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Mining & Branding

Where branding and mining meet

While the main focus of this collection is branding and corporate image, design and visual arts are an inseparable part of the whole. In this section, you can find a brief overview of the purpose and development of branding and visual communications within the mining industry, as well as a critical look at various posters and advertisements from that time.

Employer Branding and mining

Although it may seem unusual that coal mining companies in the ’20s and onwards would rely on branding and marketing, in reality, this was very common and necessary given the broader economic and cultural context. This was exactly the case in the South Limburg area, neatly situated in the south of The Netherlands, bordering Germany and Belgium (TU Delft, n.d.). With an ongoing shortage of miners and as companies realized that human capital is one of the most important keys for growth and success (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25), branding slowly became an important part of most mining companies operations.

As companies throughout Limburg began implementing what essentially was employer branding — functional, economic, and psychological benefits provided by and identified with the employing company (Heilmann et al., 2013, as cited in Einhorn, 1992, p. 25) — various posters, signages, and other communication materials related to mining started to emerge.

However, the purpose for their emergence was rather contradictory. While the messages conveyed by the Dutch mining companies were positive, promising success and good payment, speaking to former miners lead us to believe that their messages were not entirely true. And while some of the locals knew that, foreign miners, often the target of a company’s communication, did not.

Mines and mining regions in South Limburg (Langeweg, 2011).

 

 

Fighting for talent

Looking at various mining posters, one cannot help but give a whole new meaning to the phrase war on talent — another way to describe employer branding. This is particularly interesting as many of the mining posters from the beginning of the 20th century and onwards resembled war propaganda posters.

But what is propaganda? Propaganda is often defined as “the systematic propagation of official government policies through manipulative communications to the public” (Novin, 2020). Stemming from the activity of religious missionaries in Europe, propaganda presents information “in a provoking style to have its maximum emotional effect” (2020). Features and characteristics that can easily be seen in these and many other posters:

Reading into the posters

Posters such as these are valuable historic sources. However, deciphering their meaning is not always as straightforward as it may seem. In doing so, the viewer has to take three aspects into account:

Visual

This aspect is all about what you can see on the poster

Verbal

This aspect is about what is stated in the poster, both overtly and implied

Contextual

This aspect is all about the background and purpose of the poster

Below you can find a series of posters related to mining and the recruitment of miners. Using the hotspots on the images, you can learn more about their design and the meaning behing it.

Translation: When those working hard rest for a bit, then Tea is their drink. After working hard a reviving rest is not only well-deserved, but also necessary! There is no better remedy to drive away fatigue and thirst than drinking a steaming cup of Tea. Tea gives new strength and therefore the Tea is the real beverage for hard workers! Everywhere where extra stimulation is needed, one drinks Tea! A powerful cup of Tea has a beneficial effect on the body and mind. The muscles relax and a new working spirit is being evoked. In all cantines and workshops, stores and offices, but also in every busy household one should drink a reviving cup of Tea every now and again. And then brewed by opposite Tea.

A. Use one measuring spoon of Tea and put it in the teapot. B. Pour freshly boiling water over. C. Brew for 3 to 5 minutes under a tea-cosy. Before pouring for a bit. Add milk and sugar to taste.

Translation: Emigrate in your own country. A rich future lays in the Dutch mines

Translation: Coal

Translation: I work for you in the Dutch mines

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