Insight article

Love and trust – “Tell Daddy I’ve gone to Boots”

I was in one of my local pubs last night, fascinated by a framed front page from a wartime newspaper on the wall – The Daily Herald, 16th September 1940. The headlines were predictable and almost completely dominated the page: ‘Buckingham Palace Bombed Third Time’, ‘Raiders Chased Back To The Channel’, ‘RAF Puts Goering In Shade’, ‘Nazis Hold Up French Train’, ‘RAF Triumphs In Biggest Air Battles Of War’ and so on. And quietly, in the right hand bottom corner, was a not-so-small advert depicting a mother getting onto a bus, with the headline “Tell Daddy I’ve Gone To Boots”.

Like many other countrywomen who take the bus to town once a week, she’ll be making a few purchases at Boots. For wherever she needs anything in the way of medical or toilet goods, she knows she can rely on Boots. Her husband’s prescription, for example, will be dispensed under the supervision of one of the two thousand qualified chemists on duty in Boots branches. There are over twelve hundred of these branches, each offering friendly and reliable service that Boots have maintained over fifty years.

You can rely on Boots.

In other words, calm down dear, we may be facing bombs, battles, Nazis, blackouts and shrapnel, but as long as we’ve got Boots to supply us with our medical needs and toiletries we Brits are on solid turf. In wartime Britain this kind of advert sitting alongside the Government’s propaganda was no coincidence…it was a deliberate ploy to reinforce our sense of patriotism, faith in all things British, to strengthen our loyalty to the things we know and love, to heighten our trust in that great brand GB. And today? Loyalty? Pah! We’re far too busy rushing around with our wallets bursting with different loyalty cards, heartlessly and thoughtlessly changing from one brand to the next as long as it’s the cheapest / most convenient / nicest looking etc to be loyal, for pity’s sake. Although when it comes to brands and their values, I can think of many, many brands whose values include ‘Trust’, and who would willingly fight their own war to be seen as top dog in the Love and Trust department.

I’m reluctant to compare a 1940’s newspaper with the reportage from the disasters of recent times. It would seem a bizarre and somewhat tasteless act to place a Microsoft, McDonald’s or Dunkin’ Donuts ad on such a front page after, say, a terrorist atrocity on the scale of what we witnessed on 9/11. But hang on a cotton-picking minute, if we were to take today’s British brands back to 1940, which one would grace the front page of The Daily Herald? Would Tesco, that giant of a retailer where one in eight pounds are spent each day in the UK, have usurped that top spot? Or would it be BT (after all, if the phones are working, we must be OK)? Maybe it would be Marks & Spencer (I’m sorry but M&S IS a great British brand). Do we hold the Virgin brand dear to our hearts like we did Boots all those years ago? Can we truly rely on on British Airways? Do we feel as safe as houses with BP? Barclays? W H Smith? Woolworths? Next? The Halifax? Marmite? Heinz?

I may be an incurable romantic, but when it comes to real Love and Trust (and I don’t mean Awe, Admiration, or Recognition for the achievements of a superbrand) in the face of deep, deep crisis, I’m telling you now, I would put Boots at the top of my list.

Nailia Tasseel