Brand stories: behind the scenes of successful brands 

Brand stories mingle with great history. Their roots, their origins, their successes and even their missteps are not insignificant. Brands say a lot about us. Why not look into these, which denigrated or adored, founded our society? 🚀 This is the project that the We Are COM team has undertaken by publishing its first book The little secrets of the big brands (Dunod edition) illustrated by the creative studio The Twins and prefaced by Hervé Navellou, Managing Director of L'Oréal France and President of the Union des Marques. 

🤓 And because at We Are COM we are curious and eager to always learn more, we have dedicated a workshop of our Club our stratégies big brands and their little known anecdotes. ✨ Communicators, here is the ideal cheat sheet to shine at the coffee machine!  

#1 – Brands play with the arts 

The Chupa Chups logo was designed by Salvador Dali 

And this logo signed by the great Spanish artist has undergone almost no changes since its development in 1969. History has it that on this date, the logo was designed by Dali, on the terrace of a café, on the corner of a newspaper and in less than an hour. This genius of surrealism, passionate about advertising, participated in many communication campaigns : Bryans Hosiery tights, Datsun cars, Perrier sparkling water or even the unforgettable advertisement for Lanvin chocolates, “I'm crazy about Lanvin chocolate" he said.  

🍭 Coming back to Chupa Chups, did you know that it was Dali himself who had the ingenious idea of ​​placing the logo on the top of the lollipop to make the visual more impactful for the consumer?  

Air France uniforms are branded Christian Lacroix 

Since its creation, the airline seeks to promote French chic. Originally, the flight crew wore uniforms inspired by the luxury hotel industry: white jacket, navy pants and collared spencer. It was in 1945 that Air France embarked on its first Haute-couture partnership with Georgette Rénal and her wardrobe for “Mistresses of the flying house”. Then the partnerships follow one another: Georgette de Trèze, Marc Bohan for Dior, Cristobal Balenciaga, Nina Ricci, Carven and Louis Féraud.  

From 2005, fashion designer Christian Lacroix dressed the company's hostesses and stewards. 🤩 He said: “One recognizes among a thousand and in any airport of the world an Air France crew.

#2 – Inspired origin brands 

Armor Lux dresses French workers 

We stay in Brittany with the Armor Lux brand, which in its native language means “Sea” and “Light”. Do you know what SNCF, Indigo, Carrefour, Monoprix, La Poste, Chronopost, DPD and so many others have in common? The uniforms of their teams come from Finistère and are made by Armor Lux. Originally, this company was a simple button shop, specializing in lingerie and underwear. It was only after a slowdown in activity, explained in particular by the Second World War, that the brand's founder, Walter Hubacher, decided to tackle ready-to-wear.  

🇬🇧 Today, the company is labeled "Living Heritage Company", a distinction awarded to French companies with craftsmanship and industrial excellence.  

Nike refers to the goddess Nike  

Nike is the Greek goddess of victory, a winged deity capable of moving at incredible speed. 💫 Moreover, the "swoosh", the famous all-moving logo of Nike which would have been drawn by a graphic art student and sold to the brand for only 35 dollars, would symbolize both this wing and this divine speed.  

As to slogan Nike, do you know its history? The phrase “Just do it” is thought to come from death row inmate Gary Gilmore’s last words, “Let’s do it”. This powerful statement is said to have inspired the American advertising agency Wieden an Kennedy. Today “Just do it” is itself a registered trademark.  

#3 – Brands adapt to cultural codes 

Initially Amazon was called Cadabra 

Jeff Bezos initially wanted to name his brand Cadrabra, in reference to the term “Abracadabra”. According to him, the magical aspect of the latter perfectly illustrated the magical side of his site, which made it possible to order and receive a book in a few clicks. Nevertheless, at the end of the line, his lawyer had then heard the English word “cadaver”, or “corpse”. 📞 Jeff Bezos had to review his copy… And this is how the name of the famous company became Amazon, in reference to the largest river in the world. The advantage was that, starting with the letter “A”, Amazon appeared in the TOP of the rankings. Convenient for referencing in Internet site directories. 

Captain Haddock drinks Loch Lomond whiskey 

The brands are represented even in the comics, since Hergé makes his irascible Captain Haddock drink Loch Lomond whiskey. 🥃 This mark appears in several albums, without however having ever sponsored the Belgian author. We explain why. Initially, the whiskey in “L'île Noire” was Johnnie Walker. Until the day when an English publisher, fearing legal reprisals, asked Hergé to include a fictitious brand in his comics. He then chooses randomly the name of a Scottish lake, without knowing that two years earlier, a distillery of the same name had opened on the shores of this lake. In short, the brand was ultimately nothing fictitious and the Tintin albums were a communication boon for Loch Lomond whisky.  

#4 – Brands become cultural references 

The Lacoste crocodile comes from the nickname of René Lacoste 

In 1927, France won the Davis Cup for the first time, thanks in part to the quartet “the 4 musketeers”, which included a certain René Lacoste, nicknamed “the alligator” in reference to his favorite animal. 🐊 It is to the latter that we owe the invention of polo. Indeed, René Lacoste, believing that the long-sleeved shirt was not optimal for playing tennis, had decided to cut the sleeves. To preserve the sporty chic in force at that time, he had added a shortened buttonhole to this customized shirt, directly inspired by the London outfits of polo players. On his new invention, Lacoste sews a small crocodile, a signature that will become the brand's iconic symbol. Today, two Lacoste polo shirts are sold every second around the world. 

The voice of the SNCF is called Simone 

You all know the voice of the SNCF announcements, but did you know that it is that of Simone Hérault? Rest assured, this former radio presenter doesn't record every announcement. She simply records words, which she declines according to 3 intonations, according to their places in the sentence. Staying on the sound theme, did you know that the jingle of the railway company, “ta-ta-ta-da”, had become a real rock song, thanks to David Gilmour, former guitarist of Pink Floyd? It was while boarding a train in Aix-en-Provence that the latter would have fallen in love with these four notes. 🎸 Shortly after buying the rights, he released the song “Rattle that lock”, a 100% SNCF jingle composition. 

#5 – Brands are reinventing their model 

Danone sold its products in pharmacies  

It was by carrying out studies on the fermentation of milk that Danone developed its first yogurt recipe. 🍶 "Delicious and healthy, Danone is the dessert for happy digestion”, advocated the brand then sold in pharmacies. The adventure began in Spain, when Isaas Carasso introduced the first yoghurts in the country. He presented his products as excellent means of combating childhood infections of the intestines.  

Later, the brand will take advantage of the collapse of the USSR and the fall of the Berlin wall to export its products to eastern countries, and even to Moscow. Günter Mauerhaufer, then in charge of brand development, explained: “ In the communist economy, there was no notion of brand. We had to adapt with advertising, which was also an innovative context. For example in Poland, we created the first branded tram, painted blue with the Danone logo" page (in French). 

Finally, if Danone is called thus, it is in homage to the son of Isaac Carasso, little Daniel, whose nickname was Danon in Catalan.  

Monopoly dreamed of being an anti-capitalist game 

This may now seem paradoxical for a game whose objective is to build one's fortune by ruining one's opponents. And yet, in 1904, the ancestor of Monopoly, the Landlord's game had been patented by Elizabeth Magie in order to criticize the system of real estate rents and to make children aware of this phenomenon. The game then included 2 modes, one favoring cooperation the other favoring capitalism.  

Everything changed in the 30s, when the game publisher, Parker Brothers bought the rights to Landlord's games for only 500 dollars. Monopoly was then marketed, with the rules we know today. 💰 Since, the game has sold over 200 million copies, making it the best-selling board game in history.  

And to increasingly take the opposite view of its anti-capitalist ancestor, Monopoly has recently been available in versions such as “Cheaters Monopoly” or “Bad Losers Monopoly”.  

#6 – Brands commit 

Cartier joined the French Resistance.  

From 1940, during the occupation of Paris by Nazi troops, the Cartier house chose to resist. How ? Very subtly, through a range of jewelry. At the time, the jeweler Jeanne Toussaint, also nicknamed “the panther”, provokes the occupants with her creations of “caged birds”. After an arrest and a violent interrogation, Jeanne Toussaint is finally released for lack of evidence. Just like his birds from 1944, which free themselves from their cages in the jeweler's windows, symbols of victory. 🕊  

In 1942, Cartier had also made small brooches in 6-pointed stars, as a sign of support and solidarity for the Jews who were then persecuted.  

Finally, Jacques Cartier, himself, became involved in the Resistance from his London home, which had hosted the recording of several speeches by General de Gaulle. 

Bourjois is committed to the emancipation of women  

Since its inception, the cosmetics brand has been committed to women. At the end of the XNUMXth century, Bourjois fought to democratize make-up, a time during which this decried practice was reserved for theater actresses and touts. The “Rouge fin de Théâtre” range, available in blusher, eye shadow, lipstick… combats received ideas and liberates women. Still at the same time, Bourjois is trying to make life easier for its customers by releasing the very first pocket make-up kit named “The Friend of Women”.  

In 1936, the brand went much further in its commitments with the “La femme votera” campaign, representing a Marianne going to the polls. 🙌 In other words, ten years before the right to vote was granted to women, the brand was already demanding it loud and clear.  

And here is the final word: autonomasia. 🤔 Quésaco, you say to yourself? Antonomasia is the figure of speech which consists in using a proper noun as a common noun. Brands are no exception to this phenomenon of appropriation. The list is long and sometimes surprising. Mobylette, Bic, Frigidaire, Botox, Jacuzzi, Post-it, Carte-bleue, Cotton swab, Inox, Sucrette, Jet-ski or even Interphone are brands!

🤓 Want to discover new anecdotes and learn more about brand strategies? The We Are COM team invites you to browse its work: The little secrets of the big brands (Dunod edition). 🚀 Happy reading! 

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