Page 1

Lisa Whitaker

Brands and I A personal exploration of Brands, Culture and Authenticty. Lisa Whitaker




Chapter one / Where did brands comes from?


Chapter two / Brands and Authenticity

Part one Section 1 Section 2 Section 3 Section 4 Part two

Dissertation introduction Vans’ Transparency Creates Authentic Culture? Vans and Sub-culture Incorporated Vans, The Culture Industry? Vans and Culture, Today and Tomorrow The Designer’s Voice

Chapter three / Branding the Experience

23 24 26 35 44 51 61 81

Chapter four / Brands, Innovation and the Future


And Finally / Brands and I


Design Studio Index


Dissertation Bibliography


Dissertation Appendix


Publication References




he purpose of this book is to document the Design Context research leading to the Final Major Project of my BA (Hons) Graphic Design at Leeds College of Art. The book is text heavy as my research has involved a lot of reading of online articles, blogs and books. I love words and with a growing fascination with type and layout, text seems most appropriate. Chapter one is a summary of how Brands have evolved through the 20th century to give some framework to where brands are now. My dissertation was a critical analysis of Vans, the brand and exploring its relationship with culture, establishing if this relationship was authentic or insidious. The theme developed from my interest in Branding and also my teenage son’s fascination with Brands, obviously not a new phenomenon however my dissertation did make me question what Brand’s role in culture is and also people’s perception of Brands, particularly young people. For this reason chapter two includes a transcript of my dissertation. I extended the research by contacting studios to try to get some design led perspectives on Brands and Culture. Simon Manchipp from Someone and Noel Lyons from Kent Lyons responded and this is documented in the book. After more research I decided to be more prescriptive with my approach to studios and following some specific questions around branding I received emails back from Ian Anderson from Designers Republic, James Acton at The Brand Nursery and Lee Bennett from Propaganda. Chapter three goes on to explore Branding the Experience which is an area I have really tried to extend into my Practice. I love digging until I understand a theme and then coming up with a concept which creates an experience which will really engage people. Chapter four is related in some ways as ‘Branding the Experience’ is very much where Branding is and where it is going however I think given Graphic Designers are employed to communicate messages I think it is crucial to understand current technology and innovations and the impact it has both on how people receive messages but more importantly what really engages them.


Where did Brands Come from?

Brand History

Brands have been around for a long time. They were used centuries ago as an identifier, as ownership - from branding horses to slaves. The emergence of brands in the commercial world most probably started at the end of the 19th century after the Industrial Revolution.


Brands the early days

Social pioneers in the 19th centry introduced social values into business and set up family owned brands such as Cadbury’s, Rowntree and Unilever. Today few brands remain family owned however this sense of heritage and lineage is still a core part of its story. Concepts such as brand management and marketing emerged in the 1920’s and 1930’s. Post war boom however saw a rise in consumerism and by the 1980’s there was a boom in advertising driven by agencies such as Saatchi and Saatchi. Advertising agencies play a fundamental role in brand expression and also influence trends.



Kelloggs Rice Krispies

‘Snap’, ‘Crackle’, and ‘Pop’ have been the world-famous symbols of Rice Krispies since 1933. Rice Krispies was first marketed by Kellogg’s in 1927. As a breakfast cereal, it was first released to the public in 1928. The characters were originally created by illustrator Vernon Grant. They came out of a radio ad for the cereal: ‘Listen to the fairy song of health, the merry chorus sung by Kellogg’s Rice Krispies as they merrily snap, crackle, and pop in a bowl of milk. If you’ve never heard your cereal talking, now is your chance.’ In his introduction to Pop how Graphic Design shapes pop culture Steven Heller sums up the campaign. Snap, crackle, pop is such a well-known ‘branded sound’ of a certain familiar cereal that it is unnecessary to mention its name. How ingenious it is that these certain simple sounds have for so long reinforced such indeliable recognition. With Pavlovian certainty the snap, crackle and pop in a bowl of freshly poured milk triggers a yearning (or at least an appetite) that would be difficult to replicate. How fortunate was the advertising copywriter tasked with conceiving the brand mnemonic. Ah, to be a fly on the wall when he heard the sounds for the very first time. Pop goes the slogan!


Advertisement in Parents Magazine August 1933 7


Coca Cola a global brand in ‘44

It was 1886, John Pemberton, an Atlanta pharmacist, was inspired by simple curiosity. One afternoon, he stirred up a fragrant, caramelcoloured liquid and, when it was done, he carried it a few doors down to Jacobs’ Pharmacy. Here, the mixture was combined with carbonated water and sampled by customers who all agreed - this new drink was something special. Pemberton’s bookkeeper, Frank Robinson, named the mixture CocaCola, and wrote it out in his distinctive script. To this day, Coca-Cola is written the same way. In the first year, Pemberton sold just nine glasses of Coca-Cola a day. A century later, The Coca-Cola Company has produced more than 10 billion gallons of syrup.. The Second World War was to lay the foundations for Coca Cola doing business overseas. By 1944 as the advertisement demonstrates Coca Cola was already marketing itself as a ‘Global Brand’ . From the mid-1940s until 1960, the number of countries with bottling operations nearly doubled. Post-war America was alive with optimism and prosperity. Coca-Cola was part of a fun, carefree American lifestyle, and the imagery of its advertising - happy couples at the drive-in, carefree mums driving big yellow convertibles - reflected the spirit of the times.


Advertisement in Saturday Evening Post March 1944 9


Olympic Branding 1968 Lance Wyman

The starting point was the mandatory five-ring logo that identifies the modern Olympic Games. It was the realisation that the geometry of the five rings could be expanded to generate the number ’68, the year of the games and with the addition of the word ‘Mexico’ the logotype was created. Mexico 68 clearly identifies the country, the year and the event. The distinct geometric forms suggest early Mexican cultures and Mexican folk-art, and the final design references 1960′s Op Art. Iconography alive and well before Adobe illustrator was even thought of!



Saatchi & Saatchi Branding in Politics 1970’s The Branding of a Female Prime Minister

Although Lord Maurice Saatchi has recently downplayed their role in the success of the 1979 Conservative Election Campaign, it is documented in history and through the change in Thatcher’s personal appearance in the mid to late seventies. Saatchi & Saatchi were Admen and brilliant copywriters. In June 1978 when they pitched a poster campaign to Thatcher, little did they know this poster was to become known as one of the most devastating political posters in history Although the Campaign continued to successfully use negative political advertising, something generally considered undignified in politics, they also recognised the importance of getting people to like politicians. Thatcher’s whole image was transformed from her shrill voice, to her hair to her fussy clothes. Everything was restyled and the first Female British Prime Minister was created.

Saatchi & Saatchi General Election Campaign posters. Don’t Just hope for a better life, vote for one 1979 and Labour isn’t working 1978 12



Branding Graphic Design: A User’s Manual Adrain Shaugnessy, 2009, p42

During the 1990’s I noticed the word ‘branding’ turning up in design meetings. At first I stubbornly refused to use it. I clung to old fashioned terms like ‘identity’ and ‘logos’ and ‘marks’. I also urged colleagues – and – clients not to use the ‘B’ word, I had three reasons for this. Firstly I felt that branding didn’t have much to do with design. Brand status was almost entirely dependent on qualities earned over a period of time, and could not be acquired – or granted – instantaneously by a metaphorical squirt from the graphic design aerosol. Yet many of the clients who walked through my door requested a ‘brand identity’ that would express concepts like trust and reliability, and they wanted this to be facilitated by a new logo and some branded communication materials. I felt trust and reliability should be earned. Secondly, branding strategies frequently seemed to be camouflage for third-rate ideas. Branding appeared to be saying ‘ You can have a lousy business or product – but if you brand it properly you’ get away with it. Branding linked design to hype and spin, and other contemporary black arts. Let’s face it – Enron was well branded. As Jeffrey Keedy said in a Adbusters article “Brands should be memorable because they are good, not because they are omnipresent.’ The third reason was that I had heard ordinary people taking about brands or branding. When media-world professionals referred to a jeans manufacturers as a brand rather than a fashion label, or shops as retail brands, they seem to be breeding as arrogant them and us culture; they appeared to be saying’ We will tell you what to think about a company or product.’ Then I saw in my local paper a photograph of a recently deceased teenager’s grave. Her friends had commissioned a floral tribute. The flowers spelt out the word ‘Gap’. If it had been the name of a boy band I wouldn’t have batted an eyelid, but the teenagers building a floral tribute to a dead friend in the shape of a shop logo was a sign that branding had triumphed.

Brand Guidelines Graphic Design: A User’s Manual, Adrain Shaugnessy, 2009, p45


What are they for? Are they the essential rules books for the professional maintenance of design standards and consistent brand identity, or are they straight jackets that impede effective communication, and turn clients into control freaks and designers into mere implementers? Brand guidelines are rules devised to govern the correct and consistent usage of typefaces,colours,logos, photography and graphic elements. They exist to ensure companies and organisations maintain a consistent ‘look and tone of voice’ across all communication materials. There are two conflicting views on brand guidelines. The first is the traditional view that strict brand guidelines are a prerequisite for the efficient control and management of an organisation’s identity across all media. With the arrival of cross communications they have assumed a new level of importance. The task of maintaining a coherent visual identity across so many diverse platforms means that precise instructions relating to the correct usage of all graphic elements is essential. This pragmatic view of brand guidelines regards them as a framework that designers should respond to with imagination and ingenuity, but also fidelity. The alternate view is more cynical and questioning. Most of the graphic design we encounter today is governed by brand guidelines. What this does mean is that nearly all graphic design we see is not done by the people who designed it, but by others who are following instructions. There aren’t many graphic designers who would advocate anarchy but the controlling omniprescence of brand guidelines in modern visual communications means that design is often sterile, unimaginative and impersonal. No good designer likes to be told what to do by another designer. And here is the reality of brand guidelines. Clients should look away, and hard-line professional designers who advocate professionalism and obedience to the wishes of the client should also avert their gazes - the only successful brand guidelines are those that are implemented by the designer who made them in the first place.


The Brand Gap, Marty Neumeier

Lets start by dispelling a few myths.

First A brand is not a logo.

Second A brand is not identity.

Finally A brand is not a product.

So what exactly is a brand? A brand is s a person’s gut feeling about a product, service or organisation. Brands are defined by individuals, not companies or markets. Because people are emotional intuitive beings. In other words: Its not what

YOU say it is , its what THEY say it is.

Icons and Avatars

Logos are dead create Icons and Avatars. Icons are both a name and a visual symbol that suggest a market position. An Avatar is a brand icon that can move , change, and operate freely in various media.


Test your creative ideas before they get to market

The Swap Test If the name and graphics of two trademarks are better swapped than neither is optimal

The Hand Test If you cant tell who is talking when the trademark or icon is covered then the brand voice is not distinctive enough. The Field Test If your audience cant verbalise your brand concept you have failed to communicate it. Measure distinctiveness, relevance, memorability, extendibility and depth of meaning. 17 so many other words that actually used to mean something – like, ideas , creative, etc –branding has become a catch all term for people who don’t really understand what they mean when they use it. Branding means something different to each person whom uses it as a term, and as soon as you reach this point, of everyone doing the same, or doing a very similar thing, it becomes counter productive. It’s ubiquity has bastardised it and made it a mangled meme. Craig Oldham Brand Spanking, The Democratic Lecture




‘New’ Heritage Brands The Mini

The Mini was first produced by British Motor Corporation starting in 1959 and was the first car to get the front-wheel-drive. This space saving solution influenced all the car manufacturers going forward. The revolutionary design of the Mini was created by Sir Alec Issigonis (1906–1988), considered a visionary in industrial transportation. It was intended as an affordable vehicle in response to the oil crisis. In 2001 BWM who had owned the Mini brand since buying Rover in 1994, transformed the original Mini. Almost immediately the Mini once again became recognised as an iconic car proving it is possible to make a ‘heritage’ brand contemporary. They managed to retain the old values and cool status it had achieved in the 1960’s despite redesigning the product itself and the brand look and feel. However, nowadays it is hardly associated with a ‘Cheap thrill’!





Brands, Authenticity and Culture


Part one / Is the relationship of Vans the brand with Culture, authentic or insidious?

Introduction Brands and branding are the most significant gifts that commerce has made to popular culture. Branding has moved so far beyond its commercial origins that its impact is virtually immeasurable in social and cultural terms     (Olins, 2003, p12). Branding was not just a matter of adding value to a product. It was about thirstily soaking up cultural ideas and images back on the culture as ‘extensions’ of their brands. Culture in other words would add value to their brands… The effect if not the original intent, of advanced branding is to nudge the hosting culture into the background and make the brand the star (Klein, 2000, p29).  Wally Olins has worked in the field of Advertising and Branding since the 1960’s and in the introduction of ‘On Brand’ provides a powerful counter argument of the positive impact of brands to Klein’s anticapitalist analysis of the corporations and brands.  This dissertation originally started with the notion of trying to understand the recent resurgence in popularity of Vans Footwear with young people and explore its position in culture. Now, following a thorough historical and critical analysis of the brand the aim is to establish if Vans’ relationship with culture is authentic or insidious. It is important to clarify that the dissertation does not consider the Critical Theory debate around high, low, popular and mainstream culture. The analysis will be informed by a Marxist methodology, including Marx and Adorno and also more contemporary works such as Dick Hebdige, Sarah


Thornton and Andrew Bennett to mediate culture and identity. Primary research from a survey and also individuals will underpin the analysis throughout. The First section charts the journey of Vans Footwear from 1966, when the first factory was opened in California, through to 1978 when Vans became synonymous with Skateboarding. Two key concepts ‘culture’ and ‘ideology’ are explained and contextualised. This framework is used to analyse Vans relationship with consumers using Marx theories of alienation and commodity fetishism and Baudrillard’s analysis of an object.  The Second Section focuses on the relationship between Vans, skateboarding and subculture. The historical analysis of Vans’ links with a specific aggressive style of skateboarding will be mediated using Hebdige’s subcultural style and Thornton’s subcultural capital. This will provide a framework to explain how Vans through its association with skateboarding began to be incorporated into mainstream culture. The Third Section picks up on a different thread of the Vans’ story from the late seventies through to the mid nineties which provides the context for an in depth critical analysis of Vans, the Culture Industry, as defined by Adorno and reinforced by Naomi Klein’s work in No Logo (2010).  This final Section documents the Vans’ story from the mid nineties through to present day, now part of a billion dollar, U.S. owned clothing apparel company called VF Corporation. A Critical analysis of the Corporation’s strategy and relationship with consumers and culture will establish whether Vans’ relationship with culture, today, is authentic or insidious. This is mediated using both a Marxist Methodology and also more contemporary works from Consumption Theory including Mary Douglas and Andrew Bennett (2003). The findings are underpinned with an online survey of 275 respondents.            



Section one / Vans’ Transparency Creates Authentic Culture?

The brand is controlled by us - the customers…when a brand gets the mix right it makes us, the people who buy it, feel that it adds something to the idea of ourselves. (Olins (2003, p16).             This first section chronicles the journey of Vans the brand from 1966, when the first family focused Californian factory opened. This continues to 1978, when Vans became synonymous with Skateboarding. In order to begin investigating Vans and culture, both culture and also the concept of ideology will be defined. With this contextual framework in place, Vans’ relationship with consumers and culture is analysed using Marx theories of alienation and commodity fetishism and Baudrillard’s analysis of an object. 

Van Doren Rubber Company, one of the first US direct factory retailers opened their doors in Anaheim, California on 1 March 1966. Former Vice President of Randy’s Footwear, Paul Van Doren set up the vulcanised rubber shoe company with his brother Jim and two other partners. In order to make the shoes stand out they were built like ‘Sherman tanks’ with thicker pure crepe rubber soles and high quality canvas (Van Doren in Palladini, 2003). In the book Vans Off The Wall, Paul’s son, Steve Van Doran describes how very early on the customised shoes happened quite by accident. A customer did not quite like the colours of the stock so Van Doren suggested she bring her own fabric in. Vans started supplying customised shoes to match the uniforms of Catholic schools, which then led to supplying shoes for all the cheerleaders and drill teams all over southern California (2003, p17). By 1968 they had fifty stores in California and were known as the House of Van (figure 1) The family focus of the advertisement is immediately evident; from the illustration of a young family in the top right hand corner to the emphasis on the ‘family-owned’ plant. The name ‘House’ conjures up the image of home and creates a sense of belonging. The advert promotes

the Vans’ Factory home spun and personalised image through the use of ‘patchwork’ imagery and the words ‘hand crafted’, ‘own’ and ‘you’. The London based vintage shop and collector ‘The other side of the pillow’ has a large collection of vintage Vans, shoeboxes and posters. On their blog they have an image of a distinctive shoebox from the 1960’s that reinforces the ‘family focus’ message with the strapline ‘Canvas Shoes for the Entire Family’ (2013). This personalised service was to appeal to a quite different audience from around 1972, when Skateboarders started to wear Vans. Their attraction lay not only in their affordability and the good grip provided by the thick rubber waffle sole but also Vans would just replace one worn figure 1



out shoe for the Skater. In Vans Off the Wall, Tony Alva explains the attraction ‘the gum rubber soles were the best around for skateboarding – they kept us on the board and let us feel it’ (Alva in Palladini, 2009). By 1974 members of a developing Skateboarding team called The Zephyr Team were buying Vans from their local Vans Store in Santa Monica. The Zephyr Surf Shop initially set up the Zephyr Surf team but then set up and managed the Zephyr skateboard team, which started with Jay Adams and Tony Alva. The team would eventually have twelve members including Stacey Peralta and one girl, Peggy Oki (Friedman and Stecyk, 2000). Skip Engblom, The Zephyr Team’s manager, confirmed a young Steve Van Doren used to work at their local Vans store part time. He also confirmed the main reason the Skateboarders bought the shoes was the custom aspect and they were cheap to buy (Engblom, 2012). The relationship between Vans and The Zephyr Team was first documented through photography in 1975, figure 2, when the team entered the Bahne-Cadillac Skateboard Championship in a uniform of Levis, navy Vans #44 and Zephyr t-shirts (Dogtown and The Z Boys, 2002). At this stage, as confirmed by Glen E Friedman, a photographer who documented much of the Zephyr Team’s experiences, the initial connection between Vans and Skateboarders was as part of their skateboarding culture not a premeditated relationship (Friedman, 2012). The connection is more pronounced than with other Skateboarding products as the shoes were quickly worn down by the aggressive skateboarding style the Zephyr Team had developed. ‘As a sideline, Stacey wears out a pair of shoes every two weeks’ (Friedman Stecyk, 2000, 10). Van Doren ‘did not catch on’ to how beneficial the link was until much later when in 1976, Alva and Peralta collaborated with Vans to design the style #95 which they branded ‘Off The Wall’. Engblom used this phrase once when describing Alva’s skateboarding moves in the pool (Van Doren in Palladini, 2009, p13). The distinctive two- tone colour, reinforced heel panel and padded heel collar were now actively marketed

as a Skateboarding Shoe (Figure 3). By this stage they were paying skaters such as Peralta to wear their shoes in public at competitions and public displays (Dogtown,2002). This also marked a definite change to Van Doren Company, as adverts in Skateboarder Magazine at the time convey (Figure 3). The Company had started promoting and selling their products through other retailers. In order to use Marx to analyse Vans and culture it is important to define both culture and ideology. In his introduction to Cultural Studies, John Storey uses Raymond William’s definitions of culture. Culture can be used to describe ‘a general process of intellectual, spiritual and aesthetic development.’ Alternatively the way an individual or group

figure 2


figure 3

chooses to live can also be described as culture. Finally, culture can refer to intellectual, particularly artistic work and practice for example fine art, a novel or poetry (Williams in Storey, 2009). The essence of authentic culture for the purpose of this analysis is the creative growth and/or artifacts of individuals or groups, built on integrity and which have a lasting impact on our humanity and social development.  Steven Heller in How Graphic design shapes pop culture, sets the tone, Pop Culture is... contemporary ideas and artifacts that have influenced our artistic and social lives [and]‌is integral to a broader understanding of who we are and here we are going (2010, p11-12). 30


In Critique of Political Economy, Marx introduces culture and ideology as part of his ‘base/superstructure’ model.  The forces and relations of production form the economy, which he called the base of society and the ‘superstructures’ such as cultural, legal and political, grow out of this economic base to serve and reproduce it (Marx, 2012).  ‘Ideology’, central to both Cultural and Marxist analysis, similar to culture has several meanings depending on the context. In his introduction to Cultural Studies and Popular Culture, Storey explores five meanings of ideology however this section only needs to consider two. Ideology can refer to the body of ideas that reflect the needs and aspirations of a specific individual or group. Ideology from a Marxists perspective is the ‘false consciousness’ created in the ‘powerless’ or lower classes usually by more powerful or dominant classes to distort images of reality. In this Capitalist ideology, the dominant classes do not perceive themselves as exploiters; similarly and more importantly the lower classes do not feel oppressed (Storey, 2009). So in the context of Vans, the company forms part of the base, and any cultural products created are deemed ideological as they implicitly support the dominant group i.e. the economy; however both Vans and their consumer do not perceive this.  The relationship between Vans and their customers can be analysed using the ideas of Marx around Alienation and Commodity Fetishism. ‘Alienation is the process whereby people become foreign to the world they are living in.’ Marx believed that if the human relationship in the labour process was restored and the aim of people’s work was to satisfy people’s needs, then Alienation would be avoided. This would result in true human relations not just working to earn a living (Marxist Glossary, 2012). Van Doren’s initial success and growth could be rationalised by considering the transparent relationships created between the producer and consumer. In the initial Van Doren Factory and Store set up the mode of production was in full view. By offering the consumer the

opportunity to provide their own fabric the consumer is not only able to add their own identity but also identify with the production and the commodity, emotionally and physically. Similarly the Skateboarder was given the opportunity to replace just one worn out shoe. Then later, Peralta and Alva assisted in the design of a specialist Skateboarding shoe. This demonstrates the producer has identified with the consumer and his needs on a personal level rather than just mass-producing shoes. Marx critique of Economist James Mills explains in more detail how human beings can avoid alienation. Let us suppose that we had carried out production as human beings. Each of us would have in two ways affirmed himself and the other person. 1) In my production I would have objectified my individuality, its specific character, and therefore enjoyed not only an individual manifestation of my life during the activity, but also when looking at the object I would have the individual pleasure of knowing my personality to be objective, visible to the senses and hence a power beyond all doubt. 2) In your enjoyment or use of my product I would have the direct enjoyment both of being conscious of having satisfied a human need by my work, that is, of having objectified man’s essential nature, and of having thus created an object corresponding to the need of another man’s essential nature...Our products would be so many mirrors in which we saw reflected our essential nature (Marxist Economic Manuscripts, 1844). In the production of customised shoes when he objectifies his customer’s individuality, Van Doren witnesses both his customer’s direct enjoyment and satisfaction of a need. The customer therefore is not alienated from the producer of his Vans and Van Doren is not alienated from his customer’s individual needs. Paul Van Doren reinforces this idea in the video ‘Since 66’ ‘It was never about waving around the brand like a flag. It was always about the people’ (Van Doren in Rausch, 2012). 32

In Capital, Marx also discusses how when products enter the market they become commodities, which removes the social relation between men and replaces it with the relations between things. He calls the imperceptible human labour in a commodity, fetishism (Marxists, 2012). When manufacturing and retailing were based solely in California, the consumer relationship was ‘direct’ and transparent. This avoided the shoes becoming mere ‘commodities’ as the labour element was visible to the market. This social persona was reinforced through the emphasis on the family and the hand crafted elements of the House of Van, discussed earlier (figure one). Baudrillard criticizes Marx’s analysis of commodity fetishism for his focus on exchange value over use value. As well as use and exchange value, Baudrillard went on to explore that objects of consumption are also made up of sign values (Clarke et al on Baudrillard, 2003, p223). Baudrillard’s analysis of the Consumer Object operating as signs can present an interesting perspective on what customisation adds to the producer, consumer and commodity relationship. In Ideological Genesis of Needs in The Consumption Reader, Baudrillard states ‘the object-become-sign no longer gathers it’s meaning in the concrete relationship between two people’ (2003, p256). However by offering the consumer something over an above the use value of the object and a means to identify with the object; Van Doren creates a symbolic exchange value, a unique gift and relationship between producer and consumer. Therefore contrary to Baudrillard, a customised pair of Vans Deck Shoes can be both an object of consumption and also hold symbolic value.  This analysis has identified that the sixties and seventies Vans, through its distinct transparent mode of production, contributed authentically to creating culture, responding to consumers by providing footwear that offered them a means of forming personal or group 33

identity. Skateboarders were able to actively pursue their culture more effectively, the aggressive ‘style’ of skateboarding through this transparent relationship. Facilitated by the replacing of one shoe and later through a shoe designed specifically for purpose. In Material Culture in the Social world, Dant recognizes that the use of commodities in Culture is ‘not reducible either to production or consumption.’ He makes a crucial observation ‘ All objects are social agents in the limited sense that they extend human action and mediate meanings between humans…objects are shaped by a culture, which defines what certain things can do “(1999, p13).  In order to understand the interaction of Vans and culture in more depth, section two will chronicle Vans association with subculture and how this led to their incorporation into mass culture.



Section Two / Vans and Sub-culture Incorporated

Brands represent clarity, reassurance, consistency, status, and membership - everything that enables human beings to define themselves. Brands represent identity (Olins 2003, P27).             This section focuses on the relationship between Vans, skateboarding and subculture. This historical analysis of Vans’ links with a specific aggressive style of skateboarding will be mediated using Hebdige’s subcultural style (2007) and Thornton’s subcultural capital (2005). This will provide a framework to explain how Vans through its association with skateboarding began to be incorporated into mainstream culture. Glen E Friedman confirmed that Vans’ relationship with the skateboarding subculture was not a premeditated one, it started from their use value to the skater and also the ‘gift’ that Vans offered Skateboarders when replacing just one worn out shoe (Friedman, 2012). Iain Borden recognised when discussing whether skateboarders had a coordinated narrative form ‘more usually, subculture is developed through a series of complimentary but unconsciously coordinated internalized worlds’ (2001, p152). Hebdige in The Meaning of Style stresses the importance of understanding that the material continually being transformed into culture can never be completely raw. ‘It is always mediated; inflected by the historical context…posited upon a specific ideological field which gives it a particular life’ (1997, p80). To understand the subculture the Zephyr Team created and its impact on and relationship with Vans, we then need to explore the historical context of the team’s development. The Zephyr Surfboard Shop was located about a mile down the road from the Santa Monica Vans Store. Three young surfers, Engblom, Stecyk and Ho opened the shop to promote revolutionary design in Surf Boards in 1972. The locals knew Santa Monica, together with Venice Beach and Ocean Park, as Dogtown. Dogtown had become

run down following lack of investment in the area since the late fifties. Surfing, by the early seventies, once a popular US sport, had become perceived as anti social and just good for drop- outs. Surfers in this area were infamous for their aggressive localism and outcast behavior (The Dogtown and The Z Boys, 2002). This was the back yard of The Zephyr Skateboarding Team aged 13 to 16 years old.  Around the same time there was a revolution in skateboarding wheels, originally made from clay, a new company, Cadillac Wheels, had started supplying all the surf shops with polyurethane wheels. These robust wheels helped the Zephyr team explore and use their urban environment to its greatest potential; from the local school playgrounds to skating in empty pools; their emphasis was a devotion to ‘style’ and emulating surfing the waves on concrete. They sought illicit thrills and tension was high, as they often had to evade both homeowners and the police (Dogtown and The Z-Boys, 2002).   Hebdige explains this behaviour when he describes how Bowie-ites were trying to negotiate a meaningful place between the dominant ideology and the parent culture ‘a space where an alternative identity could be discovered and expressed’ (1997, p88). Hebdige later expands on this ‘Spectacular cultures express forbidden contents…in forbidden forms (…law breaking etc)’ (1997, p91). Similarly Thornton in The Social Logic of Subcultural Capital proposes ‘clubs are refuges for the young where their rules hold sway.’ The Zephyr Team created their own rules and style. This aggressive style could be called subcultural capital just like Thornton conceived ‘hipness’ in club culture as a form of subcultural capital (Thornton in Gelder, 2005, p186).  The Zephyr Team’s unique aggressive style of riding got them noticed at the 1975 Bahne-Cadillac Skateboard Championship that had an outdated format more suited to the flatland freestyle gymnastic style from the 1960’s. It was this unique style that eventually led to the fast 36

figure 4 37

and aggressive form that skateboarding is today. In the words of Stecyk in Skateboarder Magazine ‘They defined skateboarding for the next generation’ (Friedman and Stecyk, 2000). Stecyk famously chronicled the homological relationship between the footwear, the union of breaking the law and risk taking and their aggressive skater stance that separated them as a unique skateboarding subculture, in Skateboarder Magazine between 1975 and 1979. In ‘The West Side of Style’ article, published in August 1976, Stecyk describes the response to the Z-team at the competition ‘There was so much aggression, they were more like a street gang than a skate team’ (Friedman and Stecyk, 2000, p24). Freidman remarks ‘Virtually anyone who grew up during this period and knew Skateboarder Magazine as the ‘Bible’ has been influenced incredibly in his or her outlook and approach toward life and living by Stecyk’s articles’ (Friedman and Stecyk, 2000, p vii). Prior to the articles, Vans were the skateboarder’s shoe of choice purely for their functional and convenience use. After the articles were published, they documented them as an intrinsic part of this subcultural style, particularly through the photographs. Skateboarder in October 1976, figure 4, features Stacey Peralta stroking at the bank track in his navy Vans #44 ‘how better to ride a wave of cement than to surf-skate it’ (Friedman and Stecyk, 2000,p32). Hebdige reinforces the importance of the connection between consumption and subcultures in his chapter ‘Style as bricolage’ is through the distinctive rituals of consumption through style that the subculture at once rewards its secret identity and communicates its forbidden meanings. It is basically the way in which commodities are used in subcultures which marks the subculture off from more orthodox cultural forms (2007, p103). 38

Clarke in ‘Resistance through Rituals’ describes the concept of bricolage ‘the re-ordering, re-contexualisation of objects [already in use, with attached meanings] to communicate fresh meanings’ (Clarke in Hall and Jefferson, 2006, p177). The Skaters were bricoleurs but not in the consciously subversive sense that Hebdige uses to describe punks i.e. appropriating objects to disrupt and reorganize meaning (2007, p106). Instead Clarke’s argument perfectly describes how Skaters engaged in bricolage, It is the objective potential of the cultural form and its fit with the subjective orientation of the group which facilitates the appropriation of the form by the latter, leading to a sort of stylistic fusion between object and group The Zephyr Skaters unconsciously appropriated Vans deck shoes, originally associated with ‘family’ and practicality, to convey instead their radical skater style and youthful ideology of freedom. In the mid seventies the only way skateboarders would understand what was happening ‘out there’ was either through taking part, going to actual competitions or through selected media coverage. Both Hebdige and Thornton recognized the crucial role the media plays in defining cultural experiences. Hebdige explains ‘much of what finds itself encoded in subculture has already been subjected to a certain amount of prior handling by the media’ (1997, p85). This is supported by Thornton’s argument that ‘it is impossible to understand the distinctions of youth subcultures without some systematic understanding of their media consumption’ (Thornton in Gelder, 2005, p187).  Skateboarder Magazine was how skaters around the globe lived ‘Zephyr style’ skateboarding. Henry Rollins reinforces this in the documentary Dog Town and the Z-boys ‘The photos showed a lifestyle, attitude and code’.  An interview in Sneaker Freaker with Tony Hallam (skateboarding 39

since 1975 and now a vintage skate collector from New Zealand) reveals the power of the magazine’s advertising and sponsorship You were living 5000 miles away but you knew Vans were super cool, how did they create that aura? As a kid you get sucked into the marketing. Nike never advertised in the magazines, but they had the best skateboarders wearing their stuff. That was enough to make people want to buy Nike, but Vans took it a step further, they had really marketable skaters wearing their stuff, and you could make custom shoes as well. But the marketing was the big thing, because of the photos in the mags, it just made you want to look like these guys. If you had the proper shorts, the proper pads and the helmet, but shitty looking shoes, you weren’t wearing the uniform (Sneakerfreaker, 2010). Gradually through the media of television, the press and magazines, Vans and the new aggressive skateboarding subculture began to be ‘incorporated’ into culture. According to Hebdige, incorporation happens through a process of recuperation that takes two forms, the commodity form and the ideological form. The first is the conversion of subcultural signs into mass production and the second is when dominant groups such as the media and the police label and re-define delinquent behaviour (1997, p95).  In the introduction to two forms of incorporation Hebdige discusses ‘Style in particular provokes a double response: it is alternately celebrated… and ridiculed or reviled (in those articles, which define subcultures as social problems)’ (1997, p93). As early as the autumn of 1976 Stecyk documented the mixed mass media attention skateboarding was receiving in the USA  Publications like Rolling Stone and New West play up the ‘outlaw as skater’ aspects. Youth Sports, Boys Life and International Recreation emphasize the clean-cut, safe, sane approach, while Time and Sports 40

Illustrated report on skating as big business (Friedman & Stecyk, 2000, p32). His article goes on to comment with disdain about the 1976 Howdy Doody look-alike Skateboard Contest that took place at Universal Studios (Howdy Doody was a popular Children’s TV character in the US).  Further examples of incorporation can be explored by analysing the contents of the British Skateboard Magazine, first released in August 1977. In his opening editorial Bruce Sawford, recognizes how marketing was starting to use skateboarding’s ideology. Advertisers use skateboarding as a symbol of youth and freedom and several of the best known faces in Skateboarding USA can be seen in their Coca Cola Communications’ (Skateboard Magazine, 1977). This magazine also provides some interesting incite into the public attitude to this embryonic sport in Britain. There is a piece in his editorial which describes ‘in your papers a living example of how moves the cold hand of officialdom’ when Kensington Gardens asphalt paths were covered in gravel to prevent skateboarding. The magazine uses negative media reports such as the death of a young skater and Police complaints about ‘deviant behavior’ of skaters to persuade Councils and private businesses to open Skate Parks in Britain.  The Magazine actively promotes the Californian roots of the sport by using surfing and skateboarding jargon. The editor’s response to criticism for using trendy hip Californian language ‘Stoked is a surfing expression like most skateboarding jargon. We think its great for skaters to have a universal language of their own’ (Skateboard Magazine, 1978). Vans global reach is recorded throughout the magazine as Vans made appearances mainly on famous Skateboarders feet such as a photo of Stacey Peralta in Star Interview in October 1977. No direct reference or advertising seems to be made about footwear until issue 14 published in 41

December 1978. Vans use the original US advertisement (figure 2) where Stacy Peralta is quoted ‘ I wear nothing but Vans they are dependable for critical situations’. An English retailer promoting Vans Off The Wall reinforces this and also the magazine includes an article about choosing Shoes in the monthly feature Skate Data. Other brands including Clarks, Dunlop and Rucanor are compared for their qualities and price. Although Vans are more expensive (£11 compared to £7 a pair) they appeared first in the article and are described as ‘widely used by pro’s for their classic style’ (Skateboard Magazine, 1978). In the same issue, the Dogtown bad boy attitude is almost celebrated in a report about Tony Alva ‘you know in America they don’t like the D.T. (Dogtown) Image… they are falling over trying to destroy it. But Tony has done a lot for the sport … he’s given it an air of excitement’ (Skateboard Magazine, 1978). The same year, a British TV documentary called ‘Skateboard Kings’ by The World About Us Team, portrayed Californian skateboarding in a glamorous light. As well following the antics of the Dogtown Skateboarders including Tony ‘Mad Dog’ Alva and Stacy Peralta (wearing his Vans), the documentary also considers the commercial and expensive world that skateboarding had started to occupy (1978). In a similar way to how Thornton described DJ’s and Clothes designers gaining occupations from their club culture ‘hipness’; some of the Zephyr Team, especially Tony Alva and Stacey Peralta made a living from their subcultural capital (Thornton in Gelder, 2005).  These examples of skateboarding in the media reflect Hebdige’s discussion on how youth culture is returned to the place where common sense would have them fit, to minimize the ‘otherness’ created by The Zephyr Team and their Californian roots. As the subculture begins to strike its own eminently marketable pose, as it’s vocabulary (both visual and verbal) becomes more and more 42

familiar, so the referential context to which it can be most conveniently assigned is made increasingly apparent (Hebdige, 1997, p94). The year 1978 marked the point in history when the two forms of incorporation, ideological and commercial, converged on The Zephyr Team, skateboarding and by default Vans. In the UK as councils built skate parks and skateboard clubs were formed to contain and control skateboarders; as Alva and Peralta sold their subcultural capital and they themselves became commodities; Vans initially perceived as a ‘signifier’ of the radical style of The Zephyr Skateboarding team became translated into a commodity. Vans were now globally available and had become frozen, codified and synonymous with skateboarding (Hebdige, 1997, p96).  The evidence in this analysis points to Vans’ relationship with skateboarding culture was in the main organic and authentic, not manufactured or insidious, however the next section will explore Vans transformation to becoming a ‘Culture Industry’.        



Section Three / Vans - The Culture Industry

Corporate sponsors and the culture they brand have fused together to create a third culture: a self enclosed universe of brand-name people, brand-name products and brand-name media’ (Klein, 2010, p60).             This section extends the Vans’ story from the late seventies through to the mid nineties which will provide the context for an in depth critical analysis of Vans, The Culture Industry, as defined by Adorno, and reinforced by Naomi Klein’s work in No Logo (2010).  Vans continued to expand the range and styles of shoes and products on offer to Skateboarders. By 1977, Paul Van Doren had conceived the ‘Jazz Stripe’ to compete with the Nike ‘Swoosh’ and Adidas ‘Three Stripes’. This was used on the Old Skool #36, which was the first skater shoe they offered made from leather. This style flourished and was actively marketed in the early eighties as a BMX shoe. The relationship with Skateboarding and BMX was increasingly manufactured in that Vans were now approaching Skaters and BMX bikers to market their shoes. From the early eighties, the Stacey Peralta managed Bones Brigade with skaters such as Tony Hawk, Tommy Guerreo and Steve Cabellero to the early nineties when Cabellero collaborated on the first signature skater shoe the Cab and half cab (Palladini, 2008). Vans also continued to build close relationships with their consumers by offering customisation to the rubber running around the bottom of the shoe, also known as the ‘scene’. In the seventies, every month each store held a contest, they would offer customers a strip of paper to design their own scene and Steve Van Doren would select one design. The winner received a factory tour, a trip to Disneyland and free shoes for all the family (Palladini, 2008).  The checkerboard was to herald a new phase for Vans. The checkerboard shoe appeared in 1981, initially inspired by the Scene

competition designs. Vans PR Department already had a relationship with Disney and this led to a Hollywood movie requesting some checkerboard shoes (Van Doren in Palladini, 2003, p14). The movie, Fast Times at Ridgemont High starred an emerging Hollywood actor called Sean Penn. He played teenage Californian Surfer dude, Jeff Spicoli. The director explains why they chose Vans ‘In those days, a lot of actors could decide what they wanted as their costume... Sean Penn brought in the checkered Vans slip-ons himself ’ (Herkerling in Palladini, 2003, p130). The shoes worn by Spicoli throughout the movie were all over the billboards and even featured as the ‘star’ on the Soundtrack album cover, (figure 5).

Figure 5 45

In the words of Steve Van Doren ‘To this day there has never been a better brand ambassador than Jeff Spicoli’ (Palladini, 2003, p131). Vans reinforced the marketing; one thousand checkerboard shoes were given away across America, via the radio stations playing ‘Somebody’s Baby’ by Jackson Browne from the movie. The movie eventually went global, grossing $27 million (Box Office Mojo, 2013) and this led to Vans the brand, blowing up nationwide and eventually worldwide. Before the movie, Vans were a $20 million company, after Spicoli the company grew to a $45 million one (Van Doren in Palladini, 2003, p14).  This success proved short lived, Van Doren diversified into athletic shoes in an attempt to compete with Nike and Adidas. But it did not stop there, they had basketball, baseball, soccer, tennis, skydiving shoes, wrestling shoes and even break dance shoes. In 1984, they hit cash flow problems that meant they had to file for Chapter 11(US Bankruptcy). Jim Van Doren, Paul’s bother, was forced to resign as president and Paul was called out of semi-retirement to manage the company. To his credit he managed to pay back 100 cents of every dollar of the $15million the company owed and came out of Chapter 11 in 1987. The company was sold for $60 million to investors McConvalDeluit who took Vans public in 1991 (Van Doren in Le, 2005).   Steve Van Doren has stayed with the company in various roles mainly in marketing after manufacturing moved from USA in the mid nineties. By this stage Vans in an effort to ‘create new energy in skateboarding amid a sport and culture that had lost some steam’ were sponsoring events such as The Vans Warped Tour and involved with the US Triple Crowns sporting events (Palladini, 2007, p77). Shelby Stanger describes the Vans Warped tour in Vans Off the Wall The warped tour is freedom and chaos. Its running around in dirt fields, listening to 80 bands in 8 hours and watching skateboarding, motor cross riders and BMX athletes perform amazing tricks…its 46

going against the norm or redefining what normal is…and the freedom to be just yourself (Stanger in Palladini, 2007, p74). From a starring role in a Hollywood movie to sponsorship of huge music and sports events, Vans it would seem had become a Culture Industry. In the 1930’s Adorno, a theorist from The Frankfurt School moved to America from Germany and spent much of his life developing theories around the Culture Industry. Adorno published a Theory of the Culture Industry in ‘Dialect of Enlightenment’ with a fellow Frankfurt theorist, Horkeimer. They suggested that the Culture Industry provided the ruling classes with a powerful instrument of control that inhibited class-consciousness and integrated individuals into capitalist society (Kellner in Gibson and Rubin, 2002, p96-97). Adorno’s introduction to ‘Schema of Mass Culture’  The commercial character of culture causes the difference between culture and practical life to disappear. Aesthetic semblance (schein) turns into sheen which commercial advertising lends to the commodities, which absorb it in turn. But that moment of independence which philosophy specifically grasped under the idea of aesthetic semblance is lost in the process (2008, p61). The word ‘schema’ refers to the Culture Industry’s pre-forming of experience (Bernstein on Adorno, 2008). The Vans Warped Tour could be said to ‘pre-form’ the idea of what it means to feel free and ‘be yourself ’. Adorno is concerned that the Culture Industry has caused any difference between Culture and ‘normal’ life to disappear. The aesthetic semblance is a notion that was applied by philosophers, Schiller and then Hegel that points to the illusive symbolic or spiritual element of art, which makes it distinct from reality (Black, 2013). The products of the Culture Industry absorb and in turn lose this illusive quality. So the Warped tour presents the ideals of freedom and creativity that can be 47

achieved through music and the event. However in reality the creativity and freedom you feel is all an illusion shaped by Vans. This idea is reinforced with the concepts of ‘pseudo-activity’ that Adorno discusses in his essay, Free time. Pseudo-activity is misguided spontaneity and the urge to change the relations of society. So when a person attends the Warped Tour and crowd surfs to the pent up rage of the latest punk band, he may feel he can change the world when in fact he is just distracted (Adorno, p194). Adorno also accused the Culture Industry of offering consumers the appearance of choice when in fact all the products on offer are standardized versions. The sameness is disguised by using labels for different goods, so the punk bands appearing at the Warped festival have different names, songs and visual style. This concept is called pseudoindividuality (Kellner in Gibson and Rubin, 2002). The conventions of style that the culture industry markets are dreamt up in the boardroom not by individuals. However as Kellner points out in Adorno: A Critical reader, Adorno’s argument about Standardization in popular music is weakened when considered against

figure 6 48

the backdrop of the diverse genres of music which have evolved in the last sixty years. Adorno wrote most of his essays about music in 1930’s and 1940’s and since then music has been used has a vehicle for expression of individual human experiences, particularly pain, rage, sexuality and rebellion. So in spite of Adorno’s predictions, popular music, especially since the 1960’s has been used by youth culture and other oppressed groups as a medium to shout out against ‘the system’ and conformity. Some of which have had progressive effects beyond pure economic gain of the Culture Industry (Kellner in Gibson and Rubin, 2002, p101). The Warped Tour prides itself on launching the latest ‘new’ skater punk band each year (Palladini, 2009). One reason the tour is associated with punk music is since the seventies skaters have used music to skateboard to. A quote from Borden’s Skateboarding and the City captures the essence of this relationship Music - it does something to make you go faster, make your adrenalin pump…your feet are set perfect, then you just hear a certain part of a song, say, you’re flying down, and you set in your mind that your going to jam an ariel or something, do something radical (Jesse interview from Skateboarder 1978, in Borden, 2001). Also since the early eighties some influential punk bands such as ‘Black Flag’ have themselves been skateboarders and appeared in issues of skateboarding magazine Thrasher. A certain authenticity seems to be added to the relationship between punk, skateboarding and Vans by the photographs, which document them wearing Vans. For example figure 6 is the singer of Black Flag, Henry Rollins skateboarding in his Vans #36. Henry Rollins also headlined Vans Warped Tours in 2001 and 2009 and a tour photograph appears in the Vans off the Wall.  It is interesting then to hear what Henry Rollins actually thinks of Vans, skateboarding and punk  49

Vans coat tailed in on the skate culture and insinuated itself into Punk Rock. They then changed the narrative to make people think they were making shoes for skaters when they were just the shoes that skaters were wearing in those photos (Rollins, 2013). The Culture created through punk music and skateboarding, even within the Ideology surrounding the Vans Warped Tour, is still created by individuals who are using the medium to express themselves and share their views and opinions. Unfortunately as Rollins accurately points out Vans have ‘insinuated’ themselves so fully into the whole culture they appear to have been part of creating it and as a result of their dominant role, i.e. able to inject capital, they are now able to control it to a large degree. Klein in No Logo reinforces this point  …manufacturers, transcend their connection to earth bound products, then with marketing elevated as the pinnacle of their businesses, they attempt to alter marketing’s social status as a commercial interruption and replace it with seamless integration. The most insidious effect of the shift …everything from small community events to large religious gatherings are believed to ‘need a sponsor’…we become collectively convinced not that corporations are hitching a ride on our cultural and community activities but that creativity and congregation would be impossible without their generosity (2010, p 35). Brands, including Vans, are becoming so integrated with ideas, identity and experience that it has created an Ideology that they are Culture and from this position in 2013, it is difficult to separate one from the other without deep analysis. The fourth and final section will consider Vans, the brand today and through primary research consider its position in culture now and in the future.    



Section Four / Vans and Culture, Today and Tomorrow

A clear pattern is emerging: as more and more companies seek to be the overarching brand under which we consume, make art, even build our homes, the entire concept of public space is being redefined (Klein, 2010)             This final section documents the Vans story from the mid nineties through to present day, now part of the billion dollar US owned clothing apparel company, VF Corporation. A Critical analysis of the Corporation’s strategy and relationship with consumers and culture will establish whether Vans relationship with culture, today, is authentic or insidious. Van Doren in a Sneaker Freaker interview explains VF’s interest in Vans  They are a unique company, they actually researched for a year the Quiksilvers, the Billabongs, the Vans, you name it, any kind of youth culture brand. They kept doing market surveys and Vans kept coming back as a cool company and that’s why they bought it for $400 million bucks (Van Doren in Le, 2005). Since VF bought Vans in 2004 the annual turnover of Vans has grown from $300m to $1.2bn. The skate brand is part of a corporate portfolio that includes Lee Jeans, Timberland, The North Face, Wrangler and Kipling (Burrel, 2012). Their products are mainly manufactured in Asia but are marketed on a truly global scale. In 2011, VF Corporation had a turnover of US$ 9.5 Billion, sourced from 54 countries and marketed to 200 countries (VF Corporation, 2013). As reported in Transworld Business recently, one of the stores on Camden High Street in London became Vans’ best performer within three weeks of opening for business (Hargrove, 2012). A Billboard on Camden High Street (figure 7) quite clearly promotes the Californian roots of the Brand. The sunny beach, complete with surfer, campfire and Chevrolet, sets an enticing glow against the concrete of inner city London. Vans is blatantly promoting an alternative ‘lifestyle’, which unfortunately sits comfortably amongst the vibrant alternative cultures that have flourished

figure 7

figure 8 52

in Camden since the seventies. The authentic culture of the artists and designers still fighting for space amongst the mainstream is still there; you just have to look harder to find it (Time Out, 2012). Kerrang Magazine advertised the opening of the Camden store. Heralded by an acoustic set from Charlie Smith, ex-Fightstar an Busted and Tim Wolff painting live in the store window (Kerrang, 2012). Tim Wolff, a freelance illustrator, doesn’t work exclusively for Vans, however he painted his character ‘Tim the Robot’ (figure 8) as a Vans wearing, skateboarding anarchist, so he has certainly bought into and is promoting their ideology.  The VF strapline ‘We fit your life’, and strategy, according to their website, is to be an expert on consumer lifestyles and provide customers with what they want (VF Corporation, 2013). As already documented, Vans is tightly woven with the Californian/skateboarder free spirit however VF Corporation has an even more ambitious agenda. The evidence points to Vans being insinuated with every element of youth culture. From art, for example, the U.S. Custom Culture Contest where the winning student gets $50,000 for their Arts programme. To digital media, as reported in the VF Annual Report 2011 The Vans brand uses and a variety of other interactive platforms to capture and share stories around its four cultural pillars of art, music, action sports and street culture (VF Corporation, 2011). And to social media

Vans is a leader in social media activation, breaking through the plateaus of two, three and four million fan “Likes” on Facebook in 2011. Vans also reaches its youth consumers directly through more than 15 unique websites such as, and (VF Corporation, 2011). They are also using creative leaders from youth culture to promote its values, in keeping with the successful skater model used since the late seventies. 53

Vans is telling the story of the line using advocates from the youth creative community such as Hong Kong-based toy designer Chris Kong,

Parisian photographer and filmmaker Dimitri Coste and GRAMMYwinning recording artist Lupe Fiasco (VF Corporation, 2011).


Given that Vans are sponsoring individuals who have developed their own practices within authentic culture, on the surface they could be said to be ‘nurturing’ authentic culture. Culture as defined in the first section, ‘the creative growth and/or artifacts of individuals or groups that has been built on integrity and has a lasting impact on our humanity and social development.’ But what do consumers take away from this experience, are they really identifying with the culture, product or both?  From primary research conducted (Appendix six) 49% of respondents associate Vans with Skateboarding and 29% think they are still manufactured in USA. Vans are actually manufactured in China and Vietnam. Of the 176 respondents who own Vans or would like to, only 18% thought they were manufactured in China and Vietnam.  Certainly from the Survey, Vans immersion across all youth culture has not yet reached Yorkshire in England. The results in the USA, where the Vans Warped tour plays over 40 cities, could have informed a different story (Vans Warped Tour, 2013). The survey points to the deeper connection the brand still has with skateboarding and also its ideology, given that 32% of 11-13 year old associated Vans with ‘Cool’. (Appendix 6) Mary Douglas’ Consumer’s Revolt in The Consumption Reader presents an interesting case that consumption allows people to act as ‘active, creative individuals’ and also allows them ‘to express solidarity with other people’ (Douglas in Clarke, 2003, p136). This resonates clearly with Nick Loaring’s experience of Vans. In 1985, Nick turned thirteen and discovered skateboarding and Vans. His email in appendix 4 describes his relationship with Vans; it was and still is about identity, ‘wearing Vans shoes at that time said something about you’. He went on to explain how Vans identified you as a skater and how now, ‘they are just part of me’ (Loaring, 2013).  ‘To express solidarity with other people’ also could fit with the results

of the survey, in particular the 11-13 year olds. When asked why they own Vans, 16% chose Vans ‘because their friends wear them’ and 30% ‘just because they are Vans’ (Appendix 6). Although a more compelling case is presented by Deborah Cook’s discussion around consumers, exchange value and the role of brand names, in The Culture Industry revisited. She points to Haug’s work that recognised  The consumer may be less interested in the actual use to be derived… than in ownership of a product with a particular name connoting all the aesthetic, visual and verbal communications contained in the styling of a commodity (Haug in Cook, 1996, p30). The label is used not only to promote the brand but also acts as an advertisement of the taste, fashion sense and income level of the consumer. This is similar to Adorno and Horkeimer’s concept of social rating ‘Cultural commodities serve as exchangeable …status symbols’ (Cook, 1996, p31). So the young people in the survey rather than wanting to feel a sense of belonging through wearing Vans, are actually using them to advertise their awareness of trends and that they have the income to buy them (or their parents do!) This goes some way to explaining why people will pay a ‘premium’ for a canvas shoe, which they could purchase for half the price and arguably get the equivalent use-value. Andrew Bennett’s ‘subculture or neo-tribes’ in The Consumption Reader offers a different interpretation of how the individual negotiates identity and lifestyle through consumerism. Bennett, explains Maffisoli’s concept of a tribe  Without the rigidity of the forms of organisation with which we are familiar, it refers to a certain ambience, a state of mind and is preferably to be expressed through lifestyles that favour appearances and form (p153).


Bennett’s analysis of lifestyles provides a framework to understand how individuals are able to freely express themselves or create a ‘lifestyle’ through consumption and the wide range of commodities available. The fast changing world of fashion and mass production offers these ‘lifestylers’

a fluid self-constructed method of creating associations or ‘neo-tribes’ (2003, p154). If applied to the Social Media world of Vans one can see how young people in particular may identify with the lifestyles presented to create identities and make connections, both physically with peers but also in groups online. Douglas and Bennett provide a more sophisticated view of consumers than the Marx concept of consumers being duped by a Capitalist system that creates ‘false needs’. However this analysis does suggest Vans and VF are offering people a vision of a lifestyle, which is not ‘fitting’ with what they want or need but instead directs people to the commodities and cultural resources they need in order to fulfil the ‘vision’. In other words they are creating ‘false needs’ and lifestyles that people can buy into. This is most evident when considering VF’s growth strategy. The communication to their investors presents the true strategic direction of the Corporation. ‘Our strategy is focused on attaining sustainable, long-term growth driven by continued geographic expansion’ (VF Corporation, 2013) China is the focus of this growth strategy, evident from various reports available to download on their website. A transcript from a video presentation aimed at their target audience in China presents one side of the strategy We see 1.3 billion explorers, artists, athletes and individuals. Brands who reflect who they really are and what they really want...they don’t just want shoes they want new ways to express themselves… the freedom to be who they want to be… in an authentic and meaningful way (VF in China, 2012). A presentation by VF Corporation Vice President called ‘Unleashing the power of our brands’ makes no pretense at the reason the Chinese market is seen as a big growth opportunity; its because of China’s ‘huge appetite for Western brands’ (Salzburger, 2012). So whilst the Corporation appears to ‘have unique ability to fit apparel consumers 56

needs and desires to fit your lives’ they are actually actively promoting western values and culture upon the Chinese market to grow its revenue by $740 million (O’Meara, 2012). To offer some balance to this analysis it is important to consider the benefits, the sheer scale of Corporations like VF bring to consumers and ultimately culture. Randle, VF’s Vice President of Outdoor and Action Sports, which includes Vans, is quoted on the Company Report 2011, Authenticity and aspiration are critical attributes that enable our brands to form a deep connection with their core consumers. This connection is created by years of successful product innovation that consistently exceeds the needs of consumers. Our associations with top athletes, artists and designers and our active participation in events and expeditions further demonstrate our brands’ commitment to our consumers’ passions (VF Corporation, 2011). The capital that Corporations can inject into product development and innovation can mean that people are able to pursue their cultural activities more effectively. As already documented, the growth of the more aggressive style of skateboarding was partly due to innovations in the standard and quality of equipment being developed. The close association the skateboarding manufacturers had with top Skateboarders meant the products were more authentic and fit for purpose. Although as Iain Borden discusses in Skateboarding, Space and the City, skateboarders have traditionally tried to gain some control of the manufacturing process by branding and manufacturing their own skateboarding products (2001, p157). For example, Alva described as Skateboarding’s first human brand (Vans off the Wall; 2009, p19) set up `Alva Skates’ in 1977. In this way Skateboarders attempt to create a separate stream of capital to use within skateboarding for skaters, better equipment and events, which is independent of the dominant Capitalist Economy (Borden, 2001, p157). 57

There is no doubt from this analysis that Vans the brand, today, as part of the VF Corporation, is a Culture Industry. Despite their sponsorship of individuals and events within culture and their development of new products for consumers who in turn can create identities, lifestyles and culture; their ultimate reason for being is to maximise shareholder profits not to create authentic culture. Using culture and lifestyle as a veil, VF is stimulating needs in consumers which fits with it’s brand portfolio. Thus Vans today and tomorrow can only be considered to have an insidious relationship with culture.         




Section One identified that Vans in the sixties and seventies, through its distinct transparent mode of production, contributed authentically to creating culture, by responding to consumers by providing footwear that offered them a means of forming personal or group identity. Skateboarders were more able to actively pursue their culture, a ‘style’ of skateboarding through this transparent relationship; both the replacing of one shoe and also later through a shoe designed specifically for purpose.   In Section Two the analysis of the development of the relationship of Vans with skateboarding presented evidence that Vans relationship with skateboarding culture was in the main organic and authentic, not manufactured. As the individuals of the Zephyr team, the bricoleurs of skateboarding, appropriated the footwear, their free spirit and radical style became fused with the Vans.   However Section Three established that within the Vans Warped Tour, even though the culture formed through punk music and skateboarding is created by individuals who are using the medium to express themselves, Vans have ‘insinuated’ themselves so fully into the culture they appear to have been part of creating it. Brands, including Vans, are becoming so integrated with ideas, identity and experience that it has created an ideology that they are culture and from this position in 2013, it is difficult to separate one from the other without deep analysis.  Section Four identified that despite consumers being able to chose how they use commodities in their pursuit of culture, Vans the brand, today, as part of the VF Corporation, is a Culture Industry. They may invest in sponsorship of individuals and events within culture and develop new products for the consumers, who in turn can create identities, lifestyles and culture; however their ultimate aim is to maximise shareholder profits and is not the pursuit of authentic culture. Using culture and lifestyle as a veil, VF is stimulating needs

in consumers which fits with its Brand portfolio. Thus Vans today and tomorrow can only be considered to have an insidious relationship with culture. From the body of research conducted for this dissertation there is evidence to suggest that there are still individuals attached to Vans, who have a genuine desire for Vans to continue its authentic relationship with culture, particularly skateboarding. Steve Van Doren is regularly documented on the Skate scene in an active role. The Burrel article in the Independent presents Van Doren at a Vans’ Downtown Showdown in Amsterdam. He is documented as still anxious that Vans continues to channel profits into the sport’s grass roots. He also qualifies, with refreshing honesty, that the new line, Vans 66, as ‘very lightweight’ and has not been made for the skate park. However the chilling fact is as Burrel puts it ‘one could walk into a shopping centre of diverse clothing outlets and all of them could be owned by VF Corporation’   As identified in Chapter Four, brands are becoming so integrated with experience, identity and culture; the concern for the future is the potential ideological effect on society, that the only way to experience culture is through the consumption of the cultural artifacts promoted by brands. Although this is an enormous leap to take within the bounds of this dissertation, as the primary research conducted was not extensive or directed enough to support that this could happen, it is a valid concern.  Are Vans, the star nudging the hosting culture into the background, as suggested by Klein in the introduction (2010) or instead as Olins suggested, can Vans simply be a gift to culture? (2003). Going forward hope lies in the evidence that individuals continue to be bricoleurs and use commodities to create their own vision of culture, not necessarily the lifestyle sold by the brand. For now, make no mistake Vans relationship with wider culture, within the VF Corporation, can only be considered insidious.



Part two / The Designer’s Voice


Contacting Studios and Designers

During March and April 2013 I sent the following email to several Studio and Designers: I am a third year Graphic Design student at Leeds College of Art and today I am after your opinion to inform my Design Context research. The focus of my research is a balanced analysis of what brands are, current thinking, their role in culture and lifestyle. Just to give you some context, this started with my dissertation ‘ Is the relationship of the brand Vans with wider culture, authentic or insidious?’ And two quotes: Brands and branding are the most significant gifts that commerce has made to popular culture. Branding has moved so far beyond its commercial origins that its impact is virtually immeasurable in social and cultural terms (Olins, 2003, p12). Branding was not just a matter of adding value to a product. It was about thirstily soaking up cultural ideas and images back on the culture as ‘extensions’ of their brands. Culture in other words would add value to their brands… The effect if not the original intent, of advanced branding is to nudge the hosting culture into the background and make the brand the star (Klein, 2000, p29). I am researching current (and past) thinking on Brands and also considering the position of youth brands in culture (thinking of my thirteen year old son’s wardrobe!). Another chapter is looking at brands and their sustainability strategies such as Unilever. We have to produce a book or website incorporating all the research so I aim to gather thirty key quotes and find a brand and visual image to support each quote. I would be grateful if you could provide me with a quote and/or visual reference which I could use in the book?

Noel Lyons of Kent Lyons, London

My first response was from Noel Lyons from Kent Lyons in London who not so much gave me a direct quote but pointed to an article in Eye magazine. Hi Lisa Here’s a pointer for you: This nails exactly why that Olins quote is so so so very offensive. When I read it, I felt actually physically sick. (*) Best wishes Noel Lyons

* This Article written by Terry Eagleton in Autumn 2004 appears in Eye Magazine and was a Critical review of Wally Olin’s book (one of the key quotes I used in my dissertation as counter argument to Naomi Klein’s quotes.) A transcript from the article is included on the following pages.



Reading On Brand by Terry Eagleton A Fresh look at Wally Olin’s highly regarded branding manual,

Branding used to involve stamping your symbol on the flank of some dumb creature, and nowadays involves stamping it across their T-shirts. Wally Olins, a man who one suspects would brand his own kneecaps if there was profit to be squeezed from it, has written a suitably slick account of a supremely shallow phenomenon. Olins is the kind of corporate consultant who believes that rebranding may help solve the problems of Uzbekistan: the problems of this country (which is reputed to boil its enemies alive) is that it doesn’t have a sexy enough image. Perhaps boiling people alive simply needs to be rebranded. In this book, which sometimes reads as though it has a marketplace where its mind should be, a relentlessly trivialising practice has found its true chronicle Chilling

Trivialising, but not trivial. Olins believes that branding is becoming more vital than both technically and financially based business, and as someone who chirpily reassures that ‘when you package it effectively, you can even sell water expensively’, he should know. The corporate types he advises are not the sort of people to whom one would entrust the water bottles on a trek across the desert, unless you had a well stuffed wallet. Like many of his tribe, however, he is an odd combination of cynicism and naivety. On the one hand, he churns out chillingly Orwellian injunctions such as ‘Train your people to live the brand’; on the other hand he earnestly informs us that car companies are ‘product-led’, just in case you thought Toyota spends its time marketing its fire drill techniques rather than its motors. Boneheaded


When Olins tells us that under Napoleon, ‘the whole of France was rebranded’, he is clearly unaware that this kind of boneheaded comment is usually to be found not in a sleek Thames and Hudson volume, but among a coachload of American tourists who miss seeing the Acropolis flash by their window because they are too busy fiddling with the air-conditioning. In

one sense, he is perfectly aware that much of what he is peddling is garbage. Branding, he writes with what is supposed to be winning candour, is a question of ‘persuading, seducing and attempting to manipulate people into buying products and services’. Seducing is certainly the word: most of us have felt thoroughly screwed by the corporations at one time or another. A few pages on, however, we are confidently assured that brands ‘are the most significant gifts that commerce has ever made to popular culture’. Olins may regard being manipulated as a gift, but not all share this psychological kink. Bloodless

More than once in this bloodlessly written book, he agrees with the No Logo camp that branding is often ‘manipulative and misleading’, and that their arguments against brands are ‘not negotiable’. (The double negative is typical of his wary way with anti-capitalist arguments). Having conceded that much of the practice is indefensible, however, he then proceeds to defend it. ‘Global companies’, he reminds us, ‘do not claim they are in business for philanthropic purposes.’ Well, neither do their critics. But that transnational corporations choose profit over people is the problem, not a line of defence. It is rather like arguing that muggers do not claim to be vicars, and so cannot be faulted when they scamper off with your handbagCynical The trouble is not that Nike is a heavily camouflaged charity, but that professional cynics like Olins regard even charity as a commodity. (‘The product that a charity sells is caring for the less fortunate’). ‘Greenpeace’, he tells us, ‘like any other clever brand, stands for a few simple values . . . all expressed through a powerful visual presence and some pithy soundbites.’ Political justice is on a level with junk food. Greenpeace is a brand rather than a campaign, and so are nations (‘America is a brand’). Brainwashed


On Brand’s view of the world is as nastily dehumanised as a workhouse. ‘A cleaner at Banjul airport in Gambia’, Olins writes, ‘scrapes and saves to buy Nike running shoes as a signal to himself and others that he is able to share at least some of the rich world’s glamour and fashion’. There is no hint that

he regards this obscene situation as anything but acceptable. Naomi Klein and co., he comments, ‘demonise’ big corporations for ‘grinding the faces of the poor in Third World countries, suborning and subverting the education of children in the West, charging too much and giving too little to customers everywhere, brainwashing people with relatively little money into buying products they don’t need and don’t really want and that might harm them, and generally acting like bully boys, thugs and profiteers’. After this searing (if grammatically maladroit) indictment, one expects a spot of refutation from a top adviser to Renault and Volkswagen. Astonishingly, it never come up. Unable to address these charges point by point for the best of all reasons (namely, that they are plainly true), Olins resorts instead to some feeble chaff-scattering Indefensible

First, he maintains, corporations are in business to make money and not to care for people. In short, he joins the critics rather than beating them. Second, branding is used by non-profit outfits such as charities, nations, sport, literature and theatre as well. It is true that you can probably only produce Shakespeare’s The Tempest nowadays if you have the sponsorship of Marine Insurance and a well crafted commercial identity. It is just that the disastrously philistine extension of branding into culture and politics is more an argument against it than in its favour. Third, Olins insists, real power lies with the consumer: ‘The brand’, he writes, ‘is controlled by us the customers.’ In the end, it is up to us to decide which brand to opt for. Here, in fact, is the kernel of the book’s defence of the indefensible – though this, too, turns out to be rather a rotten nut. Spineless


He writes pussy-footingly of ‘traditionally insensitive oil company’ behaviour in places such as Columbia, which must surely rank among the spineless euphemisms of the decade. Most such companies, he remarks with exquisite delicacy, ‘have a history which by today’s standards of political correctness does not bear very close scrutiny’. He is aware, of course, that not only

the champions of PC but any half-humane person would find this history disgraceful; but he does not have the courage to say so, so he hides behind the convenient straw target of political correctness. Circular

The argument about consumer power is in any case circular. If the customers control the brand, the brand influences the customers to plump for it. For another thing, Olins scuppers his own argument. To defend branding against charges of brainwashing, he has to suggest that it’s not nearly as effective as we might suspect. But in order to stay in his line of business, he argues, for example, that in Third World countries a branding programme ‘can act as a catalyst for change’. Curiously, what can transform whole nations can’t lay a glove on individual freedom of choice. Impeccably Marxist

What branding exploits is not just people’s gullibility, but their poignant, entirely reasonable desire to belong to some form of corporate existence larger than themselves. Since a social order given to greed and self-interest cannot fulfil this role, Krug, Starbucks or Manchester United have to step in instead. In writing about branding, Olins has produced an impeccably Marxist study, quite against his intentions. More or less everything he has to say on the subject goes to confirm what the Marxist tradition has long argued about alienation, reification and the fetishism of commodities. In fact, the only rational explanation for the crassness and callowness of this book is that Olins is a left-wing infiltrator among corporate types, out to discredit them by exposing the logic of the logo with such cruel candour. Cold-hearted

‘Brands’, argues Wally Olins in On Brand, ‘represent identity.’ It may be that he himself only knows who he is because of his brand of underpants, but the more discerning among us have not yet been reduced to this tragic condition. To avert any such dreadful fate, the reader would be well advised to give this pile of cold-hearted cynicism a miss and buy Naomi Klein’s No Logo instead 67


About Kent Lyons

We are a design agency. Our work spans branding, digital, print, advertising, strategy and environmental design. Formed in 2003 by James Kent and Noel Lyons, KentLyons are a team of designers and developers focussed on creating communications that are simultaneously beautiful and useful. This aim - to elicit emotion and action, to be affective and effective - is at our core. It informs our decisions and powers our work. Our work wins awards, is highly effective, and moves people. Our team is made up of Design, Visual Communications, Arts and Computer Science experts. We can produce effortlessly elegant books, or intuitive iPad reading experiences with the same ease. We create clear, compelling ideas, and communicate them with style, simplicity and passion.


Kent Lyons were commissioned to rebrand Top Drawer, the leading design and product trade show in the UK. They created A logo that works with the different sectors in the show, creating coloured sector zones.. The direct mail for Top Drawer in the form of a newspaper. The large format allowed the product photography to be large and impactful and take ownership of the spreads



Ian Anderson, Designers Republic In your experience, should Brands always have an authentic and true back story? Please explain why you think this

They should at least appear to have. Without they lack credibility... would you buy into something which lacked credibility in your mind. If you think of the identity as being how you look and the brand as being the personality, I think you can answer your own question. Whether the back story is genuine is a different matter, and maybe it only matters if you don’t feel or care if its genuine. Personally I don’t think its essential for the back story to be genuine, you’re buying into the idea. Whether coke genuinely adds life doesn’t matter, you support the product based on the aspiration it creates or projects It’s all a game anyway. It only becomes crucial if the claim the brand makes is a lie in the sense of a cover up - if someone claims to be ethical when they operate sweatshops for example Otherwise it’s just a narrative Can you think of any examples where we’re not lied to? Consumerism? Politics? Religion? There is no one truth, there’s only your perspective and what you choose to do with it



Lee Bennett Design Director at Propaganda In your experience, should Brands always have an authentic and true back story? Please explain why you think this

Yes they should. We always try and give brands a story, as that’s what sets brand apart. The stories also give a solid foundation to the brand, so that consumers know what the brand stands for, and importantly this also spreads to staff and employees within the company so they know who they are. And stories should always be based on truth, otherwise they’re worthless and can be found out!


S.O.P. H.I.E. by Illamasqua (Propaganda) The Sophie Lancaster Foundation

On 11th August 2007, 20 year-old Sophie Lancaster and her boyfriend Robert Maltby were kicked, stamped on and left unconscious – for nothing more than looking different. Sophie later died from her injuries. The Sophie Lancaster Foundation was set up by Sylvia Lancaster, a youth worker and Sophie’s mother, in her memory, and works to stamp out intolerance and discrimination in society. As a brand that promotes the right to experiment and self-express, Illamasqua is proud to support The Sophie Lancaster Foundation in its commitment to changing attitudes towards subcultures. The Foundation’s key aim is to change a mind-set in society by working with young people in schools to create understanding and awareness of subcultures. Through the development of its eye-catching educational S.O.P.H.I.E. game and training with Sylvia Lancaster, Sophie’s mum, the Foundation is now helping teachers across the UK to educate a more tolerant and broad-minded generation of young people. In tribute to Sophie, Illamasqua commissioned ‘Dark Angel’ in 2009. This is a short film by award-winning French director, Fursy Teyssier, that’s a haunting rendition of Sophie’s story, featuring the music of iconic British band, Portishead.



James Acton, the Brand Nursery In your experience, should Brands always have an authentic and true back story? Please explain why you think this

It is all a question of context and the category you are entering into. Brands or branding give you competitive commercial advantage (that’s the reason brands exist) therefore you need to be aware of the competitive set. The art of good branding is to move other brands to another place (reposition other brands to make yours more relevant, understood and appealing) So, should the back-story be true and authentic? Not necessarily. If you are entering a category where there are no rules or conventions then the back-story can be a flight of pure fantasy as long as the rational attributes of the brand perform beyond the consumer’s expectation. If the product or service is crap, consumers will ditch you no matter what the back-story! If a brand were entering a category filled with provenance and history then you would expect to have a credible, true and authentic backstory that was inherent in the brand and competed hard against the competition.


The Brand Nursery approach to Branding

Our approach is pretty simple really - we work in close partnership with businesses and brand owners to help them create, sustain and develop successful brand properties. There’s an awful lot written and spoken about brands and branding these days. Most businesses recognise that brands are a vital contributor to the value of the company’s assets - but the process of brand development can still appear to be something of a black art. It’s easy to be seduced by the apparent promise of trademarked brand development processes, and complex brand evaluation formulas. The reality, of course, is that every business, and every brand, is different, and needs to be treated as such. That’s why the real key to brand development is to work with people who understand how to nurture all sorts of different brands, from fragile seedlings through to mighty oaks. People who take a practical approach to the shaping of brand properties, and who will clearly explain each stage of the development process. People who know how to spot the difference between a promising sapling and a rambling weed, and who are prepared to say so. People who never forget that the primary reason why a brand owner invests time and money in brand development is to deliver a flourishing commercial return.



The Principals Agency Based in Australia and New Zealand

About We create brands people can believe in We believe that consumers are drawn to brands with a distinctive story, an original edge, and a genuine ability to deliver what they promise. In other words, to be successful, brands need to be grounded in a strong idea – and able to express it in everything they do. They need to be consistently authentic. What success looks like In partnership with Brand Navigator, we’ve explored what authenticity means to consumers – and created a landmark league table of Australia’s most authentic brands. Those brands viewed as highly authentic enjoy a greater share of business from high value customers, and a greater number of customers willing to recommend their brand – a critical success measure in the age of social media. Making your brand more authentic What Authenticity looks like Authenticity helps fuel success in today’s over-traded markets as consumers search for greater meaning and sincerity from the brands they choose - fuelled by a desire to connect with things that feel safe, certain and unambiguous. At its heart, authenticity is about practising what you preach; being totally clear about who you are and what you do best. When a brand’s rhetoric gets out of sync with customers’ actual experiences, the brand’s integrity and future persuasiveness suffers.


The Authentic Brand Index The Authentic Brand Index has been developed to provide a common and objective measure of brand authenticity across diverse product and service categories and to help marketers pinpoint strategies that will strengthen the authentic identities of their brands. The Authentic Brand Index correlates strongly with key drivers of business performance, including customer advocacy and share of high value customers. The index is based on qualitative research across the following drivers

Originality The extent the brand has brought something new and different to market

Personal Utility The extent the brand delivers real utility to users that they feel they can’t live without

Declared Beliefs The extent the brand stands for more than making money

Sincerity The extent to which the brand tries hard not to let people down

Familiarity The extent the brand is well known by everyone

Momentum The extent the brand has an aura of becoming more popular

Heritage The extent the brand has a relevant and engaging story 77


What’s in Store 2013 /Interbrand The Importance Of Authenticity And Relevance

In the digital era, consumers have the power. Seeking best opportunities, shoppers are trading up or down across categories and channels. On one hand, after a good experience, shoppers are more committed to buying products and services. But after a bad experience, they will tell their community, who will then transform a destination store into a store to avoid through word of mouth and their social graphs, whether that store is physical or online. Beyond all digital interaction, it will be about delivering a unique and differentiated experience in a consistent manner. That is where brand will have a robust proposition to express and to deliver, while staying relevant to customer needs. Because what we wear reflects who we are, the apparel and fashion category has the opportunity to reach the hearts and souls of consumers by helping them find numerous ways to express their individuality. In 2013, the conversation and the connection that apparel brands will be able to build will strengthen their business model as well as their performance. By bringing the authentic core of their brands to life and offering merchandise that is relevant to the specific preferences of their target markets, apparel brands will inspire a desire to shop, a desire to wear and, above all, they will provide an opportunity for consumers to become their best, most beautiful selves.


Fred Perry using a current British Icon, Bradley Wiggins and his association with the Mod Culture which links to their own heritage. Doc Martens using their heritage by launching an ‘Originals’ line.




Branding the Experience


Simon Manchipp from Someone

Hi Lisa. Sounds like a fascinating book. I'd love to see a copy. For me brands are not a gift to society. They are a deliberate attempt at creating a monopoly where there is competition. Brands exist only where there is competition. So they will naturally try anything to capture an audiences attention. From simple eye catching strategies to full emotional connectivity. At SomeOne we try and avoid creating one dimensional communications for products, services or organisations. Preferring to create worlds for these brands to populate. The best brands create their own world. Not an Eco system, that crumbles if you remove an element. Or a theme that tires rapidly. A world. That adapts, changes and flexes with the new unpredictable demands that business throws at it. The worst thing a brand can do is to try and please everyone. Then they end up with Blanding, not branding. A brands role is to make people chose it over a competitor. Everything else is secondary. The values, the gags, the entertainment, the charity, the progressive thinking — it's all there for one purpose. To be the preferred choice. To occupy a monopoly in the market. And ideally, to charge a premium while doing so. Hope that helps. Kind regards Simon. Simon Manchipp. Co-Founder SomeOne Big ideas, beautifully made




SomeOne Awards and Accolades

The Drum UK Design 100 2013 - Peer Poll London design practice SomeOne had another busy year, counting London 2012 among its clients and working on a number of large scale brand launches and rebrands. New business for the agency in the last 12 months included British Standards Institute, Royal Botanic Gardens Kew Gardens, P&G, BGL Group, BreakthroughBreastCancer, Intel and Tesco. The agency’s international digital experience arm, SomeOne/Else, which was founded in 2010, continued its growth with a number projects in Russia, including 4G telco client Yota. SomeOne enhanced its strategic focus, with its three founders Simon Manchipp, David Law and Gary Holt taking on strategic roles. In other structural developments, the agency employed a new Pod structure to provide bespoke teams to service clients, introduced a new project and account management team structure, and put in place a new finance and accounting structure in 2012. The sports pictogram designs for the London 2012 Olympic Games are among the agency’s notable recent projects. Other projects completed for London 2012 include the brand identity for the Olympic Partner Workshop, systems and branding guidelines for sponsorships and the creation of branded merchandise, as well as the creative strategy for the Cultural Olympiad. Other notable work from the agency includes, but is not limited to, the rebrand of Eurostar, following its £700m investment to improve services and the creation and launch of a new brand for Chivas. The agency’s raft of award gongs include wins at the Design Effectiveness Awards, Blades, Transform and European Excellence Awards. The agency was awarded at the DBA Design Effectiveness Awards for work on Telefonica’s global brand strategy, while its strategic rebrand of The National Maritime Museum, The Royal Observatory Greenwich and The Queen’s House picked up a Gold Transform Award.


SomeOne recognised for excellence in transformative branding for the 4th consecutive year. They received three awards for their work on the rebrand and launch of FastJet, the new low-cost airline for Africa. Best use of a visual property (That Parrot!) Best implementation of a rebrand (Who’s a pretty boy then?) Best rebrand following a merger or acquisition (Work that works)



Hollister / Branding the experience Primary and secondary research

Hollister is an American Lifestyle brand launched in 2000 and owned by Abercrombie and Fitch. The So Cal image was designed to attract a younger audience aged 14-18 with lower prices. From the website: Hollister is the fantasy of Southern California by Abercrombie & Fitch. It’s all about hot lifeguards and beautiful beaches. Young and fun, with a sense of humour, Hollister never takes itself too seriously. Hollister’s laid back lifestyle and All-American image is timeless and effortlessly cool. Hollister brings southern California to the world. Abercrombie & Fitch has designed Hollister Co. stores to simulate the appearance of vintage beach shacks in an indoor shopping mall, making Hollister stores stand out from any other store in the mall. Exterior décor include shuttered windows, and light and dark brown patten walls. A teal boardwalk with three steps leads to the entrance, with plans to eventually include a low-hanging chandelier on the porch of all stores. Retail space is divided into separate rooms with half of the store devoted to “Dudes” and the other to “Bettys”. Hollister Co. stores have their own monthly playlist, which is packed with surfer inspired tunes to set the whole beach shack mood and played at a fairly high volume through many strategically placed speakers throughout the store. Customers used to be able to choose the songs they want to hear using a touch screen positioned on the checkout counter wall, however this feature was removed leaving the touch screen to only display the songs titles and artists. Dimly lit by spot-lighting, the interior décor throughout



includes leather armchairs, worn rugs, patterned wallpaper, surf boards lining the wall behind the registers and potted palm trees placed around the store. A central room plays as a “living room” and offers dozens of surf and general popular culture magazines for sale along with CDs of the music being played in store. The merchandise itself is displayed on built-in closets and shelves along with dark wooden tables, cots, and benches strategically placed in the rooms. Mandated by corporate, the stores and clothing itself are constantly kept scented with the current popular HCo fragrance SoCal via spritzing by employees and a recently installed computerised spritzing system installed in the ceiling which releases fragrance at timed intervals. This is part of the reason customers can usually smell the store before they even approach it, a good or bad effect depending on if one likes the fragrance, which many customers do and actually enjoy the clothing being “pre-scented”.

A key to Abercrombie’s brands is creating an elaborate pseudo-history which claims that the Hollister Co. was created by a fictional John H. Hollister who started the company in 1922 in Laguna Beach. His ‘son’, John M. Hollister, Jr. who was an avid and now legendary surfer... expanded the company to include surf apparel and equipment. Both Hollisters who served in the California Legislature were born at Hollister Ranch in Santa Barbara Co., which is a well-known surfing location. Additionally, much of the Hollister Co. clothing line features the label “Hollister, California” which is the name of a town founded by the actual John J. Hollister Sr.’s father. 88



Branding in the experience economy . A thinkpiece published by Branding Consultancy True North January 2013

General Manager Thomas Kochs’ concluding quote summed up the issue: “People these days have everything and every year you can buy more and more, if you have the money to buy it. But what you can’t really buy is this memory… and our memories and experiences. And that’s why they come.”  The point Thomas makes is that in a world awash with luxury hotels, Claridge’s has managed to differentiate itself and remain at the top by recognising that rather than selling luxury hotel ‘services’ (albeit beautifully and precisely delivered services) what they are actually in the business of is creating and staging memorable experiences for their guests.  We’ve been talking a lot recently about the Experience Economy and about the commercial power of well-defined, coherent brand experience. 

The customer is in charge of your brand like never before. They will communicate the true experience more quickly, more powerfully and more visibly than ever before. The Experience Economy is a term that was first cited in the Harvard Business Review. It refers to a period of economic transition, moving beyond a Service Economy in which services have evolved to such an extent they have become increasingly indistinct from each other and thus commoditised. The Experience Economy is one in which service providers add value and differentiate themselves once more by making the transition from selling services to staging and creating memorable ‘events’ for their customers. ‘Events’ that are designed to evoke a sensation in the hearts and minds of their customers. The memory of, and association with, that sensation — the experience — then becomes the product being sold. And critically, customers


are willing to pay a premium for it. Therefore in the Experience Economy, we’d argue brand is commercially more important than ever.  Why? Because brand strategy is a crucial business transformation tool in making the transition from a service provider to an organisation creating and selling brand experiences and importantly, charging a premium to do so.  Take Starbucks for example (putting to one side any potentially worrying effects of their tax situation). Starbucks have managed over recent years to create an ‘experience’ around the everyday coffee. Pizza Express sell ‘conversations’ not pizzas. Manchester United, Disney, the V&A — each of these organisations have recognised the power in identifying, defining and consistently executing the brand experience they are selling, and have experienced the commercial benefits of doing so.  Simple ideas that transform brands. Regardless of which sector they occupy, organisations that have become highly successful brand experiences share some interesting traits, which we believe provide powerful lessons to others seeking to replicate their commercial success. Others committed to growing and leading their sector, driving revenue through new channels, engaging with new audiences and creating greater returns for shareholders. So what are these consistent traits and how can other ambitious organisations learn from these?  Firstly, organisations which have become successful ‘brand experiences’ are


invariably organisations in which brand strategy is recognised as a boardroom issue that can genuinely grow the bottom line and improve business value. As such, brand strategy sits at the heart of the business strategy — no longer the remit of the Marketing Department and primarily ‘just’ a driver of communications — it is recognised as a transformation tool that influences and informs all aspects of the offer. This point is rather beautifully demonstrated by the diagram above. We are unable to claim credit for its concise brilliance. This must go to Interbrand who we are very happy to acknowledge here.  So at Manchester United, Disney, V&A, Starbucks and so on, conversations about business strategy will be in large part conversations about brand strategy and how the brand experience can manifest itself and influence all aspects of the business in order to continue to drive revenue, improve business value, engage new audiences, create new revenue streams.  92

Arguably one of the  world’s most powerful  branded experiences is  Manchester United. They  have identified that the  ‘product’ they sell is the  experience of ‘being  the best’.  Secondly, the picture that these operations paint of the brand experience that prospective customers can expect to enjoy must be truthful to the reality of that experience. The customer is in charge of your brand like never before. They will communicate the true experience more quickly, more powerfully and more visibly than ever before thanks to smartphone technology and the explosion in social media that has meant sharing has become endemic. In the space of 3 years, the concept of ‘word of mouth’ has fundamentally changed — it is more visual than ever (mobile photo uploads and video uploads dominate), it is instantaneous and happens in real-time (no longer a post experience reflection but a real-time, pre, during and post experience commentary on what’s happening). In this environment it has never been more important to  reflect an accurate picture of the brand experience you  offer — because the truth will out like never before. So our  advice is to invest in identifying, defining and accurately  articulating your ‘true’ (and differentiating) brand experience  rather than ‘marketing’ a loose promise. Especially if that  loose promise is not backed up across the business,  through all channels and across all touchpoints; which  brings us onto our next point.  In the world of branded experiences, coherence of  customer experience is critical. In the traditional model,  branding agencies talked of the importance of a  consistent brand — meaning the consistent application  of the brand assets on ‘stuff ’. But increasingly this has to  mean something far broader. It has to be about all of the  interactive, personal and individual aspects of the customer  experience working together to help create a coherent  whole. Consistency is no longer king.  93

In the world of branded experiences, coherence is the new  monarch. This is particularly true for organisations that offer  physical experiences (hotels, restaurants, destinations,  galleries, museums, stately homes, retailers, shopping  centres, banks and so on). Here, traditional marketing  and the consistent application of brand on ‘stuff ’ is only a  small part of what serves to create a coherent experience.  More often than not, for these organisations it is the  interaction with frontline staff, the overall welcome and  service customers receive, and the general ambience and  environment that determines the ‘experience’. Which is  why it’s critical that these are all working together to create  a coherent whole — meaning better communication and  collaboration between Marketing, HR, Buying, IT and so on. 

People  are increasingly curating their own lives, looking for and collecting memorable experiences Next up comes active brand management. Organisations  that have become successful branded experiences have  made the transition from an ‘operational marketing mind-set’  to a mind-set in which active brand management of the  experience is critical. They recognise two things; firstly that  brand strategy must sit at the heart of the business (back to  our first point). Secondly that because of the inherent value  in the brand experience, the need to proactively manage it  is critical to the long-term health of both the brand and the  business. Proactive brand management means investment,  it means an acknowledgement by the business over the  long-term that the brand experience must be reviewed,  that it must evolve and be continually added to. Brand  is not static, it is not something that gets ‘fixed’ one year  and ‘implemented’ the next. It is a valuable business asset  which must be continually strengthened in order to derive  the maximum value from it.  Finally, organisations that have become successful  branded experiences have recognised the need to truly  know their audiences. We would argue that demographics  and demographic-based segmentation models have never  been less useful. Millennials have more traits in common  with the baby boomer 94

generation than with those closer  in conventional demographic terms. The Over 50’s are  re-defining the concept of old age and retirement, and  are challenging traditional age stereotypes. All of this  means that for organisations wishing to create branded  experiences that truly resonate — that evoke powerful  emotions in their customers and in the hearts and minds  of its visitors — knowing your audiences rather than  describing your audiences has never been more important.  And if you find yourself asking the question ‘Why bother?  Why go to the effort to do all of this?’ Quite simply, because  very few can afford not to.  There is a huge amount of commentary currently about the  demise of ‘stuff ’ and the rise of the ‘experience’ collector.  As Thomas from Claridge’s put it so beautifully — “people  are increasingly curating their own lives, looking for  and collecting memorable experiences”. And brands  that identify, define and coherently articulate powerful  experiences see the commercial benefits; premium  pricing, differentiation in the sector, the ability for the  experience to manifest itself in new channels (creating new  revenue streams and engaging new audiences), global  resonance, better loyalty, increased frequency, improved  business value. (Although paying corporation tax is also  recommended, in our opinion.)  


At present we are sleepwalking into the brand society: we are lifestyle driven but do not see the fundamental shift that this ostensibly innocent concept brings with it. Lifestyle is our grammar, brands our alphabet: McDonald’s makes your family happy, IKEA shows you how to live, Club Med gives you the holiday you deserve, L’Oreal teaches you what beauty is, Apple shows you what’s cool...The list is endless, the logic behind it simple: brands position themselves as pieces of mosaic that constitutes a lifestyle Martin Kronenberg, Brand Society




Private Label Lifestyle brands Tess Wicksteed, Strategy Director, Pearlfisher New York

We often hear brands refer to themselves as Lifestyle brands, but what does this mean in the context of real life? How can a private label retailer become a ‘lifestyle brand’? In the past, Lifestyle branding has typically been about presenting a well defined image of a style of living, with a strong philosophy, specific set of values and a very distinct aesthetic. These traditional lifestyle brands tend to be very aspirational. At the premium end, think Ralph Lauren, Tommy Hilfiger, or Martha Stewart. However, often these brands can present a way of living that is so ‘perfect’ that it can feel both intimidating and inflexible, especially when compared to how we realistically live today. As a result we are seeing a shift in lifestyle branding. Brands are no longer dictating a specific lifestyle for consumers to buy wholesale. Now we see brands allowing consumers to mold them to fit their personal style, so that they fit in with how we live our lives. Unbranding: Labour & Wait is a London based retailer that has a focus on ‘un branding’. Unlike traditional lifestyle brands whose value rests in their overtly branded products, Labour & Wait builds on their image of traditional, authentic British homewares with no branding on products. This lack of branding means that products feel more collected than produced making everything feel one-of-a kind and also unified through a beautiful aesthetic. The un-branded aesthetic allows us to enjoy the products as part of our personal style. Allowing for individual interpretation: Similarly, brands like Uniqlo, American Apparel and The Gap, succeed because they continue to play on individual interpretation, rather than creating a single aesthetic or image. Japanese brand Uniqlo has


created a position focused on the individual interpretation of style, with international ad campaigns that feature local celebrities wearing basic items in their own way. American Apparel is all about self expression, encouraging people to wear their basics in unexpected and inventive ways, which ultimately elevates the brand through their creativity. These brands are presenting their products as a base, a starting point for individual style. Lifestyle Curator: Brands like Jme, Anthropologie, and ABC Carpet & Home, realize that consumers are both seeking out speciality items and living through an individual mix of brands. These brands are sourcing products from a variety of independent designers and we see them designing in-house ranges under speciality sub brands. Anthropologie even became famous for their internal curation when their buyer at large landed a show called Man Shops Globe on the Discovery Channel. The doc-style series mirrors the delight of discovery one experiences when shopping in the whimsical and almost cluttered Anthropologie stores. These brands truly become lifestyle curators, offering consumers a mix of products from different sources and building an image on individuality and speciality.



Urban Outfitters

Urban Outfitters Inc is an American Corporation Company Statement Our established ability to understand our customers and connect with them on an emotional level. The reason for this success is that our brands, Urban Outfitters, Anthropologie, Free People, Terrain and BHLDN, are both compelling and distinct. Each brand chooses a particular customer segment, and once chosen, sets out to create sustainable points of distinction with that segment. In the retail brands we design innovative stores that resonate with the target audience; offer an eclectic mix of merchandise in which hard and soft goods are cross merchandised; and construct unique product displays that incorporate found objects into creative selling vignettes. The emphasis is on creativity. Our goal is to offer a product assortment and an environment so compelling and distinctive that the customer feels an empathetic connection to the brand and is persuaded to buy. Founded in 1970, Urban Outfitters operates more than 130 stores in the United States, Canada and Europe, all offering an eclectic mix of merchandise. We stock our stores with what we love, calling on our — and our customer’s — interest in contemporary art, music and fashion. From men’s & women’s apparel and accessories to items for the apartment, we offer a lifestyle-specific shopping experience for the educated, urban-minded individual in the 18 to 30 year-old range — both online and in our stores as well as through our catalogue. They stock a huge range of clothing apparel and cultural artifacts including brands such as Adidas, Fred Perry, Vivian Westwood, G Star, Vans, Ben Sherman and Penguin


Urban Outfitters Lifestyle Curators 101



Brands, Innovation and the Future


James Acton, Director at The Brand Nursery How important is Social Media to you as an Agency and also within the context of a branding brief?

Social media plays a very small role in our overall thinking when it comes to brand strategy. Liking a brand on Facebook does not make a brand (see below from Bloomberg). You can have as many ‘thumbs up’ as you like but that is no guarantee of commercial success. Always remember that consumers say one thing and do another! Social media is a communication channel driven largely by user generated content, ground swell and opinion which is absolutely fine but you need to place your brand more meaningfully in front of people in an appropriate manner so that they receive the message, understand the message and act upon it in terms of purchasing, behaviour or intent. In short Social Media is ‘ok’ for some brands but it’s not for every brand (as once was considered). “The dirty secret social-media gurus won’t reveal is that Facebook likes are becoming a devalued currency. Facebook now receives 1.17 trillion likes and comments from consumers annually, which works out to 3.5 per Facebook user per day. Forty-two million Facebook pages now have 10 or more likes. In a world where liking is as common as blinking, a like no longer signals that a consumer loves your brand…” To be fair there is an alternative view on Brands and Social Media. Take a look at what these guys are doing. US lead the way in this I’m afraid!


Overview of Percolate

Brands are becoming real-time content creators. The last few years have brought two tectonic shifts: From campaign-based thinking to sustained messaging and from 21-week production schedules for TV commercials to 21 minutes between tweets. Many argue and we agree that brands always were content creators. Being a good content creator requires being a good content consumer. This insight shapes much of what we do at Percolate and drives the first step in the Percolate process: Our calibration workshop. During this 2-hour session we work with the brand to identify key areas, events, and visuals that will make up their social DNA and drive their social publishing strategy. We take everything we learn during the calibration and plug it into the system to build out the brand’s custom profile. This profile identifies relevant, on-brand images, events, and content from our partners and the 6+ million sources we monitor and filter. This combination of our calibration process and intelligent algorithms creates a “brand brain� that constantly surfaces relevant content inspiration to support the community management process.


A living brand is a pattern of behaviour not a stylistic veneer. If people can change their clothes without changing character then why cant brands? Marty Neumeier




The Future of Branding

The next few pages are the key points taken from a live online debate, facilitated by Adam Davidi of The Guardian, Tuesday 19th February 2013. Have ads been usurped by user experience in the digital space? There is a growing debate over whether, in the digital environment, brands must increasingly focus upon how people experience their products. While the internet provides consumers easy access to a range of information, social media platforms, such as Twitter and Facebook, offer consumers unprecedented ways to interact with brands. Do these developments mean that consumers have the power to define what a brand is in the digital space? Increasing smartphone and tablet ownership means consumers are accessing brands across multiple platforms. What does this trend mean for how brands should consider their customers’ user experience? The Panellists Dean Johnson is vice president at Brandwidth Innovation Lab Phil Dearson is head of strategy and user experience at Tribal DDB Toto Ellis is a strategy director at TBWA\London Sam Fielding is senior brand manager at Kronenbourg 1664 Jeroen Matser is vice president of strategy at Blast Radius Toby Southgate is CEO of The Brand Union Juliet Stott is a director and head of content at White Horse Digital



Key points taken from the debate Crowdsourcing, branding and advertising Crowd-sourcing as a brand strategy i.e. Getting your consumers to build your brand for you. Blunt and quick view is that this can be an interesting research model when brands are defining new offers, but it’s less useful for existing brands with existing strategies, consumers, distribution channels and business models... If a brand has a powerful belief about the world/category it operates in and a clear behaviour to evidence that belief then the answer can be both communication and behaviour itself. Brands will always be judged by the sum total of their behaviours, but there is still a role for advertising in setting out the brand’s belief. Even the most modern brands like Red Bull, Google etc. Do both, not one or the other... Important to look at your brand strategy, identify the key strategic focuses for communications, and then define (usually with a good planning agency) what’s the best activity to deliver the objective(s). It’s the moments of interaction, the collection of experiences, that influence consumers relationships with brands. The balance of power has flipped on its head. ‘Advertising’ is one of those experiences, but far from the only one. Great brands perform consistently across all moments of interaction. People trust and buy into other people’s experiences increasingly over a brand-led ad. Successful brands now disrupt consumer narrative. Sounds like buzzwords but means the brand talks to its audience at an acceptable level, and introduces products and services in a meaningful way. A twoway conversation, rather than a ignored billboard or skipped web or TV ad. What is clear is that many of these examples are blurring the lines 110

between identity, branding, advertising and communications - the core brands remain central and become the launch pad for entire schemes, never pushed back into the corner and back to anonymity. These changes cost money, but in many cases the funds and awareness raised quickly offset the outlay. The strongest brands in the world set out their own agenda and point of view first, but inviting audiences in is essential as part of a brand’s activity. They will ultimately decide if they believe you and what they like about you. I find it hard to find any major examples of consumers creating the brand from its inception User experience (online and off ) should be at the heart of the way brands communicate with their audiences, but that doesn’t mean a death to advertising. I do feel however that brands aren’t on the whole aren’t recognising the multitude of ways their customers are coming to them. Campaigns are often built around ‘multi-platform’ concepts, but in my experience, when the brand presence itself doesn’t live up to this, you end up with frustrated customers. That’s a pretty holistic take on UX, A look to the future indicates they’ll be doing more content, less paid for advertising. Just look at how Nike has shifted its focus. It only spends 33% of its budget on paid for ads. This is the future. Any digital activity, be it crowd sourcing or experience engineering, has to be part of a total brand experience strategy. Inconsistency is unsettling for consumers, so all your touchpoints must ultimately lead back to the same core brand story Do you think data will become a bigger part of brands strategies in the future, it seems at the moment plenty of company’s are failing to spot opportunities within data There is a risk we divert our attention to creating experiences as a mean to an end and forgetting that brands are ultimately created to persuade 111

and influence a purchase decision. Ads are still part of that. Ads still work, it’s just the opportunities to skip them before we get to the punch line are increasing. They need to work harder and faster where this occurs, or move on. Nike is a great example. Their organising belief is probably “If you have a body, you’re an athlete”. That can inform the next innovation like Fuel Band as much as the next big ad or indeed their end line. I hear you - spends are shifting. I remember Play Station being told to shift their spend to 60/40 digital/ads 2 years ago. But I think both sides of the coin require a coherent, if not consistent story/belief/narrative I think brands that meet their customers across all channels will be most successful. Take a look at Domino’s Pizza. It engages on every platform:from in-store self service touch screens, to digital TV, to a mobile optimised site. It meets its customer’s needs and demands at a precise moment in time in a consistent way. I’m sat next to around 8 of our finest @tbwalondon data planners who are crunching the numbers for Four Seasons. Harnessing guest data will be essential to their focus over the next few years as all travel brands seek to customise the experience. The key is what to focus on in what order on the journey to the holy grail of one to one customisation. Data is of massive significance for sure @oliver. I even know a client who recently monetised their data division as its own business. What are the panel’s views on a ‘traditional’ brand with a strong history that in order to survive has to change the way it engages eg: The Guardian. Do they have to accept they will loose some old loyalists in the hunt for the bigger digital pool? Are they missing any brand strategies in keeping the old and acquiring the new? I think you can keep both audiences happy. Embrace openness to audience participation in the right spaces e.g. Here but in the traditional 112

product people will always value the high calibre journalism and commentary that only an experienced journalist can provide. Knowing that twitter will give you the quickest channel to let the world know what’s going on inside a courtroom is important, but never to the detriment of why people pay for The Guardian - for world-class commentary and journalism Vasileios Tziokas, Marketing Manager at Upstream, a world leader in mobile marketing solutions. I think that the next big shift in online advertising is around original content development and storytelling. Native advertising is booming but it still has a lot to learn. BuzzFeed and Quartz have implemented this kind of ad business models in a unique way. There are some interesting things going on with ‘native’ advertising and Buzzfeed are a leading example for that. It’s just a question of scale and how brands can engage with this kind of marketing activity in a way that’s credible. It is scientifically proven that human mind is more inclined to “interact” with a message when it doesn’t need to interrupt what it is doing. Usual banner ads do interrupt the customer from what he is doing at that given time resulting not only to poor ROI but also negative brand impressions. Brand and Social Media Brands that combine interaction with consumers - be it on social media or advertising will have greater engagement. We loved the Nivea ad for this reason. A view can create the narrative themselves & change the outcome of the ad. We believe this type of advertising will be the future. Social media platforms have transformed the relationship between the consumer and the brand. It’s no longer a top down relationship. Take Jamie Oliver on twitter this morning asking people to choose a backdrop to his new menu sleeve. Or on a more corporate level look at Rowan 113

Dunne of O2 - he uses twitter to walk the floor every night to check what his customers are saying - he personally responds to disgruntled customers. It’s great. Makes big brands more accountable. Social Media has fundamentally changed the way in which consumers ‘experience’ brands. While Social may not yet be as scaled as other traditional media, it can deepen the relationship between consumers and your brand. Consumers expect to find brands in the digital space. The challenge is to embrace this so your brand is part of the conversation, but importantly, do so in a way that feels true to your brand and its story, and consistent with it’s tone of voice. For audiences, an opportunity - to write/comment/talk back. For brands, both a risk and an opportunity. We’ve seen the risk side when working with BA, where an effective, always on conversation management strategy was needed during the strikes and indeed always. On the flip side, for Skittles it was a hell of an opportunity - to take the brand belief/ behaviour out into the world and entertain people daily I am still surprised how many brand guidelines completely lack any behavioural traits or components. With the rise of Social brands will have to define how they interact with their customers. Think we are only scratching the surface of what this means for any brand. Social media is THE most important brand channel - but only if staffed by humans rather than viewed as yet another broadcast opportunity. Our Citroën Click campaign was massively successful for the client as we crowd sourced the first Facebook car - and put the end result into production. You can’t do this every time but the audience understands this and still feels part of the brand. There are more smartphones being sold each day than babies being born worldwide. Currently 54% of the UK has a smartphone, 21% a tablet. Domino’s has recognised this shift and been first to meet customers 114

there. With handsets & contracts getting cheaper - more consumers will be demanding these services. What Domino’s is good at is meeting consumers on where ever they are. Brands like Innocent do this brilliantly. (was voted most social brand in 2012). We love Yorkshire Tea’s new “behind the scenes” ad of the new ad. It connects the consumers with the people creating the brand and the advert itself. It tells the story of the ad. Great for user engagement. Consumers need to be rewarded for their interest and curiosity.


Do’s and Don’ts of Mobile Platforms and Social Media DO think mobile, but do it properly Listen 24/7 to your consumers needs - give them what they want, when they want it on every channel. Do think of brand as reputation, that can build and influence through an evolved awareness of the experiences you offer consumers Do give your customers something extra, added value, reward loyalty Don’t talk down to your consumers or complicate the message. Don’t think social if you’re not going to put a human on the other end Always assume your audience adopts new technology and networks faster than you do. You’ll rarely get there before they do, unless you work with people who’s job it is to get you to the front. Brands that recognise we’re a nation of 2nd & 3rd screeners will have the highest user engagement. Social TV is one element of this. Brands that are successful will have the best disruption strategy.



Lee Bennett Design Director at Propaganda How important is Social Media to you as an Agency and also within the context of a branding brief?

It’s very important, brand can no live or die with the management if their social media. We built the Illamasqua’s brand through social channels, not through advertising, that shows how impactful social media is. It’s also great that people and brand can interact more closely now, and if you’re dishonest then you will get caught out.


Ian Anderson of Designers Republic How important is Social Media to you as an Agency and also within the context of a branding brief?

It’s increasingly important in the context of networking and profile, decreasingly important in terms of a call to action / response. Facebook for example tends to show little real return even relative to people who respond positively to shout outs. in that respect its a little like flyposting and other street media - its difficult and sometimes misleading to correlate success in relation to exposure.

Ian Anderson and Designers Republic

I was lucky enough to meet Ian, take part in a workshop and also attend a lecture. The lecture was an overview of the work of TDR and also a rather frank and honest account of its demise in 2009, and subsequent rise since. Four things I took away from meeting Ian: How far can you abstract content before it doesn’t make sense Provoke a response Make the context work for you Ask why



What’s in Store for 2013 Interbrand

The brands best positioned for success in 2013 are those that take seriously the significant role they play in people’s lives and work to remain relevant and authentic in our rapidly changing world. Agile and mobile shoppers are expecting less complexity and more transparency than ever. Clarity of the brand is crucial. Ethics matter Because apparel and fashion mirror both the individual and society, representing our tastes, values, and aspirations, these brands are under unique pressures to make ethical choices. As such, the role and responsibility of global players to deliver on sustainability continues to grow in importance as consumers become more aware faster than ever through the internet and social media,of both mishaps and new initiatives. Whether the issue is authenticity, relevance, transparency, or sustainability, if there is anything apparel brands can do to elevate brand loyalty in 2013, it is this: be what you are, do what you say, and say what you do. An emotional connection Smart brands embrace digital platforms not merely to sell more products, but as a means to deepen brand relationships. Rather than using social media as a megaphone to blare out your own agenda, use it to listen to consumers and understand what matters most to them. Establishing and maintaining the emotional relationship between a brand and its consumers has always been a vital part of brand management. Just as Marshall McLuhan famously conveyed through his “the medium is the message” maxim, when it comes to shopping, the experience is an integral part of what we’re consuming. From a product’s form and design to its packaging, from the physical retail environment

(or lack thereof ) to the use of digital technologies to connect, inform, and inspire co-creation, we must always keep sight of the emotional relationships consumers have with a particular brand and consider how we can support, build on, and enrich that relationship. Luxury Items In many ways, luxury brands express, by definition, the very notion of superior value. Whether their business model and brand paradigm is traditional luxury or meta-luxury, these global icons are best positioned to fulfill, or at least give voice to, people’s quest for unquestionable authenticity. Out there is a world of individuals wanting to escape hundreds of meaningless daily messages to engage with profound, masterful storytelling, in a way that is captivating and involving.

Fred Perry is using its subcultural heritage to emotionally connect to consumers though music



Branding today / The Burberry World Live Sophie Maxwell, Insight director at Pearlfisher

The Burberry Store and the Vuitton campaign pay testament to the power of design as a creative, commercial and cultural force to be reckoned with and asks the question, are today’s brand designers becoming as important as artists when it comes to creating aesthetic expressions that represent the cultural signs of our times? Burberry have opened a fully integrated studio. Full-length screens wrap the store, transitioning between audio-visual content displays, live-streaming hubs and mirrors. At times, models will walk between video screens, mimicking the “Burberry World Live” experience staged in Taipei in April The sight and sound of rain will start quietly and build into a downpour, climaxing in a thunder crack that will show on every screen and echo in every space in the store, including fitting rooms. Perhaps the coolest bit of technology is Burberry’s use of radio-frequency identification (RFID) chips. Chips have been attached to certain clothes and accessories so that when a customer approaches one of the screens in the common areas or in a fitting room, specific content — say, information about a bag’s stitching and craftsmanship, or a video showing how a skirt was worn on the catwalk — will appear. The chips will be attached before products leave manufacturing centres to assist with inventory tracking and management as well.




Brands Using Innovation to Create Experiences Jenni Pogi of

Dressing Rooms High Street Stores are competing against cheaper online prices so are now looking at how they can offer the customer more in terms of their experience. Fitting rooms have largely remained ignored until recently however responsive mirrors are offering a new interactivity. Prada introduced these to their Beverly Hills and SoHo stores. They allow the customers to take an image of each outfit they try on so they are able to see them at home or share them with friends. A similar system was developed by IconNicholson (*) and tested at Bloomingdales, whereby a mirror and webcam enabled customers to share their experience with friends and family. A tagging system on the clothes activates images and videos relating to the items for the customer to view and share. “Fitting rooms are a great touch point,” Ken Nisch, chairman of JGA says. “It provides an unencumbered way to talk with customers about the brand and engage and interact with them beyond the sales floor. When customers try something on and have a pleasant experience, it increases the likelihood that they will buy the item three or four times.”

* MRY (formerly IkonNichson) MRY is a creative and technology agency dedicated to making brands remarkable. We now live in a people curated world where brands are scrambling to bridge the gap between their bought, owned and rapidly evolving earned media channels. That’s where we come in. 124



Transmedia and Branding

Transmedia encourages additive comprehension. We learn something new as we follow the story across media. This distinguishes it from cross-media, which refers to the use of these other media platforms as simple delivery mechanisms for the same old content. So, if we watch Sesame Street online or on a DVD and change nothing else about the content, that’s cross-media. We might also distinguish transmedia from multimedia. Multimedia might use multiple kinds of media – words, pictures, sounds, videos – which are brought together in a single package: so, in the old days, there might be a CD-ROM developed around Sesame Street, where clicking a button opens us up to a range of different kinds of media. In transmedia, there’s something powerful about how the reader is incited to search out dispersed content and reassemble it into a meaningful mental model. Transmedia can be enriching or exploitative, can be motivated by the crudest of economic motives or shaped by the most cutting edge learning science. But, when transmedia is done well, it creates a deeply engaging, immersive experience, which multiplies the number of learning opportunities. Certainly, adults have some legitimate worries about commercial media “colonizing” their children’s imaginations, but keep in mind that the human imagination feeds upon the culture around it and children show enormous capacity to re-imagine the stories that enter their lives. Transmedia encourages this kind of creative reworking.


The scattered fragments of a transmedia story are like pieces of a puzzle; they encourage curiosity, exploration, experimentation, and problem solving. Transmedia’s process of dispersal creates gaps which require our active speculation: some call this negative capability

The Man That Your Man Could Smell Like, or the Old Spice Guy, took brand storytelling to a whole new level by creating real-time, hyperpersonalized and hyper-social content. With over 13 million channel views, around 120,000 Twitter followers and sales which doubled, it’s only to be expected that other brands are now excited to have their own transmedia success story.



The Brand Gap, Marty Neumeier

How to bridge the distance between business strategy and design He identifies one problem in business is that strategy is separated from creativity by a wide gap. Strategic Thinkers

Creative Thinkers

Analytical Logical Linear Numerical Verbal

Intuitive Emotional Spatial Visual Physical


By working together can create a charismatic brand; a product, service or organisation for which people believe there’s no substitute. The Five Disciplines of Brand Building Differentiate Our brains act as filters to protect us from too much information. We are hardwired to only notice what’s different. Focus who you are,what you do and why does it matter.. Collaborate Build brands like Hollywood makes movies. Innovate Create a stand out appropriate name which is easy to spell, likeable, can be extended and you can protect. Validate Bring the audience into the creative process, create a dialogue. Cultivate A living brand is a pattern of behaviour not a stylistic veneer. If people can change their clothes without changing character then why cant brands? So influence the character of the brand.



Using the power of a brand for good Unilever and their Sustainable Living plan

Unilever’s Sustainable Living Plan is not just “green washing’ it not only forms part of a fully integrated growth strategy but also recognises their responsibility as a Global Corporation towards Society. Their commitment is to all stakeholders - employees, suppliers, and consumers as represented by their Branding Guidelines which include their internal / employee brand strategy, as well as their external customers and suppliers. The Plan has three significant outcomes to deliver by 2020: 1. We will help more than a billion people take  action to improve their health and well-being.  2. We will decouple our growth from our  environmental impact, achieving absolute  reductions across the product lifecycle. Our goal  is to halve the environmental footprint of the  making and use of our products.  3. We will enhance the livelihoods of hundreds  of thousands of people in our supply chain. Their whole branding and identity strategy including the Unilever Icon opposite form an intrinsic part of the Sustainable Living Plan. Each Icon represents some aspect of their effort to make sustainable living commonplace. Their aim if for the logo to become a quality mark for sustainable living



To Thine Ownself be True



Brands and I

I still believe that a Brand’s back story should be authentic, particularly when connected with children or young people. Unless, of course, the story is obviously a fantasy world which is too out of this world to be realistic. The pseudo history behind the Hollister brand and its lack of heritage in the surfing industry leads me to believe its relationship with culture/society is insidious. Current thinking about Branding seems to promote the notion that to be successful in todays markets the brand needs to be authentic and transparent. At least the VF Corp bought into some authenticity with the Vans brand whereas Hollister is all an illusion. I understand in this ‘Experience Economy’ all Brands have to start somewhere and the ‘heritage’ brands , particularly those with subcultural links are really reaping the benefits as ‘Lifestyle Brands’ . I like the idea of Brands as lifestyle curators offering customers a way of building their own individuality. I think Urban Outfitters is a good example of this on the British High Street. From my primary research about Brands and Social Media, at a local level apart from Propaganda, Social Media is not as dominant in Brand Design as the Design and Marketing Press would have us believe. However, I believe as a Graphic Designer in order to communicate effectively with people it is important to keep up to speed with current technology and innovations. This does not mean we have to be able to develop the software or programmes but instead be able to design and collaborate across platforms and media. The Unilever Sustainability Plan is an encouraging step in the right direction It promotes transparency, authenticity and global responsibility. Going forward I am realistic about the limitations of client budgets and brand guidelines however my Design Practice will always be thoughtful and consider the wider implications of the communication.



Index of Agencies and Studios (In order of appearance)

Craig Oldham Kent Lyons 10a Lant Street, London SE1 1QR Ian Anderson The Designer Republic www.thedesignersrepublic.comc Propaganda Calls Wharf, 2 The Calls, Leeds, LS2 7JU The Brand Nursery Angel’s Wing ,Whitehouse Street, Leeds, LS10 1AD Principals Agency Level 1, 58 Lower Fort Street Sydney, NSW 2000, Australia Interbrand 85 Strand, London, WC2R 0DW


Pearfisher 50 Brook Green, London W6 7bJ SomeOne. 67 Leonard Street, London, EC2A 4QS True North Fourways House, 57 Hilton Street, Manchester, M1 2EJ www.thisistruenorth Percolate 481 Broadway, 2nd Floor, New York, 10013 www.percolate,com



Dissertation Bibliography and Appendix List of Illustrations Figure one House of Van advertisement sourced online. Available at http://theotherothersideofthepillow. (Accessed November 2012) Figure two The Zephyre Team at the 1975 Bahne-Cadillac Skateboard Championship Front Inside cover Friedman G E and Stecyk CR. 2000. Dogtown The Legend of Z-Boys, New York: Burning Flags Figure three Vans ‘Off the Wall’ Stacey Peralta advertisement in Skateboard Magazine Issue 14 page 13 sourced online. Available at (Accessed December 2012) Figure four Stacey Peralta in Skateboarder Magazine (p32) available in Friedman G E and Stecyk CR. 2000. Dogtown The Legend of Z-Boys. New York: Burning flags. Insert is the photograph in context on the article Aspects of a Downhill slide article available online at dtown/aspects.html (Accessed November 2012 Figure fiver Album artwork for the music of the movie Fast Times at Ridgemont High available online at http:// (Accessed January 2013) Figure six Henry Rollins in Thrasher magazine (P47), April 1982 sourced online. Available at http://www. (Accessed January 2013) Figure seven Photograph of a billboard on Camden High Street close to the Vans Store. Source Photograph 05/09/12 Lisa Whitaker Figure eight Wolff T. 2012. Original illustration of Tom the Robot at Vans Store, Camden.. A series of paintings for Vans. Available at (Accessed February 2013)



Bibliography Books Baudrillard J. 2001. Selected Writings edited by Mark Poster, Oxford: Blackwell Bell J. 2006. Doing your research project, Berkshire: Open University Press Borden I. 2001. Skateboarding, Space and the City, New York: Berg Cook D. 1996. The Culture Industry Revisited: Theodor W. Adorno on Mass Culture, Maryland: Rowman and Littlefield Clarke D, Doel M and Housiaux M L. 2003. The Consumption Reader, London: Routledge Dant T. 1999. Material Culture in the Social World, Buckingham: Open University Press Friedman G E and Stecyk CR. 2000. Dogtown The Legend of Z-Boys, New York: Burning Flags Gelder K. 2005. The Subcultures Reader, Oxon:Routledge Gibson N and Rubin A. 2002. Adorno. A Critical Reader, Oxford: Blackwell Hall S and Jefferson R. 2006. Resistance through Rituals, Oxon: Routledge Hebdige D. 2007. Subculture The Meaning of Style, Oxon: Routledge Heller S. 2010. Pop: how graphic design shapes popular culture, New York: Allworth Klein N. 2010. No Logo: 10th Anniversary, London: Harper Collins Muggleton D and Weinzierl R. 2003. The Post-subcultures Reader, Oxford: Berg Olins W. 2003. On Brand, London: Thames and Hudson Palladini Doug. 2009. Vans Off the Wall, New York. HNA Storey J. 2006. Cultural Theory and Popular Culture: A reader, Essex: Pearsons Storey J. 2009. Cultural Theory and Popular Culture: Introduction, Essex: Pearsons Websites Black, M. 2013. Schiller, Hume, and Aesthetic Semblance. Available at http://www.knowledgebed. com/art-history/aesthetic-semblance.html (Accessed January 2013) Boxofficemojo. 2012. Fast Times at Ridgemount High 1982 (Online) available at http://www. (Accessed January 2013) Burrel I . 2012. Vans for all seasons – Features-Fashion-The Independent. Available online at http:// (Accessed February 2013) Dogtown Articles and Interviews archive. 2011. Available at (Accessed November 2012) Hargrove, K. 2012. Vans, the North Face help VF Corp. Reel in record revenues. Transworld Business Available online at


(Accessed January 2013)

Kellner D. 2013. Cultural Marxism and Cultural Studies by Douglas Kelner available at http:// (Accessed January 2013) Kerrang! 2012.Charlie Simpson to play at London vans Store opening April 14. Available at http:// (Accessed January 2013) Le, Jason. 2005. Interview of Steve Van Doren in Sneaker Freaker Magazine (online) available from (Accessed November 2012) Luper. 2012. How Corporations are changing Skateboarding and why it matters. Jenkham Magazine. Available at (Accessed February 2013) Marxists Internet Archive. 2012. Encyclopaedia of Marxism: Glossary of Terms (Online) Available at (Accessed November 2012) Marxists Internet Archive. 2012. Economic manuscripts: Comments on James Mills by Karl Marx. Available at (Accessed November 2012) Marxists Internet Archive. 2012. Economic Manuscripts: A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy Karl Marx 1859 Available at (Accessed January 2013) O’Meara, A. VF in China 2012 Presentation transcript available at transcripts/VFC_Aidan_APAC_Transcript.pdf (Accessed February 2013) Rausch E. 2012. Vans Off the Wall TV ‘Since 66’ available at (Accessed November 2012) Salzburger.K. 2012. VF Corporation vice president Presentation slides ‘unleashing the power of our brands’ APAC and China 2017 plan (19/09/12) Available at Karl_Heinz_Salzburger_Power_of_our_Brands.pdf (Accessed February 2013) Skateboard Kings. 1978. A British Documentary produced by The World About Us directed by H. Ove (Online) available from (Accessed November 2012) SneakerFreaker. 2010. Vintage Skate Collector Tony Hallam articles (online) available from http:// (Accessed November 2012) Sims, J. 2008. How did Vans become a global shoe brand - The Independent. Available online at Skateboard – Magazine archive published 1977-79. (Online) available at http://www. (Accessed November 2012)


The other side of the pillow (London based online blog and shop of Vintage Vans Footwear). 2012. Available online at (Accessed November 2012)

The Dog Town and the Z-Boys Documentary. 2002. Directed by S Peralta available from http:// (Accessed November 2012) Time Out. 2013. Camden market/Camden high street/Time Out London. Available online at (Accessed February 2013) Vans Warped Tour. 2013. Vans Warped Tour –Dates. Available at dates/index (Accessed February 2013) Van Taiwan available at Accessed February 2013) Skate Shoes, Girls, Apparel, Kids, Skate Parks, Contests, Music and much more! (USA) available at (Accessed February 2013) VF Corporation. 2004. VF to acquire Vans, Inc. For $20.55 per share in cash 27.02.04 Available online at (Accessed February 2013) VF Corporation. 2011. VF Corporation 2011 Annual report - Powerful Brands available at http:// (Accessed February 2012) VF In China. 2012. International and APAC/VF in China Online Video Available at http://www. (Accessed November 2012) Wollf.T. 2012.A series of paintings for Vans. Available online series-of-live-paintings-for-vans/ (Accessed February 2013) Personal email Engblom, S. 2012. Vans Footwear and The Zephyr Team. [E-mail] Message to L Whitaker ( Sent 31 Oct 2012, 03:05 (appendix one) Friedman, G E. 2012. Glen E Friedman and the Zephyr Team. [E-mail] Message to L Whitaker ( Sent 18 Nov 2012, 11:21(appendix two) Loaring, N. 2013. LPF2013 and Skateboarding. E-mail] Message to L Whitaker (lw96197@ Sent 02 Feb 2013, 09:55 (appendix four) Rollins, H. 2013. You and Vans. [E-mail] Message to L Whitaker (lw96197@students.leeds-art. Sent 17 Jan 2013, 15:15 (appendix three)



Appendices Appendix 1 Transcripts of emails between Lisa Whitaker and Skip Engblom, the manager of The Zephyr Team and also owner of the Zephyr Surf Shop in Santa Monica in the early seventies. From: lwdesign <> To: Sent: Wednesday, October 31, 2012 4:03 AM Subject: Vans footwear and The Zephyr team Hi Skip I hope you don’t mind me contacting you on this email. I would appreciate your input as primary research for my dissertation. I am a mature student studying Graphic Design at Leeds College of Art in the UK. I am undertaking a critical analysis of Vans the brand from its authentic roots in the USA in 1966 through their association with the subcultural Zephyr skateboarders to mass consumption in the late seventies/ early eighties. Right though to the hyperreal world it now occupies; made in Vietnam but appealing to today’s youth culture through its California/surfer/skater roots. I have watched the Dogtown and Z-boys documentary and also read Skateboarding, Space and the City by Iain Borden. I have also read various interviews in Skateboarder and on Juice. The reason for contacting you is although I know the Zephyr team started wearing a uniform of Levis, blue vans and blue t shirts for entering competitions I cant find the real trigger for Skateboarders wearing Vans or indeed the year it actually started. Was it the association with Surfing/the sea? I have found stuff about their ‘usability’ i.e. the waffle grip sole. I also notice the original Vans store is in Anaheim only 40 miles from Venice Beach. Was there some other link? Did you know anyone at Vans, for example before they started paying the team to wear the shoes after Off the Wall? Or was it pure Youth Culture happening in California at the time.... a signifier. Any facts or ideas, which you would like to contribute at this time, would be greatly appreciated. Best regards Lisa Whitaker Message Received: Oct 31 2012, 03:05 PM From: “Skip Engblom” <> To: “lwdesign” <> Subject: Re: Vans footwear and The Zephyr team They had a small store in Santa Monica and would make you custom shoes. Also they were very cheap to buy Message Received: Oct 31 2012, 03:22 PM From: “Skip Engblom” <> To: “lwdesign” <>


Subject: Re: Vans footwear and The Zephyr team Also Steve Van Dorn worked there part of the time. Back then there was a lot of places that did custom things Surf trunks were not easy to get before 1967.You went to a place in Feb or March and ordered your trunks and were ready in May or June. If you went to Hawaii you made a stop at Takie in Wakkaii or H.MURIA on the north shore in Santa Monica you went to Roy,s cabana down south you went to Kustom by Katin.It was a different time and when Duke Boyd told some one he was starting a trunk company called hang ten people said it was the lamest name ever Appendix 2 Transcripts of emails between Lisa Whitaker and Glen E Friedman between 30 October 2012 and 18 November 2012. Glen E Friedman is the photographer who documented the Zephyr Team from 1974 onwards. On Oct 30, 2012, at 5:51 PM, wrote: Hi Glen I would appreciate your input as primary research for my dissertation, especially as you were so involved with the whole Surfer/Skater scene in the 70’s. Your personal blog has already unearthed some useful research such as the British documentary about skateboarding from 1978. I am a mature student studying Graphic Design at Leeds College of Art in the UK. I am undertaking a critical analysis of Vans the brand from its authentic roots in the USA in 1966 through their association with the subcultural Zephyr skateboarders to mass consumption in the late seventies/ early eighties. Right though to the hyperreal world it now occupies; made in Vietnam but appealing to today’s youth culture through its California/surfer/skater roots. I have watched the Dogtown and Z-boys documentary and also read Skateboarding, Space and the City by Iain Borden. I cant get hold of any archive copies online of Skateboarder which I am sure would also help. The reason for contacting you is although I know the Zephyr team started wearing a uniform of Levis, blue vans and blue t shirts for entering competitions. I cant find the real trigger for Skateboarders wearing Vans or indeed the year it actually started. Was it the association with Surfing/the sea? I have found stuff about their ‘usability’ ie the waffle grip sole. I also notice the original Vans store is in Anaheim only 40 miles from Venice Beach. Was there some other link? Did anyone at the Zephyr shop already have a link with Vans, for example before they started paying the team to wear the shoes after Off the Wall? Or was it pure Youth Culture happening in California at the time.... a signifier. Any facts or ideas which you would like to contribute at this time would be greatly appreciated. Best regards Lisa Whitaker Message Received: Nov 18 2012, 02:39 AM From: “GEF”


To: Subject: Re: Glen E Friedman and the Zephyr Team do you have a skype or iChat account? perhaps we talk for a few minutes on there, tell me a good day - i’m in new york, best time is in the morning my time. On Nov 18, 2012, at 7:04 AM, wrote: Hi Glen Thanks for your email. If you want to chat today I am available all day however as its Sunday I will understand if you are busy. Sunday is actually D-Day for me (Dissertation day) so getting your email this morning was perfect!. Other than that I am in Uni Monday or Tuesday so may be difficult to chat but will be home Wednesday morning if that would suit you? If not, just let me know a good time for you and I will try to make sure I can speak. I have attached some notes I have made on the facts and theoretical approach my first chapter is taking which may be of interest before we speak. I got a brief email from Skip Engblom, who told me there was a Vans Shop in Santa Monica and the main reasons skateboarders wore Vans was the customisation and they were cheap. So excited you got in touch, its great to add some primary research to add more depth. Thanks Lisa Whitaker Message Received: Nov 18 2012, 01:59 PM From: “GEF” To: Subject: Re: Glen E Friedman and the Zephyr Team what skip told you is exactly the case. honestly that’s all there is to it. Message Received: Nov 18 2012, 07:16 PM From: “GEF” <> To: Subject: Re: Glen E Friedman and the Zephyr Team On Nov 18, 2012, at 11:21 AM, Thanks Glen. Just out of interest - Do you think the Global association between Vans and Skateboarding began purely with photographs of Skateboarders like Stacey Peralta and Tony Alva wearing Vans or do you think a conscious marketing campaign started it? they became famous PURELY due to the skaters wearing them, VANS had no idea it was going on till it


went insane, they were at least a year or two behind the culture, eventually they caught up. But truth be told many of the best when they could afford better, got better shoes. Although those who were sponsored by Vans continued to use them, very few picked them given a flat playing field on price. But to their credit the soft gum rubber sole was grippy like no others... I have found an image of an advert, as attached, which do promote the #95 but think this shoe was launched in 1976 after The Dogtown Articles started being published in Skateboarder magazine in 1975. Its just a small detail but I have a romantic notion that the early growth in popularity of Vans was on the back of a subculture instead of just a business marketing strategy. 100% correct, they got huge in the culture way before the company had any idea, i remember going into the shop and TELLING them they need to get on it! I told them the most famous skateboarders in the world were using their shoes and they should capitalize on it, the old lady in the shop had no idea, but she did tell me I was the first person ever to order the custom color combination of Dark Blue and Light Blue ;-). I just tried hitting you on skype, if i can iâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;ll talk to you today, otherwise my notes above should shed some light . . . be well GEF



Appendix 3 Transcripts of emails between Lisa Whitaker and Henry Rollins, American spoken word artist, writer, journalist, musician, ex- Black Flag band member and actor. 17 Jan From: Lisa Whitaker <> To: two1361 <> Hi Henry I am a Graphic Design student at Leeds College of Art in the UK. My dissertation is exploring Vans the brand and their relationship with culture, particularly youth culture. The reason for the email is you have cropped up several times across my research, appearing in the Peralta documentary about the Zephyr team, wearing #36 Vans in Thrasher and also appearing on Vans TV online. Glen E Friedman kindly confirmed the Zephyr skateboarding subculture happened first with Skateboarders wearing Vans for convenience and that it took Vans a while to use the link in their marketing. I have been considering Vans role since the eighties in the ‘culture industry’ in terms of a Theorist called Adorno. His theories around The Culture Industry proposed it created ‘false’ needs which replaces people’s ‘real’ needs i.e. freedom, expression and creative happiness. Systematic exposure to the Culture industry has the fundamental effect of pacifying consumers. Your presence and also the Zephyr Teams initial subcultural link to Vans seems to add a certain authenticity to the Culture that Vans promotes itself against. The events may not happen without the sponsorship that Vans provided and its a vehicle for creative expression. Considering the Vans Warped tour and its association with Punk Music and Skateboarding today, I would be really interested to hear your opinion about Vans, the brand and relationship with culture. Are brands ‘Culture Vultures’ or “Culture Catalysts’? 17 Jan Lisa, hello. In my opinion, Vans coattailed in on the skate culture and insinuated itself into Punk Rock. They then changed the narrative to make people think they were making shoes for skaters when they were just the shoes that skaters were wearing in those photos. They often used photos of me in their lexicon of imagery. I think it was last year, they asked to use some photo of me for the tenth time or something. I asked for some money and I have never heard from them again. That says a lot. Thanks. Henry Thanks so much for coming back to me. I value your opinion. I was starting to believe the hype! Are you ok me using this in my dissertation? Lisa, sure. Henry



Appendix 4 Transcripts of emails between Lisa Whitaker and Nick Loaring from the Print Project between 26 January 2013 and 2 February 2013. Nick grew up in Yorkshire and has been skateboarding since 1985 since he was thirteen. From: Lisa Whitaker ‪<>‬‬ Date: 26 January 2013 13:11 Subject: LPF2013 and Skateboarding To: “” <> Hi Nick I introduced myself last Sunday following your talk at the LPF. I am one of Amber’s 3rd year Graphic Design students. My dissertation is a critical analysis of Vans the brand and its impact on and relationship with culture. I’ve unearthed loads of interesting facts from the history of Vans going back to 1966 however I don’t want to ‘direct’ any comment you could make so I wont say anymore at this stage. Given your involvement with skateboarding culture In the 80’s I would be interested to know what your view of Vans was then and also if this has changed over the years. Your quote will be in good company I have quotes from Glen E Friedman, Skip Engblom and Henry Rollins. (Didn’t get a reply from Alva or Peralta!) Thanks and regards Lisa Whitaker On 2 February 2013 09:55, The Print Project <> wrote: Hi Lisa Well - here you go, hope it’s OK!? If you need anything else just ask. Glad to see you’ve got GEF and Skip Engblom on board - sounds brill. And Rollins? Haha. Any chance I can read it when you’ve finished it? All the best and thanks for asking, it was a pleasure. Cheers Nick Why would a particular pair of shoes end up being a part of your life for so long? I like Vans shoes and I have done since I was a kid when I first got into skateboarding. They were the skateboarding shoe and if you had them you were a skateboarder. I guess some of that is wrapped up with wanting to be a part of a culture and as skateboarding at that time was very much underground, wearing Vans shoes at that time said something about you. I’m not the first person to say that if you wore Vans at that time, you could walk up to someone wearing them and strike up a conversation about skateboarding. We were few and far between then and to find other people into the same sort of stuff as you was nothing short of mind-blowing. Of course, they might have been into BMX but that was a small risk to take!


Vans shoes were hard to come by and you couldn’t buy them on the high street. In those days skate-shops were few and far between, and to find one and actually walk into one was like entering into another world where everywhere you looked you saw amazing things that had only ever existed on paper in magazines (which by and large was just Thrasher, then later R.A.D and Skateboard! - two english magazines). The legend goes that you could order custom versions of your favourite shoes direct from the Van Doren factory. Though how that worked when you lived in the 80s on another continent I have no idea as that involved buying dollars and sending them through the post. Far too scary for this 14 year old.

Vans smelled great, felt great, and looked amazing. The Post played a massive part in getting skateboard ‘stuff ’ so coming home from school to find a box of Vans or a set of new trucks or an issue of Thrasher waiting for you made a lasting impact on this impressionable mind. From what I can remember Vans lost their way at some point - I’m not sure why, maybe it was to do with other companies getting in on the act, or Vans not adapting fast enough to the changing needs of skateboarders (Vans wore out fast, still do). And I believe the company was sold a few times and production shifted from California to China. Some people think the patented ‘waffle sole’ was a victim of this as it is now no longer as ‘grippy’ as it was. Other things changed. The names for example, the ‘Style 38’ hi top gained an ollie patch and became the ‘438’, which went on to become the ‘Sk8 hi’. Other subtle changes occurred like the foxing - on the original versions this was quite ‘sticky’ and consisted of rubber with a mesh backing. Now no longer the case. The 38 style was also much narrower than it is now. The same can be said of the shoe now known as the ‘Old Skool’ lo-top, originally dubbed ‘Style 36’, this was much narrower, with a smaller toe-cap and longer lace holes. Style 95 is now known as ‘Era’ or ‘Authentic’. Vans shoes are now mainstream, much like skateboarding is. What was part of an underground culture can now be found on the feet of people with no connection to it whatsoever. You can buy Lemmy (Mötörhead) Vans in TK Maxx? Yes you can. That’s a long way from where it all started. Vans are now synonymous with a ‘lifestyle’ that’s more than skateboarding and people buy into that for many reasons (and Vans push this for their own). I still wear Vans, and this isn’t to do with some kind of loyalty to the company. I don’t really care what Vans are up to these days, as I feel the ‘battle’ has been won to some extent. I’m now just another guy that wears their shoes and I’ve got used to seeing them on the ends of my legs. ‘They are a part of me’ even though they aren’t always the same (a pair of the same style can have wildly different stitching for example), some are narrower and some are wider. But one thing is for certain…the heels ALWAYS wear out before anything else does. Etnies, Osiris, DC’s etc can’t compete and Nike, Adidas and Puma are only in it for the money and kudos. Vans shoes are now collectable - US made ones are highly prized. Even ones in very used condition. I know this as I’ve sold some of mine to Japanese collectors, and a really beaten up pair of mine (‘style 36’) are currently nailed to the roof of an independent Vans collectors shop in London! This week I took delivery of two new pairs of Vans. And I have at least another 5 or 6 pairs in my house in differing styles and various levels of de-composition. Other shoes are weird.



Appendix 5 Summary report of the results of survey conducted between 6th January 2013 and 2 February 2013 A random online survey of 275 people was conducted to collect primary research to investigate peopleâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s favourite brand, what people associated with Vans, the reason they wear Vans and which country they thought Vans were made in. Also where they had bought their Vans to establish if the retail experience changed across different age groups. 22 only answered the first four questions and 253 completed the whole survey. The sample was skewed: 1.By Geographical area as although conducted online was mainly directed at people who live in Leeds or Huddersfield in England. 2.69% of females answered compared to 31% males. 70% of respondents would like to own, have owned or currently own a pair of Vans. This result was much highest in the younger age groups, 83% 11-13 year oWlds, 86% of 14-17 year olds and 75% of 18-24 year olds.

Favourite footwear brand Bearing in mind the survey did not mention the Survey theme was Vans it is interesting that 22% chose Vans as their favourite footwear brand followed by 20% who liked Converse best. Adidas and Nike came 3rd and 4th respectively with 14% and 12%. This result was more dominant in the 61 respondents who were aged 14-17 years. 38% said Vans was their favourite brand.

What people associate with Vans Overall 49% of people associate Vans with Skateboarding and 15% with Cool. This result was most dominant, of the 82 respondents who were aged 18-24, 59% associated the brand with Skateboarding. One of the most revealing statistics was of the 64 respondents who were aged 11-13 year old although 40% associated Vans with skateboarding, 32%, associated Vans with cool.

Where Vans are manufactured Overall the majority, 45%, did not know where Vans were made and although 17% correctly thought they are made in China or Vietnam, 29% responded they are made in USA. This result was slightly skewed by the 62 respondents aged 25-54 of which 76% have not owned a pair of Vans so it is not surprising 63% did not know where they were made. However 37% of the 14-17 year old thought they are made in USA even though 77% of them have owned a pair.


The main reason to own a pair of Vans Of the 171 respondents who would like to own or do own a pair of Vans 34% said it was the quality, 22% just because they are Vans whilst 17% were influenced mainly by their friends. Of the 25% that gave other reason 75% of these said either comfort or style was the main factor.

Where were their Vans purchased Of the 128 respondents who own or have owned Vans over 23% purchased their Vans at another retail store, 14% purchased them at a Vans retail Store, 7% purchased them online and 3% at the Vans online store. The 42 respondents who shopped at Vans were all aged 11 to 24 years old; 42% of these were aged 18 to 24 years.



References for the publication Books Davis M .2009. The Fundamentals of Branding. Switerland. AVA publishing Heller S. 2010. How Graphic Design shapes Popular culture. New York. Allsworth Press Shaughnessy A. 2009. Graphic Design, A Userâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Manual. London. Laurence King Klein N. 2010. No Logo: 10th Anniversary, London: Harper Collins Ollins W. 2003. On Brand, London: Thames & Hudson Ind N. 2005. Beyond Branding. London. Kogan Page Gobe M. 2009. Emotional Branding. New York. Allworth Kornberger M. Brand Society. New York. Cambridge University Press Boorman N. 2007. Bonfire of the Brands. Edinburgh. Canongate Oldham C.2012, The Democratic Lecture. Unified Theory of Everything Other publications Branding in the experience economy . A thinkpiece published by Branding Consultancy True North January 2013 Websites and online publications Kelloggs Rice Krispies Coca Cola Saatchi & Saatchi Olympics 1968 Pearlfisher - The Art of Luxury Branding Whatâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s In Store The Brand Gap Urban Outfitters Transmedia


Brands and I  

Brands and I Design context