Myer montage

Myer’s century of stories

In Trends by Peter Gearin

The department store’s Australia Lives Here campaign puts customers’ favourite items and memories in the shop window.

Myer now calls itself “the Department of Stories”. For one of Australia’s oldest retail chains – established 1900 – it acknowledges that there isn’t one person in this country who doesn’t know Myer, especially in home-state Victoria. The retailer recently created an opportunity to remind Australians of its consumer heritage.

“Australia Lives Here” is a brand campaign that connects the growth of a consumer-rich nation with one of its biggest department stores. Myer and its creative agency, Clemenger BBDO Melbourne, started with an idea of choosing the 100 most iconic goods of the 20th century. Many of these would be displayed alongside their modern equivalents in an exhibition in its Bourke Street store in Melbourne (from August 8 to September 15). It would create a separate website that highlights how these simple consumer goods have played a role in our everyday lives.

Myer would release campaign films and a series of social media videos featuring competition winners and their stories, and the whole thing would be supported by an awareness campaign (centred on Melbourne) on television, radio and outdoor.

But here’s where the Australian Lives Here concept turns into something more than just a good idea backed by an exhibition and website. The Myer team asked Australians to help them find 30 “missing” items. They called on people with these items to come forward and tell their stories – why those products meant so much to them – rewarding them with the chance to win the 2017 equivalents.

To start the campaign, Myer announced its first winner … 100-year-old Carmel Young. Her black-and-white AWA TV, which still works, was one of the first television models sold in Australia in 1956. Unfortunately, the discovery came with a sad story. Carmel’s husband, Charlie, was killed in an industrial accident in 1969 – and she saw news of her tragedy on their AWA before police came to her door.

Myer’s connections

Michael Scott, executive general manager of brand, marketing and loyalty at Myer, said at the beginning of the campaign that Carmel’s story shows how products represent more than just the things that people buy. “They play integral roles in people’s lives, and form part of the memories and moments that people cherish,” he said.

“Our Department of Stories’ brand positioning is built from that truth, and it’s great to see it come to life. This campaign and exhibition celebrates the beautiful stories that Australians have to share, and documents the rich history of our country.”

Other items on the list include a 1900s Coolgardie Safe, the original 1950s Test Match board game and a 1970s Oroton bag.

“Firearms could be bought as readily as corsets at Myer in the 1910s.”

Myer historian Stella Barber, who helped select the 100 products, told The Age that many of the items are “rites of passage” for many Australians. “The Glomesh bag, the platform shoes, the Test Match board game … in the days prior to television, games were so important,” she said.

At a time when many retailers kept everything behind glass, Myer pioneered the concept of customers touching their products for sale. “We take it for granted now but it was revolutionary at the time,” she said. “It made the interaction between customer and product so much more intimate.”

Clemenger BBDO’s executive creative director Stephen de Wolf said Myer has played an integral role shaping Australians’ lives. “So many timeless products have been brought to our shores by Myer and deciding which ones to highlight was hard,” he said at the launch. “We’ve got the ball rolling but this campaign will really come to life when we hear from others.”

The website features a timeline of products and stories, organised in decades, that tell the tale of an evolving society and the development of a nation. It shows that firearms could be bought as readily as corsets at Myer in the 1910s and why Remington’s electric shaver was the thing to have in the ’50s. If you had platform shoes in ‘70s you might have had a Sony Walkman in the ‘80s, and someone you knew probably had a Tamagotchi in the ’90s, too.

Australia Lives Here would be a great example of content marketing (rather than just an expensive brand promotion) except for one thing – Myer says it’s just a one-off campaign at this stage. Myer has no plans to tour the exhibition around the country, update the website or continue accumulating great stories of how customers use the products it sells. The retailer says it has other marketing priorities, and doesn’t want the campaign to interrupt its valuable (and even more expensive) Melbourne Cup and Christmas promotions.

It seems wasteful for Myer to build up such high levels of consumer engagement and then just allow it to just fade away. It has built an idea bridging the retailers’ vibrant heritage with Australians’ social history, but appears to be happy to let all of that goodwill evaporate into the ether.

That’s just the fashion of the times, it seems.

Links & references

Musician Daniel Johns’ collaboration with David Jones

Please share