Margaret Thatcher was determined to break the unions when she came to office as Britain’s first female prime minister in 1979. With Britain quickly entering recession, more than 100,000 descended on Trafalgar Square in the TUC’s March For Jobs. And, as well as strikes, the summer of 1981 saw rioting in cities up and down the country.
The wedding of Prince Charles and Lady Diana the same year was a useful distraction - but not as much as the Falklands War (1982). Or the work of brand owners and their advertising agencies.
In terms of new launches from the 1980s, many remain household names - Kellogg’s Crunchy Nut (1980), Viennetta (1982), Clover (1983), HobNobs and Dorset Cereals (1985) and Dolmio (1986).
But well-established brands were also being transformed through the growing power of TV advertising. In 1981, Stella Artois unveiled its defining ‘reassuringly expensive’ strapline and Heineken’s ‘refreshes the parts other beers cannot reach’ first launched.
And if you think the GoCompare ads are original, you’re obviously not old enough to remember Wall’s Cornetto’s operatic gondolier (1980). This was also the era in which Perrier, alongside the Filofax, became a status symbol for the Yuppies - young urban professionals - as the British economy started to revive.
Lucozade rebranded itself as an energy drink in 1983. In the same year, the nation met the Oxo family for the first time. It became one of Britain’s most popular ‘soap opera’ ads - superseded in popularity only by the Nescafé Gold Blend couple, whose will-they-won’t-they storyline reached a climax in 1987 when 30 million people tuned in to watch the kiss.
On the media side, the biggest event in this decade was the launch of TV-am breakfast television (1983), but by the close of the decade, the arrivals of MTV (1987) and Sky TV (1989) were heralding a new multi-channel era.
In terms of retail, Sainsbury’s continued in the ascendant, though Tesco’s investment in out-of-town property deals, together with acquisitions such as Hillards (1987), were laying the foundations for its stellar performance in the 1990s. And as the supermarkets embraced non-food in ever-larger stores, Ikea opened its first store in Warrington (1987).
History of Brands
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History of brands: the 1980s