…that celebrate sixty glorious years of marketing
To celebrate our 60th anniversary we’re taking a look back at the brands that left their mark in each year of the past six decades. And we want you to tell us which you think is the most iconic. These brands span a period of huge social change, and yet more than half of them appeared more than sixty years ago.
The early years of our list are dominated by packaged goods, the more recent years by the global giants of the internet. Some will surely be thriving in another sixty years, others may disappear as quickly as they have risen.
What do we mean by ‘iconic’?
Etymologists will tell you that it derives from the Greek word eikos meaning image or likeness and has come to mean very famous or popular, and often to represent a particular opinion or a particular time. We know it’s hard to pick just one brand but we’d love you to vote all the same. That way we can draw up a shortlist of brands that today’s marketers really admire.
Of course your all-time favourite brand may not be on this list and we apologise for the fact that, in choosing sixty, we’ve had to exclude many others. But each of these stood out in a particular year along our sixty-year journey. The ultimate winner will be decided via a live vote at our spectacular Diamond Anniversary Dinner in London on 27 November. We do hope you will join us there. When you have voted, call the team on +44 (0)208973 1360 to book your place.
Scroll down the page to see listings on each of the brands by year, then cast your vote.
It was the year Alec Issigonis, the man behind the groundbreaking Morris Minor, developed the Mini prototype. By June, around 100 minis a week were rolling off the assembly lines in preparation for the August launch. Even Lord Snowdon, husband of Princess Margaret was unable to persuade Issigonis to alter the original design. The designer refused to replace the original sliding windows with wind down ones for her custom-made model saying it would have ruined her hair-do.
Lego was introduced to the British public at the 1960 Brighton Toy Fair. The Danish plastic, interlocking bricks took Britain by storm, selling by the bucket load. The modern Lego brick was patented in 1958 and bricks from that year are still compatible with current bricks. Lego began creating wooden toys in 1932. In 1960 the warehouse that held all of Lego’s wooden toys burned down, leading the company to concentrate on plastics instead. By the mid-60s LEGO would add a series of model sets which came with drawings and building instructions.
Lemon. If there was one word that summed up marketing and advertising this year, it was lemon. In the US, a VW print campaign was causing ripples across the advertising industry. Using simple headlines like 'Lemon' or 'Think Small'. Two iconic strands of British advertising debuted this year too. Fairy Liquid’s memorable slogan, 'Now hands that do dishes can feel as soft as your face, with mild green Fairy Liquid,' sang onto the screens. And there was a new kid in town – Nestle’s iconic Milky Bar Kid.
His name was Bond, James Bond. He was a British Secret Service agent and his first film, Dr No, starring Sean Connery, premiered on the 5 October 1962. This was also the year of teddy boy suits and pill box hats. And the year Chubby Checker’s song, 'Let’s twist again', which topped the charts for 30 weeks. Bing Crosby was crooning and starring in some award-winning advertising for Shell, which involved a whistle-stop motoring tour of Britain, 'We’re going well, we’re going Shell, you can be sure of Shell'.
Meanwhile, “Schhhh … You know who”, Schweppes’ advertising with an onomatopoeia to emulate the sound of its bottles opening, was winning awards. Its Christmas campaign featured a child dreaming on Christmas Eve while Jingle Bells jingle and a sleigh drawn by reindeer appear with Santa saying: “Schhhh … You know who! Ho-ho-ho-ho!” Elsewhere, women across Britain were introduced to a revolutionary new diet plan called Weightwatchers.
Two key retail brands launched in 1964 – Biba and Habitat, both around the fashionable Kings Road area in central London. While Habitat focused on well-designed modern furniture and accessories; Biba’s affordable fashions extended into a whole new lifestyle. Terence Conran, Habitat’s founder has said that one of the main reasons of Habitat’s initial success was that it was one of the few places that sold cheap Pasta storage jars just as the market for dried pasta took off in the UK.
It was in Veneto, Italy where the tale of clothing brand was blossoming. Luciano Benetton, a Treviso salesman spotted the opportunity for colourful clothing and ten years later the Benetton Group was born. By 1965 the brand had developed a procedure to dye finished garments enabling it to react more quickly to fashion trends. Benetton adopted its slogan, “United Colours of Benetton” as its logo and for the first time in the history of commercial trademarks, the slogan became a trademark.
It was a year of innovation for the banking sector. As Barclay Card launched the UK’s first credit card, American Express introduced the Gold Card. On 3 May 1966, The Times Newspaper started printing news on its front page for the first time, rather than small ads. The General Post Office launched the first Yellow Pages classified directory in Brighton using the slogan, 'let your fingers do the walking.'
It was a golden year for advertising. As Clement Freud and Henry the bloodhound amused us with a double-take for Chunky dog food, Meccano treated us to the 'Boy in a man’s world' advertising. Heinz struck gold with a catchy slogan, 'Beanz Meanz Heinz', hatched by Young&Rubicam’s Maurice Drake in a pub. It was accompanied by a jingle: 'A million housewives every day, pick up a can of beans and say, Beanz Meanz Heinz.'
Captain Birdseye launched his long career for Birds Eye frozen food. Early advertising jingles included: 'Fresh from the Captain’s table!' and “Birds Eye peas — sweet as the moment, Sweet as the moment when the pod went pop. The first Pizza Express opened in Wardour Street, London, while across the Atlantic Calvin Klein opened a coat shop in the York Hotel, New York. This was also the year Dad’s Army began, 'Who do you think you are kidding Mr Hitler,' which ran for nine years.
The promises of science were infiltrating daily life with the launch of P&G’s new detergent Ariel, 'with enzymes to digest dirt.' It was the first detergent with stain-removing enzymes and promised to tackle, 'the really tough stains that other powders leave behind.' Meanwhile in London, small was the new big. The mini-sized Mini had launched a decade ago and was now firmly ensconced as a cult classic. This was helped no end, by the hit Brit flick, The Italian Job, where it was driven down Turin’s stairways.
This year, PG Tips made its best loved TV ad starring the family of chimps who had featured in their ads since 1956. Two removal chimps are struggling with getting a piano down the stairs, until PG Tips refreshes them. 'Dad, do you know the piano’s on my foot?' 'You hum it son, I’ll play it!' This followed by the strap line, 'There’s no other tea to beat PG.' Elsewhere, the Stylophone, bringing electronic music to the masses, was launched using kids TV presenter Rolf Harris.
'I’d like to teach the world to sing, in perfect harmony,' sang Coca-Cola and a group of young people. The ad was so popular that the song became a hit in its own right, albeit without the Coke references. It's since been recorded over 75 times and is credited with helping Coca-Cola regain its status. Meanwhile Space Hoppers bounced into the UK in the summer of '71 and hot pants were so popular that even Royal Ascot had to relax its dress code. And we were getting taller. Average height rose by two inches as we tottered around on high platform shoes.
Animals were taking over the TV screens, from the cool Cresta bear, to the cute Andrex puppy. Not to mention Geoffrey, Zippy, Bungle and George from Rainbow. The Andrex puppy scampered into people’s hearts for the first time by pulling the new Andrex paper down the stairs. “Soft, strong and very long!” The puppy has starred in Andrex advertising ever since and his image is now printed on the paper itself. It was probably just a coincidence but this was also the year that Danny Osmond topped the charts for five weeks with 'Puppy Love.'
Smirnoff made vodka chic. Although vodka was slowly growing in popularity, it wasn’t until Smirnoff’s ‘The Effect is Shattering’ campaign, that vodka became a chic drink for the young. IDV’s marketing director Tim Ambler and Y&R created a print and outdoor campaign that revealed how Smirnoff could transform the humdrum into glamour and excitement. With lines like, “Accountancy was my life until I discovered Smirnoff,” and “I never saw further than the boy next door until I discovered Smirnoff” – sales tripled between 1970-76.
It was all about nostalgia. As England and Ireland were rocked by IRA bombs, brands offered some light relief. We were reassured by a young boy on a bike delivering bread up a steep cobbled hill and a saggy, old cloth cat called Bagpuss. Hovis’s evocative “Boy on a Bike” ad, accompanied by Dvorak’s New World Symphony, became an instant classic. Using the strapline, “Hovis is as good for you today, as it’s always been,” it was directed by Ridley Scott, who went on to make Gladiator, Alien and Thelma and Louise.
This was the year that young ladies were introduced to the delights of the Parker Lady Pens by actress Penelope Keith posing as Madame at a Swiss finishing school. “…your final and most important lesson: how to spend Daddy’s lovely money. Cheque books open girls, pens at the ready! A pen with style! A pen with à la!” The Duracell bunnies also made their debut this year, playing the drums “on and on,” as kids were told that milk is good for you.
The summer of 1976 was the hottest and driest in the UK since records began. The heat was accompanied by spiralling unemployment and inflation and a new loud, angry fashion movement, Punk featuring safety pins, studs and pierced faces. On the South Coast of England in Brighton a small shop opened sandwiched between two funeral parlours. The Body Shop produced and retailed beauty products that have shaped ethical consumerism and was one of the first to prohibit animal testing and promote fair trade.
Star Wars fever gripped the UK in 1977. Touts were selling £2.20 cinema tickets for £30 to the waiting crowds. The cinema wasn’t the only place attracting queues of eager customers. On Thursday June 9, when the stores reopened a huge number of customers forced Tesco Pontypridd to prematurely close for the day, while Preston shoppers emptied the shelves. Tesco’s checkout revolution started a momentum that carried the brand to its success today.
A striking series of photomontages and cinema films for B&H Gold, by Collett Dickenson Pearce at the peak of its success, featured the gold pack of cigarettes in various surreal juxtapositions and transformations, devoid of words and people. The ads became a talking point among consumers, with everyone wondering what the next would look like. 1978 was also the year of electronic games, such as The Atari 2600 with its woodgrain console and stubby rubber joysticks.
The Sony Walkman was revolutionary, changing the listening habits of the whole population, who could now live their lives to their very own soundtrack. The Walkman was initially known as The Stowaway in the UK and had two headphone sockets so friends could share the music, later they got rid of the extra socket. The Walkman helped push cassette sales above vinyl sales for the first time in 1983, by then end of the 80s most retail chains stopped selling vinyl altogether.
Perrier was persuading consumers to buy a product they could get for free from their tap. The notion of buying a bottle of water to drink like a Coca-Cola or glass of wine was a brand-new concept. Soon, Perrier, the sparkling French mineral water, was a status symbol. It was advertised as the champagne of mineral water, in newspapers like The Daily Mail, at a time when Frenchness was a desirable thing to the rising middle classes.
The year Stella created its memorable strap line, 'reassuringly expensive,' with advertising that played 'We’re in the money' as background music. It was also the year Sir Frank Lowe wrote Terry Lovelock’s line for Heineken on the back of an airline sick bag, 'Refreshes the parts other beers cannot reach.' Sales subsequently rocketed from 100,000 to three million barrels.
When we weren’t zooming around on our BMX Bikes wearing Ra-Ra skirts, legwarmers and Deelyboppers in our hair, we were painting our living rooms subtle pastel shades thanks to Dulux. This was the year Dulux launched a new range of white paints, Natural Hints with the soundtrack, ‘Whiter Shade of Pale’ by Procol Harem. Natural Hints became one of the most successful new products in the brand’s history and lightened houses across the UK.
In 1983 we had a reason to get up early in the morning with the advent of TV-am breakfast television. A Swiss watch company Swatch introduced the concept of fashionability to watches and the CD was launched. British students clamoured to ask Blockbuster’s host, “Can I have a P please, Bob” and every little girl could afford their own horse thanks to My Little Pony.
Virgin Atlantic launched in 1984 with Richard Branson's declaration to 'succeed in the first year or exit the market.' With this target they became profitable within 12 months. By 2012 the company had grown to carrying 5.4m passengers making it seventh-largest UK airline in terms of passenger volumes. In 2017 Virgin Atlantic announced a partnership with Air France-KLM, a deal which was completed in 2019.
We heard it through the grapevine sounded the death knell for Y-fronts across the UK, as Nick Kamen stripped down to his white boxer shorts to wash his Levi 501s in the laundrette. It was a seminal moment in advertising for many women and had a dramatic effect on the sales of both Levis jeans and boxer shorts.
British Gas was one of the biggest advertising spenders this year in its attempt to persuade the British public to invest in its shares. The 1986 Gas Act led to British Gas’s flotation on 8 December. The offer was intensively advertised with the, “If you see Sid, tell him” campaign. The initial IPO of 135p per share valued British Gas at £9bn.
Starbucks was founded in Seattle in 1971. It first became profitable in the early '80s when Howard Schulz took over. It revitalised itself with its move into California in the '90s. It opened its first location outside of North America - in Tokyo - in 1996. Between 1987 and 2007 they were opening two new stores every single day.
The original 'Gold Blend couple' campaign of 12 45-second instalements ran between 1987 and 1993. They starred Anthony Head and Sharon Maughan, a couple who began a slow burn romance over a cup of coffee. Each ad ended in a cliffhanger. They were extremely popular, each receiving considerable media attention upon release. They remain one of the most famous examples of serialised advertising.
Nike’s slogan “Just Do It” was gaining momentum as Nike splurged $45m on advertising featuring stars Michael Jordan and Spike Lee. The slogan had been coined the previous year by advertising executive Dan Wieden in a meeting with Nike employees. It has been named as one of the top five ad slogans on the 20th century by Ad Age magazine.
Five years since launch, Direct Line was causing serious ructions in the insurance market offering a cheaper, faster service direct to consumers by cutting out the middle men. Its momentum was set with a new ad campaign in 1990, featuring a red telephone on wheels, challenged the building societies’ dominance in the home insurance market. The red telephone icon continues to star in Direct Line’s ads.
IBM moves back into professional services and founds the division which rescues the company from near disaster.
It was a good year for orange drinks. Tango’s “You know when you’ve been tango’d”, slapped its way onto the TV screens. Featuring a man being hit around the face by an orange-coloured person immediately after drinking Tango, the ad seized the imagination of children in playgrounds throughout the country. Britvic’s Tango later replaced the original “slapping” ad with an almost identical new creative featuring a kiss instead.
This was the year that BSkyB was gaining real momentum. Three years since launch the satellite channel launched its first multi-channel package, offering 14 basic subscription channels. Thanks to BSkyB, the British TV audience were developing a voracious appetite for American television shows like The Simpsons. This was also the year that Victoria Beckham joined three other unknown girls to form The Spice Girls.
Disney released a number of classic films in the 90s: Beauty and the Beast (1991) Aladdin (1992), and The Lion King (1994). In 1994 they also launched a cruise line and by 2005, when Bob Iger became CEO, they embarked on a period of expansion which included acquiring Pixar (2006), Marvel (2009), Lucasfilm and Star Wars (2014). They continue to expand their core business to this day, with the forthcoming launch of streaming service Disney+, a direct rival to Amazon Prime and Netflix.
In 1995, the new order arrived in the form of two enduring brands fit for a brave new world –easyJet and Sony Playstation. Each brand has since revolutionised their industry. No-frills airline easyJet helped make the world a smaller place by cutting out free drinks and meals on flights and cutting out travel agents, enabling travellers to book their own flights online or on the phone, easyJet could pass on savings to its customers.
It was the year of the telephone. As mobiles became more accessible for normal people, BT was using Bob Hoskins to persuade us to talk for longer on our landlines. 'It’s Good to talk' was trying to reduce the perception that phone calls were expensive and encourage longer, chattier phone calls. BT was the top spender on advertising in 1996 and also the winner of the IPA Effectiveness Awards.
This was the year of the car. Audi won our Award for Excellence as Brand of the Year with record-breaking levels of sales, profits and market share. Sticking with its memorable 80s strapline, “Vorsprung durch Technik” and struggling from the recession, Audi took a long, hard look at its brand and overhauled everything – launching new models, establishing an Audi dealer network, revamping its after-sales service and rolling out a large marketing campaign.
eBay was floated onto the American stock exchange in September 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. When he sold his first (broken) item at a profit he realized 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.
I don’t care who you are, here’s to your dream,” Captain Ahab told us in Moby Dick. In 1999, the Guinness Surfer TV ad campaign, inspired by the tale of the whale, went on to win more awards than any other commercial that year, with its story of the surfer taking on the perfect wave. It takes 119.5 seconds to pour the perfect pint of Guinness, hence the slogan, 'Good things come to those who wait.'
Google began life - and launched - in 1998 as a research project by two Ph.D students as a way to organise the vast amount of information on the web. By 2000 the company began to make sense for advertisers with the launch of AdWords, a revolutionary way to buy and pay for online advertising. It was also the year Google became the world’s largest search engine with the first billion URL index.
Although 2001: A Space Odyssey was not being played out in the real world of 2001, the cult book and film had become a source of inspiration for the most significant innovation for years. Apple’s iPod launched, taking its name from the pod bay doors on the Discovery One spaceship in Kubrick’s film. It destabilised the music industry enabling consumers to download thousands of their favourite tunes.
It was the year of the phone. As two moustachioed runners wearing white vests emblazoned with 118 118 jogged into the nation’s consciousness, a new mobile network called O2 bubbled into existence. The new mobile brand had been built from the ashes of BT Cellnet and immediately detached itself from its history with a powerful identity featuring bubbles.
In 2003 Toyota won the Society’s Awards For Excellence Grand Prix, following the launch of the Toyota Corolla. Focusing on the idea that the Corolla was a “car to be proud of,” the new model sold fast. Over the next few years Toyota’s market share crept onwards and upwards, driven by an unblinkered focus on customers and a fleet of innovation including the hybrid Prius, a popular nod to environmental concerns.
In 2004, a whole nation of British women breathed a sigh of relief with the launch of Dove’s Real Beauty Campaign. Breaking conventions by using real, curvy women in its advertising rather than skinny models, the point of view of Dove, Unilever’s beauty brand, became a talking point. The Campaign for Real Beauty also won the Grand Prix in the 2004 Marketing Society Awards For Excellence.
This was the year that David Brent, aka Ricky Gervais’s character in hit comedy series, The Office, taught thousands of Microsoft employees some ‘Office Values’. The internal marketing campaign by Microsoft featured a 15 minute video with – Gervais as David Brent being interviewed by a hapless Microsoft employee, Geoff Bowles (Steven Merchant.)
2006 was the year the new management team at M&S could breathe a sigh of relief. Following an unblinkered focus on getting the right products at the right prices in the right places and a confident coherent marketing campaign, M&S had become relevant again. Their Christmas campaign starred Dame Shirley Bassey with starry supermodels – Twiggy and Erin O’Connor and the sales poured in.
Cadbury’s Dairy Milk reinvented itself with a drum-playing Gorilla getting down to Phil Collins. Cadbury’s Gorilla drummed home the power of viral advertising. The popular ad initially aired on TV but then had 600 different postings on YouTube and was viewed over 10 million times online. Its soundtrack, ‘In the Air tonight’ by Phil Collins returned to the charts in 2007, 16 years after its first hit, at number 17.
2008 was the year the British public fell back in love with fast food chain McDonald’s. After a series of attacks against its menu, its restaurants and everything it stood for, McDonald’s concerted efforts to listen to its consumers and adapt to changing times were reaping rewards. CMO Jill McDonald was awarded Marketer Leader of the Year 2008 for her success in turning around the brand.
As Britain struggled to recover from its near-death banking experience, a hitherto obscure price comparison site – Comparethemarket.com - won the Society’s first ever live vote for Brand of the Year. We had all been mesmerised by a new brand spokesman: Aleksandr Orlov, the meerkat, and like so many brilliant ideas, afterwards it seemed, well, “Simples!”
For generations the John Lewis Partnership believed that the only advertising its stores needed was to say: “Never Knowingly Undersold”. But then Craig Inglis arrived as marketing director and with his new agency Adam and Eve, unleashed the emotion pent up in one of Britain’s best-loved brands. The appearance of each new Christmas campaign became a national event.
Netflix was launched in 1998 as the world's first online DVD rental store, primarily as a rival to Blockbuster. They introduced a monthly subscription service in 1999 and by 2003 announced its first profit. By 2010 they had become the largest source of internet traffic in North America. By 2012 they began to produce original content and by 2014 they'd grown to 50m subscribers in 41 countries.
Launched as FashMash in 2003 the company rebranded as TheFacebook in 2004. In 2008 the company hired Sheryl Sandberg as its COO - she made a number of changes to its business model and a year later its cash flow turned positive for the first time. In 2012, the year they filed for an IPO, they acquired Instagram and in 2014, Whatsapp. Today they are one of the world's most valuable companies.
Sainsbury's was founded in 1869 by John James Sainsbury. In 2003 they dropped to third place behind market leaders Tesco and Asda. In 2012 Sainsbury’s were recognised for their bold and ground-breaking sponsorship of the London Paralympics. Together with Channel 4 they helped to create huge viewing figures in the stadium and on TV, and played a significant part in changing attitudes towards disability.
The charity was founded in 1911. Nine hundred people are diagnosed every day with Cancer in the UK, and in 2014 Macmillan Cancer Support helped over five million people affected by the disease. Their widely admired campaign expressed their bold aim: 'No-one should face cancer alone'. They've also hosted events such as the 'World's Biggest Coffee Morning' and 'Go Sober for October', the latter which raised £3m.
Founded in 1994 by Jeff Bezos as an online bookseller, Amazon's growth is largely due to extension of its core business. In 2015 it surpassed Walmart as the most valuable retailer in the US. It also expanded into subscription with Amazon Prime and producing original content to rival Netflix. By 2018 Prime subscribers passed 100m worldwide.
Launched in 1982, Channel 4 is one of the few British TV channels that has created a strong sense of being a brand, and they continued their alternative approach to the other major channels with their lively coverage of the Rio Paralympics, while cheekily luring The Great British Bake Off away from the BBC.
With Donald Trump now in the White House firing off angry tweets about “Fake News” and Teresa May uttering her incomprehensible soundbite “Brexit means Brexit”, The Guardian had the ideal opportunity to offer a source of news that could be trusted and understood, and fittingly, it was voted the Society’s first Brave Brand of the Year.
The Bodyform 2017 campaign broke through the taboo about showing real menstrual blood in a TV commercial, and won a hat trick of prizes for its effectiveness at the Society’s Awards. Attitudinally, it was following the lead of the #Me Too campaign which had sprung up the previous year urging women not to remain silent in the face of injustice and abuse.