A Shopkeeper and a Historian

“Whilst in ordinary life every shopkeeper is very well able to distinguish between what somebody professes to be and what he really is, our historians have not yet won even this trivial insight. They take every epoch at its word and believe that everything it says and imagines about itself is true.”

-Karl Marx and Frederich Engels, The German Ideology, 1845.

Normally if you ask me which historians have influenced me the most, I would give you a list of scholars like Studs Terkel or Warren Susman who have written fascinating books and found helped me understand history and historical sources in profoundly different ways. But after encountering this quote from Marx and Engels the other day, I have to add an anonymous and imaginary shopkeeper to the top of my list. Continue reading “A Shopkeeper and a Historian”

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Advertising Battlefield: Cigarettes v. Candy

There are a ton of good stories about the advertising industry and their never-ending quest to sell things to consumers. Here’s one of my favorites.

When George Washington Hill became the president of the American Tobacco Company in 1927, the company was floundering a little bit. Long past its glory days in the 1900’s when it had a monopoly in the American cigarette trade, the company was losing sales to rivals like the R.J. Reynolds Company (makers of Camels) and Liggett & Meyers (Chesterfields). American Tobacco had its own brand too, Lucky Strike cigarettes, which it had been selling since 1917. But when Hill became president, he wasn’t satisfied with their sales numbers. Lucky Strike would be number one or bust!

fannie wardHill personally oversaw a lot of the advertising that was created for Lucky Strike (even though he had top advertising men like Albert Lasker in his employ). One of their early and more successful advertising strategies was to target women. Hill first tried hiring famous opera singers and actresses to endorse Lucky Strike saying that the cigarette was “light on their throat” or didn’t cause any coughing to try to make the brand seem more mild/enjoyable than others. That worked pretty well, but Hill still wasn’t satisfied. Women were a “gold mine” and he knew that more ads could convince more of them to start smoking Luckies. Continue reading “Advertising Battlefield: Cigarettes v. Candy”