What led me to create letslookagain.com?
When I was very young I would pester my parents with odd questions, “why do Shell operate more petrol stations than BP?” and “Why are McDonald’s more successful than Burger King?”
For whatever reason, I was born with a strange interest in brands and companies. I was to be proven wrong in my naive assumption that these were questions that everyone wanted to know the answers to.
I tried to find answers, but in vain. There was no widespread internet access back then. The books that could help me were only to be found in university libraries, none of which I lived anywhere near. There were widely available books about businesses, but they tended to have a left-wing slant, such as No Logo (1999) by Naomi Klein and Fast Food Nation (2001) by Eric Schlosser. Disappointed, I instead turned to regular history, which was of course much easier to get my hands on. Niall Ferguson highlighted for me the value of approaching history from an economic perspective.
I was later encouraged by journalists such as Adam Curtis and Malcolm Gladwell. They were innately curious about the world, and explored this with a sense of playfulness. Curtis chronicled advertising and brand management in The Century of the Self (2002), and Gladwell’s 2004 essay, ‘The Ketchup Conundrum‘, explored how Heinz developed the leading tomato ketchup in the world. Curtis and Gladwell demonstrated that business history could be engaging.
With increasing internet access, I was able to delve more deeply into business history. I soon became jaded by official company websites, which when they hosted a history, was often demonstrably incorrect, or terribly biased. Wikipedia and Grace’s Guides were helpful references, but they had glaring gaps in their coverage, and often hosted inaccuracies.
A huge inspiration was teh blogs of Martyn Cornell and Ron Pattinson. Cornell and Pattinson focused on the history of brewing, and by concentrating on primary sources were able to demonstrate that many published historical claims are inaccurate.
I became a dedicated Wikipedia editor, but eventually grew frustrated by the lack of control over my contribution. I therefore decided to create a blog of my own. Cornell and Pattinson and others already had beer pretty well covered, so I decided to focus more broadly on food and drink.
So to answer the original remit of this short essay, an innate curiosity about the world of business and brands is why I created and continue to develop this blog. As I have myself been able to learn from others, I am glad to be able to help to educate others in the same way.