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Month: December 2017

Beheading – an original source of inspiration.

Beheading – an original source of inspiration.

Penguin original 2


Even though I can’t sing, someone was once kind enough to call me “the minstrel of marketing” because wherever I go I spread little stories about brands and branding. While I like researching and writing my own version of these stories sometimes you come across one that is just perfect as it is.

So it was when I stumbled across the story of Penguin.

No, not the publisher I have already told that story.

Penguin publisher

Nor was it the story of the chocolate biscuit, one to research for another time.


This story related to the origins of the Original Penguin  clothing brand and resides on their website.

Now if anyone had told me that the inspiration for a brand I sometimes wear was the beheading of a penguin named Pete I’m not sure I would have believed but read on…

“In 1955, an ambitious salesman named Abbot Pederson traveled to NYC on a sales trip for the Munsingwear brand. With time to kill before a flight home, he decided to pop into a local bar for a few whiskeys. Little did he know, his next steps would stumble into history.

Taking a wrong turn down a Manhattan street, he oddly enough found himself outside a taxidermist’s shop. Deciding he needed a drinking buddy for the flight, he bought a penguin and named him Pete. At some point during the flight, and after another cocktail or three, he accidentally knocked the head off Pete the Penguin.

A seductive stewardess Pederson had been enjoying throughout the flight removed his necktie and wrapped it around the penguin’s neck. She joked that such a dapper bird deserved to be immortalized, maybe even on a shirt. With that idea – an icon was born.

In a matter of years, the Munsingwear Golf Shirt embroidered with Pete’s likeness, was synonymous with a league of legends including Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Arnold Palmer, and Clint Eastwood. Today, Original Penguin embodies a mix of iconic American Sportswear with modern minded style into a diverse range of products for a full lifestyle brand. Made for originals, by originals.”


Footnote: Subsequent research has shown me that there are other stories about the origins of the brand and the logo but none are as much fun so I’m sticking with this one.

A story of men and lingerie at Christmas

A story of men and lingerie at Christmas



It’s that time of year again.

Not just shelves laden with tinsel and baubles, not just the old Christmas songs playing on endless loops in lifts and not just the time for the infamous Office Christmas party. No, it is the time when every self-respecting tabloid runs a feature on why men are so bad at buying lingerie for their loved ones.

Seeing the first of these reminded me of the beginning of what is now one of the world’s largest lingerie brands.

In 1969 Roy Raymond went to buy his wife Gaye some lingerie, an event which he recalled some years later in an interview with Newsweek. “When I tried to buy lingerie for my wife,” he recalls, “I was faced with racks of terry-cloth robes and ugly floral-print nylon nightgowns, and I always had the feeling the department store saleswomen thought I was an unwelcome intruder.”

It was an event that clearly scarred him. He decided something had to change and for the next eight years he studied the lingerie market, developing his ideas. Finally settling on his concept he borrowed $40,000 from his parents and $40,000 from a bank to establish Victoria’s Secret.

His aim was to market women’s lingerie to men and he wanted to create a store in which men could feel comfortable buying lingerie. He wanted the stores to be places where men could browse at their leisure without having to manically flash their wedding bands or be constantly frowned on.

Though American, Raymond picked a name with a British twist. “Victoria” was a reference to Queen Victoria and was chosen to bring with it associations of the style, elegance and class of the Victorian era. The “Secret” was of course hidden underneath the clothes and probably in those olden days seen as something shocking.

vs catalogue victorian inspired

The store design was an homage to the boudoir with hints of seduction featuring dark wood panels, velvet sofas and silk drapes. The lingerie itself wasn’t the often dull but practical and functional everyday underwear which dominated the market but tended towards the frivolous and often completely impractical pieces only fit for a wedding night or burlesque show.

vs catalogues

The first store was located in Stanford Shopping Centre in Palo Alto, California in 1977 and proved a reasonable success returning profit of $500,000. Raymond opened more stores and launched a catalogue.

And everyone lived and dressed happily ever after. (Well, not entirely and there is the story about how the brand started to falter, was ultimately sold and relaunched but that’s another story for another time).