of intelligent creative curation. “I find the legacy of Dior rather challenging,” says Raff Simons as he confronts the prospect of creating a whole new collection in just 8 weeks after arriving as the new Creative Director at the house of Dior. It is because of Simmon’s respect for the history of Dior, that he goes straight to the archive for inspiration for his first new collection. As the commentator says, it is because of Dior’s amazing history that people are fascinated by what will happen to the brand under Simmon’s and beyond.
Talking of her time as CEO of licensing specialist Bridgeman Images, Victoria says, “Increasingly, I found myself in conversations with brands asking us to advise on how they could digitise and manage their own archives as they recognised the value of their visual histories but didn’t know where to begin”. It is the recognition of the potential that sits in every brand’s memory or archive, that inspired us to start the Brand Archivists. Our aim is simple, for any brand wishing to explore it’s archive we can apply intelligent and creative curation with practical digitisation solutions. We can transform any archive from a complex and unwanted logistical problem, into both a practical digital resource and the inspiration and stories which can engage and delight, and inspire generations to come.
As Chloe’s slogan down the catwalk of this season’s London Fashion week read, “I have nostalgia for things I probably have never known”. So let us open those boxes and get exploring!