One man’s trash is another man’s treasure seems to have been the case with Robert Opie, founder of Museum of Brands, Packaging & Advertising in London. Opie’s museum houses a multitude of everyday artifacts dating as far back as the Victorian era through recent history. In their article entitled “Throwaway History: Brand Ephemera and Consumer Culture” published in Journal of Macromarketing, Michael Heller and Aidan Kelly analyzed the collections at the museum and found that while the exhibits consisted mainly of low involvement brands, they none-the-less illustrated the evolution of British society.
In this article, we consider how brand artifacts and ephemera can be used to understand social and cultural history. We present an analysis of the Museum of Brands, Packaging & Advertising in London and examine the collection of exhibits. Our analysis reveals that the museum is predominantly a collection of low involvement brands that reflect important developments in British society and culture over the past 150 years. We begin with a historiography of brands in Britain from 1800 – 1980 drawn primarily from the field of business history. We then analyze the exhibits of the museum and its collections, considering the predominance of low involvement brands in the collection and the relationship between the museum and its corporate sponsors. Finally, we evaluate brands as sociocultural phenomena and explore what the exhibits at the museum imply for contemporary brand management theory. We conclude that low involvement brands have been neglected within brand management research and that our collective throwaway history of brands and packaging are rich sources for understanding society and culture.
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