Give it time and everything old can be new again! 06/27/2000

Almost everywhere you look these days feverish activity and expenses are going into the effort of getting to know individual customers. Very often, particularly for packaged goods marketers, the first challenge is simple identifying those individual customers. For many years, aggregate research data and share of market measurements have served to provide adequate information to stay ahead of competition and build continuing growth. But, no more. In a market environment that is not only segmented but downright fragmented, capturing, analyzing and acting on individual customer information is quickly become the “price of entry”

I have a McCall’s magazine dated March 1931. Virtually every ad includes a direct response offer of some kind. Back in the 1920’s and 30’s, packaged goods in the form of recognizable national brands were just beginning to gain a foothold in the “modern” North American household. The objective of that day was to get potential customers to give these wonderful new products a first-time trial. An interesting by-product was the concurrent capture of customer names and addresses. Putting priority on today’s objective of capturing (and retaining) prospective customers, I thought it might be fun to go back and take a look at how it was done…way back when. And all without a single 1-800 number!

  1. Free (or almost free) Samples
  • Pond’s Cold Cream – send ten cents for Pond’s four preparations.
  1. Free Information


  • Bristol Myers – send for the free booklet “To Clarice in quest of her youth” which explains the many benefits of Sal Hepatica,
  • General Foods Jell-O– free Complete Jell-O Recipe Book” and the new Lime Flavor Jell-o Booklet. Enclose twenty-five cents to receive six individual molds,
  • Corn Products Refining Company Mazola Salad Oil – send ten cents in stamps or coin for your copy of “The Modern Method of Preparing Delightful Foods”,
  • Colgate – free tube of Ribbon Dental Cream with booklet “How to Keep Teeth and Mouth Healthy”,
  • Sunkist Orange Juice – send for free copy of “Feeding the Child for Health”
  • Cutex Nail Polish – send twelve cents for the Cutex Manicure Set containing sufficient preparations for six complete manicures.
  • The Quaker Oats Company – send for free booklet “The Truth About Bran”
  • Clark Grave Vault – ask for booklet “A Modern Interpretation of Age-Old Reverence”. It answers every question you may wish to ask concerning the Clark Grave Vault and tells why distinguished families invariably select the Clark
  1. Other Incentive
  • Wood bury’ Facial Soap  – send ten cents for a trial cake of soap and samples of two Creams and Face Powder. Plus request for counsel (tick boxes) on oily skin; coarse pores; dry skin; blackheads; wrinkles; sallow skin; flabby skin; pimples
  • Lambert Pharmacal – Listerine  – send four cents in stamps and the wrapper of a Listerine bottle for a mounted print of the cute kids illustrated in the ad
  • The Cream of Wheat Corporation  – Free – a wonderful child’s game. All children lve the H.C.B. Club with a secret meaning. It makes a jolly game of their morning cereal. All the wonder working material is free–badges, gold stars and big new posters with stirring color pictures of childhood heroes–Joan of Arc, Roland and Oliver, Richard the Lion Hearted. We will also send valuable child health booklet. Plus tick box for sample of Cream of Wheat.
  • Eagle Brand Milk –  – $25 for every recipe selected for use in cookbook. Get free booklet “New Magic in the Kitchen” when you enter
  • Max Factor – – enclose ten cents for 48-page book “The New Art of Society Make-Up, personal complexionanalysis and make-up color harmony chart. Fill in color of eyes, lashes, hair, age. Tick off color and type of complexion

Did you pick up a few customer relationship building ideas? Consider testing response ads? See the benefit in adding value to the product through information?

There’s just one problem. Similar to the Ancient Mariner who lamented “Water, water everywhere,/Nor any drop to drink.”, the ancients among marketers of the 20’s and 30’s might have lived to moan, “Names, names everywhere,/Nor any did we keep!. Make sure it doesn’t happen to you.

Charles de Gruchy remembers the way it was

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