Brand of the Year

eBay, 1998

Voting has now closed you’ll have the chance to decide the ultimate iconic brand via a live vote at our spectacular Diamond Anniversary Dinner in London, 27 November.

This year, two American brands entered British consciousness that were set to rewrite the rules and create two new industries – Starbucks and eBay.

eBay, the online auction house was floated onto the American stock exchange on September 24 1998 and on the first day of trading closed with a market value of $1.9bn. It had been founded three years previously by computer geek Pierre Omidyar who decided to sell his broken laser pointer on a clunky, grey-coloured auction site he’d added to his home page.

As interest escalated and the bids accumulated until the broken item was sold at a profit, Omidyar realized that maybe eBay might change the world. Today, eBay has taught over 250m strangers to trust one another and trade with each other, changing attitudes to accumulating and consuming.

Meanwhile, following the acquisition of the Seattle Coffee Company Starbucks launched itself onto the British public who were already developing a taste for expensive, fancy coffee. Starbucks created the concept of the ‘third space’, a place where young people could sit and hang out for hours at a time when they weren’t in the office or at home. The company is named after Starbuck, Captain Ahab’s first mate in Moby-Dick.

Award-winning advertising came from Unilever’s Impulse. Building on the Spice Girl’s endorsement of Impulse the previous year, the bodyspray’s ads were set around the idea of a chance encounter and a life drawing class.

As children embraced new crazes from Beanie Babies, all-singing, all-dancing Yo-Yos and the Furby, the adults were excited by the dawn of a little blue pill called Viagra.

Snapshot 1998
Brand Value – Methodology
Books: Haruki Marakami writes The Wind-up Bird Chronicle; Ian McEwan writes Amsterdam
Events: Omagh bombing; Clinton denies then admits affair; thousands flee fighting in Kosovo
Films: Saving Private Ryan; Boogie Nights
Music: All Saints sing “Never Ever”; Cornershop sings “Brimful of Asha”