The hangover from World War II was felt well into the 1950s, with rationing, national service and Churchill’s return to government (in 1951) the most obvious signs.
But this was also a time of profound change on the high street - and the era in which branding as we know it came about. Self-service grocery stores had first been seen in 1947, but the 1951 launch of the first one-stop shop ‘supermarket’ - with its extensive selection including fresh fruit and vegetables, canned goods, dairy, household and personal care items - was to change the way consumers shopped.
People had choice, and the onus was on brands to woo them. That meant brighter, more garish packaging. And the end of paper rationing meant brands could advertise in print media once more. But much more important for brands was the rise of commercial TV. More and more families owned a set - the estimated number of British households with unlicensed TVs was 150,000 in February 1952, when the first TV detector van was commissioned.
In 1953, the coronation gave many others a reason to purchase a telly for the first time. The Lords voted to back the government’s proposals for commercial television in November that year, opening up a new advertising medium to brands. By 1957, over seven million people were hooked.
Household gadgets and kitchen appliances, too, were increasingly common. Freezers were now affordable and Britain was finally able to embrace frozen foods - Birds Eye fish fingers launched in 1955.
A raft of new cleaning brands worked hand-in-hand with new technology to make household management easier than ever. Tide (1950), Daz (1952), Surf (1952), Omo (1954), Cheer (1956), Squeezy washing liquid (1956), Fairy Snow (1957), Handy Andy (1958) and Lux Liquid (1958) all emerged during the decade.
Britain, meanwhile, was broadening its horizons. The first package air holiday, a camping trip to Corsica, ran in May 1950. Equally, outside influences were filtering through. In 1950, Elizabeth David’s Mediterranean Food was published, to critical acclaim. But US culture, arguably awakened by the wartime influx of GIs, was becoming more pervasive, along with US products.
History of Brands
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History of brands: the 1950s