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Poetic marketing execution

The folks over at Kissmetrics wrote a post about an underdog brand, Burma Shave, and its marketing campaign during the great depression. Thanks a lot to Chris Boothe for pointing it out to me and suggesting another angle.

In short, during a time before highway billboards, a shaving cream company used  “small” billboards in sequence along the highway to tell a quick, silly story which always encouraged the use of Burma Shave shaving cream. It’s worth a read, the campaign is really  quite funny.

The idea was, motorists would see these billboard stories or poems while driving on the highway. Upon entering the city (or the next time they needed shaving cream) they’d stop into their drug store (then called druggists) and specifically ask for Burma Shave shaving cream. Many did. The campaign was a success.

What I find interesting, is that it would have taken a tremendous amount of planning, implementing and executing to ensure this marketing strategy worked as well as it did.

Hands down the creative is witty, funny and one of a kind. But there is the product side too. The company obviously wanted to sell product. Increased demand would have needed to be planned for, and the shopkeepers would have had to be briefed and onside with the promotion, as even back then, there was only so much shelf space for products in each store. So more Burma Shave in stock would have meant less of another product. Were the shopkeepers getting an excellent margin on the sale of each jar? This all would have had to been planned for months in advance.

The execution of a marketing strategy is often seen (or not seen) as the invisible work. It’s not so glamorous to plan an increase in distribution of product at retail level as it is to come up with a witty and clever campaign. However, the two need to work together flawlessly. What would have happened without the right amount of product at the retail level? Folks would have left the store empty handed, or worse (!) with a competitor’s product. Perhaps messaging like the following would have illustrated a different reality:


*You’ll need to hop over to the Kissmetrics post to understand this inspired message from the Burma Shave Great Depression Campaign.