When Nintendo made playing cards (and other brand origin stories)

Posted on by Guy Cookson

Photo by Beforemario.com

Some companies have the strangest origins. Nokia became best known for producing everyone’s favourite phones – before Steve Jobs launched the iPhone in 2007.

Nokia started life not as a technology company but as a pulp mill, established in 1865 when Finland was part of the Russian Empire. Nokia is the name of a small town in Southern Finland where the second pulp mill was opened, and the company founders obviously liked the name.

It took another 90 years of business in everything from forestry to power generation before Nokia entered the world of telecommunications.

Nintendo took an equally circuitous route to becoming a leader in video games. Founded in 1889, the company spent the next 74 years making playing cards before the founder’s grandson, Hiroshi Yamauchi, recognised the need to diversify. But it took a while. Nintendo went into everything from the taxi business to instant rice before going into consumer electronics in the 1970s.

But one of my favourite brand origin stories is that of Peugeot, where my Dad worked for a time before he joined Alfa Romeo in the 1980s (which meant we had some great looking cars when I was growing up).

The company was established in 1810 when two brothers, Jean-Pierre II and Jean-Frédéric Peugeot, converted their father’s ageing grain mill into a steel foundry and started producing a variety of products, from umbrella frames and bicycles to coffee grinders and pepper mills.

The decision to go into car production in 1889 by Armand Peugeot – part of the third generation of the family – was not universally popular. The company split into two for a time, with one company producing cars and the other mills, grinders and bicycles, before they reunited. Even today kitchenware connoisseurs swear by Peugeot pepper mills (we have one at home – it is brilliant).

I find these stories encouraging, particularly as Hotfoot is gearing up to launch our first standalone software product, a gift voucher platform called Regalo for restaurants, hotels, bars and spas.

Regalo complements our creative and digital services, and we are unveiling it at the Lakes Hospitality Trade Show this week. I cannot wait to see what happens next.

This article originally appeared in the Lancaster Guardian, where I write a weekly column.

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