Campari brand story is linked to Milan’s art and cultural history

Campari artwork Fortunato Depero 1926

This month would have been the occasion of the annual Salone del Mobile and Milan Design Week when the Italian city bursts with creative energy. It’s an event our Spinach Branding team seldom miss. Artists, designers, and aficionados gather here from all around the world for a truly inspiring week. With this year’s event sadly cancelled, and Milan in lockdown due to the current global coronavirus crisis, we honour the eternal city of design by taking a look at one of its residents, Campari and its love of the arts and the city.

Campari artwork Fortunato Depero 1931

The drinks company has a seductive brand story anchored in the creative world and specifically Milan’s cultural legacy. Company heir Davide Campari was a patron of the arts. A visit to Galleria Campari at the Milanese headquarters is testimony to this. The rich collection here features poster-art, advertising, and rare film clips from the likes of Federico Fellini. It is also home to the most comprehensive archive from the Italian futurists.

Campari artwork by Bruno Munari 1964

Soon after inheriting his father’s small Milanese distillery by the Duomo in 1886, Davide set about engaging with the avant-garde as a way of crafting a unique brand. He was a pioneer in the way he involved the creative community – understanding the power of design and advertising, of collaborating with interesting, at times radical, and sometimes even risky artists to build a distinctive brand. Davide offered almost complete freedom to his creatives by encouraging their independent vision, their visual voices, to direct his brand strategy.

‘Ready for Bitter?’ advertising campaign for Campari, 2020 © Spinach Branding

Throughout the 1920s and 30s Davide sourced exciting painters, poster artists, illustrators, graphic designers – some celebrated, many unknown at the time. Marcello Nizzoli, Leonetto Cappiello, Ugo Mochi, Marcello Dudovich and Adolf Hohensteino – all worked for him. The Campari advertising archives mirror the evolution of European modern art in the early part of the twentieth century – from art nouveau to cubism, surrealism, and futurism.

‘Ready for Bitter?’ advertising campaign for Campari, 2020 © Spinach Branding

Futurism, in particular, became the ideal artistic expression for the fast-moving communications and advertising world of the 1920s. In its early days, before it took a less favourable turn, the art movement idolised progress and embraced speed. The modern metropolis and in particular Manhattan and its slick skyscrapers was their ideal. And so Davide’s strongest collaboration work remains with one of the leading futurist figures, Fortunato Depero.

Art Direction Agency by SpinachAdverts increasingly needed to be digested in multiple formats – be seen and be effective from moving buses, trains and motor cars. Responding to this change, Davide commissioned Depero to design strong graphics, clean and clear messaging that could be instantly memorable. Deparo worked with humour, with bright colours and bold text, employing dynamic block letters, sometimes arranged diagonally. His work for Campari is sensational. He even helped envisage the single-dose Campari Soda bottle, with its embossed brand logo directly on the glass to expose the red of the Campari aperitif. This ingenious design remains unchanged and has become a true classic.

'Ready for Bitter?' ad for Campari, 2020 © Spinach Branding

Davide made sure there was consistency with his campaigns too. If you look back at the archives, the adverts always reflect the Campari moment – the message is of the pleasures of life. It has helped maintain the brand’s allure. And it is an approach that has been pivotal to the current advertising work we carried out for Campari. Having been tasked to redefine the brand for a new emerging market in the UK, Spinach Branding’s ‘La Vita Campari‘ band positioning, and ‘Read for Bitter?‘ advertising campaign – which has rolled out across the country successfully since last year – continues the philosophy sealed by Davide Campari.

La Vita Campari by Spinach for Campari

Modern brands could learn from the Campari story. The rich body of artwork Davide and his successors left behind tell the compelling story of Italy’s place, and especially Milan, in the history of modern art and design.

Images: Campari artwork by Fortunato Depero 1926 and 1931, Bruno Munari 1964 © Campari. ‘Ready for Bitter?’ and ‘La Vita Campari’ 2019/20 © Spinach Branding for Campari.

Take a look at the ‘Ready for Bitter?’ campaign.

Spinach Branding is a specialist branding agency based in London. We work with established businesses and start-ups around the world to build and refine their brands. See how we work and get in touch to discuss your brand.

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