Past and Present: Brands and Archives

A few months ago, I was hired by Illustrated London News Ltd as a Historical Researcher.

26 Aug 2014

by Andrew Hearn

As a recent history graduate I was thrilled to be employed in a role that could utilise my historical knowledge to exploit the company’s vast archive, which holds the entire collections of The Illustrated London News and the other illustrated magazines known as the “Great Eight” publications.

I admit I was initially unsure how this would ultimately benefit a marketing and publishing company with a specialty in luxury premium brands. However, I soon learnt the value that the archive holds with modern-day companies, particularly high-ends brands and retailers. Indeed, a brand with an archive has significant advantages over its competitors.

One of the most important rewards a company can expect from effectively managing its archive is through increasing brand knowledge and awareness. This year, Godiva commissioned Illustrated London News Ltd to create a book that captures the luxury chocolatier’s rich history and tells the story of its development as a company over the past 88 years. This has involved historians uncovering fascinating material in its archive that best conveys Godiva’s heritage to its customers and the public

Archives also have direct commercial value as a source of product innovation. Ideas that have been lost and forgotten can be re-discovered and re-packaged for today’s market. This is particularly valuable for the fashion industry with decades-old styles constantly coming back into fashion. The Savile Row tailor Gieves and Hawkes hired archivists to help dig up old designs to be used in their “capsule collection”. Archival material helped with campaigns based around its long-standing reputation as a royal tailor as well as pieces written about its history as a designer for the Royal Navy going as far back as the Napoleonic wars.

Differentiation, closely linked with brand knowledge, is also an important incentive for luxury brands to manage their archives. Every company has a unique story to tell, one that incorporates its achievements, company culture, product, people and reputation. Telling your story can create the kind of loyalty that gives a brand a real competitive advantage in particularly tough markets.

past and present_valentino

The Valentino Garavani 3D museum

A striking example of storytelling in the world of luxury brands is Valentino Garavani’s online 3D museum. Using images and information from over 5,000 documents, the Italian fashion house has pieced together an interactive history of Valentino’s work that shows the impact he and his brand have had on the world.

An archive also acts as the memory of the business. It can be used as evidence against trademark infringement or an assault on reputation. It can also be employed to strengthen the standing of a company amongst its employees and in the business community at large. An archive can also show how a brand has adapted amid economic uncertainties and technological change and continues to evolve.

For a company, an archive is the most fantastic resource. Those with a long history can utilise their historical material for today. For newer brands, adopt an efficient archiving process now so you can reap the benefits in the future.

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