When I'm starting a project for a brand or company I haven't worked on before, the first thing I head for these days is the website, and the first thing I like to look at is the company history section. Not only is it invariably the most interesting bit of the website, pleasantly devoid of stock shots of grinning young professionals and packed full of ancient logos, retro pack designs and print ads half-drowned in the collective unconscious, but it gives you a pretty good idea of what that company is about.
In fact, if you're looking for a brand or company's uniqueness, you're more likely to find it languishing in this section than amongst the stated corporate values. These, and the accompanying aforementioned stock shots of grinning young professionals tend to be interchangeable from one company to the next.
These days, Facebook, with their Timelines, has made it simple for any company or individual to start a ready-made history, which will grow as the years move on. As a recently-introduced feature, of course, it means that companies can pick and choose what appears when it comes to the past. Burberry is a nice example of what can be done, with a super collection of raincoat chic and cool through the ages, from Audrey Hepburn to Meryl Streep to Kate Moss.
Burberry joined Facebook in June 2009 - so after that we've got plenty of detail. But there are also some telling gaps. Nothing between 1999 and 2004, for example. Could that have been when Burberry started getting chavvy?
Brands will have to be careful to write and rewrite as they go along. Curating the past is one thing, and curators have always picked and chosen what is best to tell the story they want to tell, but managing a presence should a brand start losing its way is another.