Opinion: History is a good teacher

Case studies fascinate me. I am intrigued watching the world as new products, television programs and feature films launch into our marketplace, sometimes with great success and oftentimes with failure....
December 1, 1997

Case studies fascinate me. I am intrigued watching the world as new products, television programs and feature films launch into our marketplace, sometimes with great success and oftentimes with failure.

With licensed properties striving to be branded and to have carryover power to future generations, it is helpful to look at how some of our earliest and most recognizable trademarks also became part of our culture.

How does a brand become a lifestyle and a true icon?

From pioneers who were passionate about their products came the birth of their companies, all guided by their vision. These creators possessed an in-depth understanding of their products, their many attributes and their benefits, which led them to guide their advertising efforts in unique, but visionary ways. They knew their products and how to reach their audience better than anyone else. Using their own versions of market research, these company founders believed not only in their ideas, but in ingenious advertising methods, creative merchandising and grassroots sales promotions.

In the early 1900s, the founder of the ever-popular Buster Brown shoe company targeted children directly, recognizing that they held the power and influence in the consumer buying process for shoes. The Buster Brown character helped to solidify the brand with kids. The company’s founder realized that, as children grew up, their familiary with the brand would carry over into adulthood.

In 1897, Campbell’s Soup, whose identifiable label color was chosen by gut instinct, identified women as its primary target market. The company segmented the marketplace with strategies for young single women, newlyweds, moms and seniors.

To reach its market segments, Campbell’s devised a somewhat unconventional means of target marketing. Recognizing that women relied heavily on trolley cars, it created child-oriented appeals, advertising its products on trolley cars in cities nationwide. Spanning three years and almost 400 cities, the Campbell’s trolley car program was a huge success.

For Coca-Cola, sales promotions allowed consumers to sample the product. Branding-which built upon a distinctive bottle with packaging that traveled everywhere and specialized glasses that were identifiable at soda fountains-was all based upon one simple product benefit: the product was delicious and refreshing. With advertising that continues to integrate the product into our lives, and the simplicity of the Coca-Cola message echoed from its original founder, Coca-Cola has been woven into the fabric of our lives.

Hershey’s founder, born in poverty, built the Hershey Chocolate Corporation to provide an affordable, simply wrapped nickel candy bar. He built the Hershey name by relying on the self-promoting recognizable packaging, mass production and mass distribution, which made the product readily available. Hershey, who believed solidly in his concept, sought to make a difference in the world and poured profits back into the community.

There is no doubt that it takes a confident and determined leader, who is not only driven by an idea, but is guided by an overall vision to make a difference in the world, and to represent and direct any campaign. Driven from the heart, not just out to make a buck, the modern breed of company pioneers should focus their efforts and energy into targeting the newly grounded, critical consumer. Perhaps many campaigns, products and programs have failed in recent years because companies are not heeding the lessons taught by earlier marketing pioneers.

Debbie Weber is the president of Multi-Media Promotions, which specializes in developing targeted marketing campaigns and creative programs that tap into entertainment licensing.

About The Author


Brand Menu