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What happened to your favourite childhood brands? What is the value of brand recognition in the digital age? Does nostalgia mean anything in this fast-paced, digital world of ours?
If we're not sat at our desks in front of a computer, disappointing our parents whose skills as manual labourers are becoming largely redundant, we're Instagramming our lunch or live tweeting the unveiling of Apple’s new operating system.
Slowly we’ve forgotten the real world of our youth. The one where we'd run around fields, steal apples from trees and flee in terror from a half-blind elderly farmer with a rifle.
And what about these new-fangled brands with meaningless names that have become so ubiquitous thanks to hours spent trawling through Twitter: GoPro. ASOS. Huffington Post. Krispy Kreme…
They’re not like the brands we grew up with. Those ones had proper names. Ones you wouldn’t forget: Chewits. Push-Pops. The Beano. Smash Hits. Match Magazine… uh that crab paste I’ve forgotten…
Where are these brands in this callous world of digital transformation?
Have they survived the cultural move from a world where ruddy-faced kids buy penny sweets at a friendly newsagent, to one where they just cyber-bully the weakest classmates into setting up a standing order to pay their lunch money directly into an online bank account?
In the first of a regular series, I’m going to investigate exactly how our favourite childhood brands are faring in the modern world. Starting with…
You’ll be please to know that Polo has a website, albeit one with slowly loading animation and fun facts that push the boundaries of interesting.
And look… Fruity Polos still exist.
To capitalise on our nostalgia, Polo offers a history of the brand. It’s a slow moving and awkward affair, with poorly optimised text and an embedded video that’s smaller than a mobile phone screen from eight years ago. Also, despite having a volume button, it has no discernible sound.
There’s an interesting collection of adverts (well five) from its history, but it's impossible to navigate and because it’s made with Flash, when you hit ‘back’ you leave the entire site.
A rudimentary search of social media networks has revealed no social channels for the brand. Parent company Nestle runs one, but well… who wants to be seen following Nestle?
As opposed to the Polo website which is just horrible, the Chewits website is still horrible but carries with it a lot of old school charm (read as: "with features that Google has penalised it back into the stone age for.")
This side-scrolling site takes in everything from convoluted puns, printable colouring-in puzzles, a live comment ticker, games that I can’t get to work and some brilliant adverts from its past that are big enough to see and loud enough to hear.
Although poor for user experience, the horizontal scrolling could certainly be put to good use if we could at least see Chewie the Chewitsauras stomp a city flat.
In better news, there are social links all over this thing. Chewie the Chewitsaurus has nearly 500,000 likes on Facebook and Chewits has a Twitter account.
Although Chewits does engage with almost every mention of Chewits on Twitter, it seems to be stuck in a bit of a rut.
Is ‘chewtastic’ even a viable pun. Speaking of viable puns, Chewits runs a Twitter competition every Tuesday. They call it ‘Chewitsday’.
You’ll notice that this follower responded 18 hours after the tweet, was the sole retweeter and won the goodies. I wish I’d entered that competition now. CongratCHEWlations.
My very favourite magazine as a younger teenager. This witty, irreverent and deeply iconoclastic publication had equally detrimental and positive effects on me as a writer. Although thankfully I’ve stopped writing sentences like this: “Quintuple boingzoi and strike me down with a pipe cleaner (or the like!!!!!!) (?)”
The magazine folded in 2006, just before it had a chance to transfer its readership successfully online. It has no digital presence whatsoever.
Who will now take up the mantle of publishing pull-out posters of Morten Harket or interviewing Sir Billiam of Idol? Apparently the domain name SmashHits.com is for sale...
Deep within my subconscious this brand exists, not as something nostalgic, nor even particularly pleasurable, just as something that was ‘there’, on the corner of a supermarket shelve and languishing at the back of a cupboard.
It was thanks to a brilliant piece of ‘brand-jacking’ in 2011 that the name of Shippam’s Paste still lingers on as something much more interesting.
Ed Jefferson assumed the role of ‘intern Ben’ and set up a Twitter account for Shippam’s Fish Paste and started firing off some of the most hilariously inept tweets you’ve seen since the last Ryanair Q&A.
In reply to a consumer asking if there was a product for vegetarians…
theres no vegetarian pastes sorry but why not try the crab spread its only crabs— not shippams paste (@ShippamsPaste) November 2, 2011
As this three year-old blog post on Shippam's from this very publisher reveals the account soon went viral, rocketing to 8,000 followers in three weeks. Then Twitter suspended it for disobeying its guidelines on fraudulent accounts.
Luckily the account has been unsuspended, with a strong caveat that it is indeed a parody. Still to this day the fake paste is giving a masterclass in what real brands should be doing on Twitter. Being creative, agile, funny and entertaining.
One of my favourite exchanges from recent months centred around the Mastercard/Brit Awards social fail…
@ShippamsPaste I think I almost did a conversion— Jonathan Mulligan (@jjmullz) February 19, 2014
And hey, every fish paste has its weaknesses…
hi @katyperry would you like your own flavour of paste and you could come to the office and i could take your picture— not shippams paste (@ShippamsPaste) August 2, 2013
The Beano and The Dandy
The Dandy didn’t make it past its 75th anniversary. The final print edition was published on the very day it celebrated its three-quarters of a century. A digital edition was launched at the same time, but wasn't as successful as planned and closed after six months.
In slightly better news, The Beano has remained in print to this day and has a fine online presence.
Here’s The Beano homepage…
It’s a simple, nicely animated experience, with regularly updated content and links to digital versions available on the App Store and Google Play. It’s a bright, easily navigable site, perfect for new users of the internet. Modern, but without sacrificing the nostalgia that may have brought older users here.
Plus the ‘home’ tab burps at you when you click it. You don’t get that on The Guardian.
The Beano also runs a classy Twitter account, full of regular and charming engagement…
Lots of retweets of followers and the occasional crappy joke.
Our local school is now being sponsored by IKEA. Standards may be fine, but assembly takes ages.— The Beano Comic (@BeanoComic) May 16, 2014
Come back next time, where I’ll once again gaze back into the recent and not so recent past to unravel more mysteries of where our favourite childhood brands are now.