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?