Reflections on the HMV brand

Calling all Tin Men, we’ve got a great big heart for sale.

Since the HMV brand went into administration yesterday evening, we at Venturethree have been struck by the outpouring of positivity for a brand, in spite of the problems faced by the business.


As their brand agency for more than six years, it’s obviously a nice thing to hear. It’s also something we can’t take full credit for. The truth is that for over 90 years, HMV has put an enormous amount of passion into what it does. It’s this passion that its customers appreciate, and has played a big part in making it a world-class brand.

Caring about what you do is important for any business – when you sell music, film and games it’s absolutely essential. Great content isn’t just another product or service, it’s stuff that makes people jump for joy or sit down and weep. It brings total strangers together and has the power to change people’s lives. There’s no price you can put on it, there’s no algorithm that can make sense of it. You need an understanding and expertise that only comes from years of loving dedication.


For us, it is these benefits (rather than price) that is special about the HMV brand: A massive etailer might sell the same album with 78 per cent off, but it can’t chat to you about how good it is; your local supermarket may sell the film £5 cheaper, but you don’t want to spend the afternoon hanging out there with your mates; and who wants to walk home swinging their snazzy new headphones in a discounter’s carrier bag?

Unfortunately it’s not enough to run a business on love alone, and as the administrators begin meeting with potential suitors, what’s next for the HMV brand?

There will always be the need for some form of physical consumer space – people like being together physically, and websites can never recreate the serendipity of a shop-floor.


But perhaps more importantly, in the entertainment business at least, there will always be the need for passion.

In their desperate bid to cut costs and improve efficiencies, many of the world’s biggest brands in this space have forgotten this. They’ve made the stuff we love cheaper and easier to get than we’ve ever had it before. But they’ve lost the love along the way.

The HMV brand still has it in spades. Here’s hoping a Tin Man will come along and buy the Heart.

Estelle Smithies is partner and project director and David Milsom is brand strategist at Venturethree.

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