Saturday, June 16, 2012

Frog in Your Throat: Early 20th Century viral marketing

Retronaut just posted some wonderful old packaging for Frog in Your Throat, an early 20th Century patent medicine by Philadelphia's Hance Brothers & White.

What I really love is the included series of marketing postcards. 

I often indulge myself in a smug chuckle when I hear people bemoan the present day's media saturation as if it were something very recent. It was actually the Victorians who began the onslaught, and by 100 years ago, cities and towns were literally plastered with ads. You can still see the remnants of whole side of buildings painted with logos, and people on the street would have encountered endless posters, handbills, and even human ads in sandwich boards on every corner.

Their newspapers, of course, were full of ads. But so was their mailbox. 

You see, viral marketing is nothing new. From the late 1800s on, people went absolutely nuts over postcards. Cheap to mail, and decorated with interesting views, pithy sayings, or even a custom photograph, they made communicating with friends and family almost effortless. Like greeting cards, they allowed the sender to take ownership of someone else's creative idea and participate in popular memes.

"Memes"? Yes. They existed before Richard Dawkins coined the term. And with the mail being the social media of the day, is it any surprise that companies soon started virally marketing their brands through series of promotional post cards?

And so the Frog in Your Throat mascot became an early viral marketing star, interacting with the fashionable ladies of the day in a rakish manner:

Think of him as an ancestor of Looney Tunes' Michigan J. Frog and good old Kermit.

You can see more Frog in Your Throat marketing at Kosmic Dreams.

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