Macquarie University
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Bushells and the cultural logic of branding

posted on 2022-03-28, 18:51 authored by Susie Khamis
Since its introduction in 1883, the Bushells brand of tea has become increasingly identified with Australia's national identity. Like Arnott's, QANTAS and Vegemite, Bushells has become a part of the nation's cultural vocabulary, a treasured store of memories and myths. This thesis investigates how Bushells acquired this status, and the transformation by which an otherwise everyday item evolved from the ordinary to the iconic. In short, through Bushells, I will demonstrate the cultural logic of branding. -- Bushells is ideally suited for an historical analysis of branding in Australia. Firstly, tea has been a staple of the Australian diet since the time of the First Fleet. So, it proves a fitting example of consumer processes since the early days of White settlement. From this, I will consider the rise of an environment sensitive to status, and therefore conducive to branding. In the late nineteenth century, Bushells was challenged to appeal to the burgeoning corps of middle class consumers. To this end, the brand integrated those ideals and associations that turned its tea into one that flattered a certain sensibility. Secondly, having established its affinity with a particular market group, the middle class, Bushells was well positioned to track, acknowledge and incorporate some of the most dominant trends of the twentiethcentury; specifically, the rise of a particular suburban ideal in the 1950s, and changing conceptions of gender, labour and technology. Finally, in the last two decades, Bushells has had to concede decisive shifts in fashion and taste; as Australia's population changed, so too did tea's place and prominence in the market. This thesis thus canvasses all these issues, chronologically and thematically. To do this, I will contextualise Bushells' advertisements in terms of the contemporary conditions that both informed their content, and underpinned their appeal. -- Considering the breadth and depth of this analysis, I argue that in the case of Bushells there is a cultural logic to branding. As brands strive for relevance, they become screens off which major societal processes can be identified and examined. As such, I will show that, in its address to consumers, Bushells broached some of the most significant discourses in Australia's cultural history.


Table of Contents

Introduction -- Advertising, branding & consumerism: a literature survey -- Methodology: from Barthes to Bushells -- A taste for tea: how tea travelled to and through Australian culture -- Class in a tea cup -- A tale of two brands -- Thrift, sacrifice and the happy housewife -- 'He likes coffee SHE likes tea' -- 'Is it as good?': Bushells beyond Australia -- 'The one thing we all agree on' -- Conclusion.


Bibliography: leaves 281-305

Awarding Institution

Macquarie University

Degree Type

Thesis PhD


Thesis (PhD), Macquarie University, Division of Society, Culture, Media & Philosophy, Dept. of Media

Department, Centre or School

Department of Media

Year of Award


Principal Supervisor

Philip Hayward

Additional Supervisor 1

Catherine Simpson


Copyright disclaimer: Copyright Susie Khamis 2007.






v, 305 leaves ill

Former Identifiers

mq:6989 1354898