Henry VII / Sure Had Trouble / Short Term Wives / Long Term Stubble / Burma Shave

Way back in the 20’s, an ailing US company named Burma Shave was trying to increase sales of their liniment.

But the product was an ointment for the skin, designed to relieve pain and that’s not something people need each day.

Clearly, they hadn’t yet discovered that if you can ruin people’s diet and therefore their health, they get sicker all the time and so you can sell them medicine every single day, but that was to follow in years that followed.

Not the point though.

Burma Shave decided to start selling a shaving cream – because hey, that’s something people need every day. Not a bad idea.

In order to market the cream, they came up with the idea to put signs by the side of the road, in short series.

Each sign had one strophe of a little verse, and as you’d drive by you would see the thing to completion, always ending with ‘Burma Shave’.

For example:

Use this cream / a day or two / then don’t call her / she’ll call you / Burma Shave

It was a clever campaign, and it worked like a charm. The signs were used for over four decades, and Burma Shave became a household name.

At some point in the 50’s they started including more public-awareness-type messages, to warn against the dangers of speeding and drink driving.

Drinking drivers / nothing worse / they put / the quart / before the hearse / Burma-Shave

It’s interesting to see that long before advertising became a system, and subject to near-scientific rigour, this campaign used all the right tricks.

– Repetition and multiple exposures: those signs were everywhere, and the punch-punch-punch of distributing the message across several signs is something that is used in practically any advertising campaign that works.

– Relevant and topical: playing on themes like dating and romance was a sure-fire way to connect with the mind of men, their target audience.

– Helpful, responsible and current: as cars started getting faster and more accidents happened, they used their marketing to raise awareness of the dangers. That doesn’t mean people necessarily started driving more carefully, but it sure helps a brand to become more liked which is part of the buying process.

– Humour: While some were a bit cheesy, others far-fetched and some over the top, the lighthearted nature and sense of humour worked like a sort of ear-worm, lodging the brand into the mind of the public.

Clever, no?

Their accountants sure thought so.

It wasn’t until electric razors became mainstream that they went out of business.


Look at these daily emails I send out.

They use exactly these principles, plus a whole bunch more.

And, it’s a system that works.

So if you want to learn how to do that yourself, I’ll show you how.

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