Chain Mail
The Gorilla in the Boardroom

Selling Soap

[A clip from The Hucksters that Russell posted ages ago.]

Our exciting new 'recontextualised serialisation' of The Shocking History of Advertising!  begins today with Thomas J. Barratt, who was almost certainly the inspiration for the larger-than-life client in the clip above:

As long ago as 1789 Andrew Pears had devised his transparent soap, but until the middle of the nineteenth century it had been very modestly advertised. In 1865, when the firm's annual bill for advertising was £80, a young man of twenty-four, Thomas J. Barratt, became a partner in the firm, and ushered in a vigorous new regime.

[On Economies of Scale]

One of the many 'fathers of modern advertising', Barratt is on record as saying "Any fool can make soap. It takes a clever man to sell it." When he finally took over control of Pears he raised his expenditure on advertising to between £100,000 and £130,000. In justification he never tired of pointing out that he was enabled to sell soap 30 per cent more cheaply than if he had not advertised it.

[On One Word Equity]

Baratt's policy was summed up with perfect simplicity in one of his own advertisments: 'How do you spell soap?' - 'Why P-E-A-R-S, of course.' 'Pears' and 'soap' had to be linked so deeply and ineluctably in the public mind that it would be impossible to think of one without the other. Ultimately, the public would be so conditioned to the association that they would go into a shop and instead of asking for soap would ask for 'Pear's Soap' or even for 'Pears'.

That was, and is, the advertising man's dream.

[On Low Attention Processing]

It accounts for the tens of thousands of tedious and apparently futile signs bearing the names of household products - notably the indestructible enamel signs which stud the approaches to railway stations. It is wrong to say that no one reads them; they are not there to be read, but to be absorbed, just as a capsule is not meant to be tasted, but to be swallowed.

[On Behavioural Engineering the Herd and Idea Linking and Embedding]

The visual attack did not satisfy Barratt, however. He decided he must have a catch-phrase which would make the whole country say 'Pear's Soap'. His staff were invited to nominate the commonest phrases in daily use. Inevitably, somebody suggested 'Good Morning.'

The result was the notorious 'Good Morning! Have you used Pear's Soap?' which scourged two continents. There were many who never forgave Thomas Barratt for debasing this traditional, friendly greeting. The sensitive shrank from saying 'Good Morning', knowing that it would only spark off the exasperating counter-phrase in the mind of the person addressed.

Disturbingly prescient stuff, covering so many of the hot topics of today, in just a couple of pages written over half a century ago. And it's all like this!

More soonest.