Tag Archives: memory

Guided Tour

Yesterday while walking back from Ruschutters, I passed through the Cross. I moved to Sydney in 1989 and the Cross played quite a prominent role in my early time here. For the first little while it was clubs. Site and Soho Bar and some others whose name I can’t remember. Later when I left my job to go back to school, I worked part time in McDonalds on Darlinghurst Road. Not one of my happier periods, but none-the-less, it paid the bills and I finished my HSC thanks to money from flipping burgers.

So, walking around there again, some twenty years (FARK) later, it was very weird. Some places bought back memories of mad capped nights and laughter. Others were less happy and reminded me of a time when I was actually feeling a bit lost. Shops had changed from dry cleaners to cafes, mixed businesses to florists, and some spaces had just disappeared altogether – the whole streetscape unrecognisable. For the most part the walk was about happy memories. Out enjoying a new city with old and new friends, dancing, drinking and loving life. It’s incredible how something small can jolt something out of you that you had forgotten. I wondered if any of the cool young people sitting in cafes would care for a guided tour of the place – what it was like twenty years ago and how it had changed.

There are some brands that have that “memory-jolt” effect on me. Fanta is one. I chose Fanta as a kid, not coke. I had the Fanta yo-yo. Another  is David Jones. I associate DJs with my great-grandmother, and being a teenager and having ice-chocolates there with friends after school. I used to work on the David Jones account before I had Fin and I always thought Nandie would be pleased about that. Sportsgirl is another that I have a lot of memories for.

Now, all of us have these brand memories, and like my little walking tour, they bring back good and bad memories. Brands with a lot of history sometimes don’t appear to be very interested in what’s happened in the past. Sometimes it’s because there aren’t the resources to revisit the past and document it. Other times there’s not an interest in the past, and it’s about reinventing a brand to suit the current “owners”. Sometimes there’s a gold mine sitting there in the archives waiting to be discovered.

This stuff sits around in corporate memory and it’s either carefully managed, or left neglected. Yet it sits in our brains as real memories and can be activated at any time. This stuff can be powerful. It’s pure emotion. It can be activated by a simple walk around the block, or it can be activated by the brand itself, reminding us of what we loved, when things were sometimes good and happy.

I wonder who the brands are that are doing a good job of this? There must be someone out there using social media to their advantage here – discovering and recording memories that their customers have of them. At the end of the powerhouse museum exhibition about the 80s, there was a little spot so you could record what had been “jolted” in you through the show. It was great to be able to say “Yes! I was at that dance party. I was there!” Do any brands have the same facility to record what you remember about them?


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Today I took some time out to have a clean out of my bedroom, and began sorting out my perfume and make-up. I realised I have far too much perfume for one person, but I find myself on every trip “stocking up”, which is madness as my perfume shelf looks like I am stocking up for a nuclear winter. Last trip alone I bought four new bottles. A Paul Smith, two by Agent Provocateur, and one by Jo Malone I bought on a whim.  As of this afternoon I still didn’t know what it even smelt like.  

I love Jo Malone colognes. I have Mandarin and Basil, Orange Blossom and now White Jasmine and Mint. The White Jasmine and Mint took me by surprise. It’s sort of…well, old fashioned. I can’t describe it any better. I put it on when I opened it, and instantly thought of old ladies. Now, this may be considered to be a bad thing, but it was actually the smell of kind old ladies. And the longer I wore it I realised it wasn’t the smell of just any kind old lady, but my Great-Grandmother, Myra. 

I’m fascinated about how scent is one of our most powerful senses. Gardenias will forever be about Christmas for me, and the tree at the front of my Nan’s house.  When the flowers got burnt by the summer sun they smelled the best, the most intense. Cinnamon brings me back to my twelve months in America (it’s everywhere!).  I bought a fragrance from Bobbi Brown called Beach, which smells exactly like Coppertone (and yes, I do wear it) which in turn reminds me of Wollongong and a life time of summers at North Beach.  

I think Aveda uses fragrance well.  Most of their products appear to be set with the same base fragrance, which you also smell in their store. Another memory link is then bought home through their day spas. I haven’t been to one in years, but every time I get a whiff of that smell, I’m bought back to being wrapped up in towels and having my back rubbed. A very nice memory.

I’m reading that more and more “experiential” brands are getting more deeply involved in fragrance. I’m sure there are many that are using it that I’m not even conscious of. 

So after my clean up I decided to have a stroll in the fading sunshine and get out of the flat for some air. As I walked home I passed an elderly man on Albermarle Street, who smiled and said “You smell nice.” I wondered who I reminded him of and if she and my Nandie Myra had shared the same perfume. 

Perfume...just a small sample of what I own!

  • Some interesting reading here on what smells are most likely to be linked to childhood memories
  • a brief run down here of how we physiologically remember scents and smells
  • and here I found a lovely quote by Roja Dove…“A fragrance is like a cat burglar in your brain, it has the key with which to pick the lock and unleash your memories.” 


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