Part 3: Researching Iconic Brands

“Identify an iconic brand and analyse its branding to work out what kind of narrative or personality is being communicated. You might want to consider whether this narrative differs from previous advertising or marketing campaigns by the same brand. Has the narrative changed fundamentally over time or is it basically the same story? Who do you think the brand is targeting or talking to?

You can now find many branding guidelines online. You may want to search your chosen brand’s own guidelines. Do these guidelines support the narrative you identified? Within these guidelines, reflect on what sort of information is important to graphic designers. How much freedom do you have in working with a brand?”

I chose to look at Cadburys as they have a long history – but I really didn’t know much about them until I discovered they have a very long page on their website detailing the entire history of the company! In 1824, John Cadbury opened a grocery shop in which he sold homemade cocoa. The business grew from there, developing ideas and products, and building homes for the workforce as they went along.

The design story goes like this:

In the early days of the company, the packaging underwent various changes and artistic flourishes without any consistant sense of direction in terms of design.

1866 cocoa packaging – slab serif, with detailed illustrations about the origin and manufacturing process involved in making their pure cocoa product.

Cadburys first easter eggs – price list 1875. Decorative typography for ‘cadburys’

1897 cadburys is made at Bournville – a rapidly expanding village, thanks to several bursts of house building programs funded by Cadbury. Another shift in typography and artistic style.

The first commissioned logo was in 1905. Its was designed by the Frenchman Georges Auriol, the chap who also designed the signs for the Paris Metro! Its absolutely lovely, but due to its fashionable art nouveau styling, perhaps inevitably had a short life span.

Milk is added to make milk chocolate

Cadbury Dairy Milk was first packaged in ‘pale mauve with red script’. The full range transformed to the iconic purple and gold in 1920. The famous logo appeared a year later (based on the signature of William Cadbury) but was only rolled out across the entire brand range in 1952. Although it has been simplified and refined along the way, it remains instantly recognisable in the present day.

I wasn’t able to find out why they chose purple and gold – but its a good choice – it conjures up richness, quality and luxury. Rather regal! Now of course, its changed to ‘friendly’ white.

Cadbury were concerned with making a quality product and showing that they could be trusted to deliver. The ‘personality’ of the brand at the time was tapping into the expanding market in confectionary. It was time of innovation, and as employers, they sort to be ethical in the old style philanthropic Victorian sense.

Here’s a snippet of Cadburys own blurb about the next stage of their evolution:

Its quite interesting that at this early stage Cadbury were attempting to promote a health conscious angle – that its milk chocolate was full of the goodness of milk.

Wartime…(Note: no purple in keeping with the utilitarian expectations of the era)


1958 – This ‘Lucky Numbers’ looks really rather modern, I don’t think I would be able to guess the era. These designs have moved to a more playful and fun style. They would appeal to both adults and children wanting a treat. I think its fair to say that as early as 1950s, that Cadburys was the brand we recognise visually today.

1967 – it seems there actually was an aztec bar!

Throughout its history, Cadburys have sometimes targeted children and adults separately. for example Milk Tray and Flake


And for children

It really depends on how cynical you are but I like to think some of its ethical roots still remain.

However in 2010 Cadbury became part of a huge multinational (Mondelēz International)… And isn’t always loved unconditionally by the British press

The narrative was originally that it was a family business, forward thinking, philanthropic, healthy, broad appeal. The modern branding of Cadburys is more about fun than luxury, they aim to appeal to people of all ages who simply want to have a treat and aren’t that hung up on cocoa content, nutritional goodness or exclusivity. Who are they appealing to? Everyone. Its a mass market product, and increasingly global too. Some of the basic story remains – the company has a long history and is proud of its roots. In terms of individual marketing campaigns, like all advertising, it has become more sophisticated and humorous over the years. The old milk tray television adverts are a bit laughable now, as is the slogan and jaunty song  “A finger of fudge is just enough to give the kids a treat!” Since then we’ve had a gorilla playing drums, and the creme egg is marketed in a daft way to adults too. The basic story remains: that cadburys is for everyone.

Thankfully it was very easy to access the brand guidelines – it turns out that the logo must always be at a 15 degree angle, currently with a surrounding elipse. As you can see they have a bespoke shade of purple, with a CMYK equivalent.

Its hard to say if the guidelines support the narrative of the company – its simply an iconic brand, does purple say ‘playful’? It can do, and does in this context. The wordmark is very recognisable, just like Kelloggs and Coca Cola, its based on a signature and has enormous longevity. The swirling letters is echoed by the elipse, it reminds of us melting chocolate – yummy, and supports a lively ‘persona’.

Graphic designers would obviously find the guidelines vitally important – the exact positioning of the angle of the typeface, the exact colour. I think there would be quite limited freedom working within this brand – they aren’t looking for big changes! However, they are still developing new products and each one has to have a new distinctive identity. If you look at the packaging for example of Roses chocolates, they aren’t on a purple background, and the typeface on a ‘Wispa’ is very different to that of milk tray…it would depend which product you’re working on as to how much innovation or freedom you would have. Probably some typographic freedom, and maybe not always purple!!!



Pinterest & Google images

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