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Debut Book Explores Vintage Marketing
Debut Book Explores Vintage Marketing

May 15, 2017

You know how it's just about impossible to ignore the sweet aroma of Cinnabon no matter where you are in the mall or airport? That's no coincidence.

Cinnabon stores are designed so that the oven is built in the front of the shop. It's called scent marketing and it dates back to the 1850s and the aroma of freshly ground coffee wafting throughout A&P grocery stores.

Susquehanna University Assistant Professor of Marketing Robert Williams explores this strategy and others in his newly published book Vintage Marketing Differentiation, which examines the origins of marketing and branding strategies that have proven to be successful for more than a century.

The book showcases Williams' personal collection of hundreds of vintage items—from Coca-Cola bottles to the first example of a money-back guarantee on a Watkins liniment bottle—that illustrate how companies used marketing and branding to differentiate their products from their competitors.

"It's been a labor of love," Williams said.

He traced the beginnings of his collection—which fills his office in the Sigmund Weis School of Business—to when he first met his wife and co-author, Helena.

"She gave me a Heinz pickle charm because pickles are one of my favorite snacks," Williams said. "Hers was from the 1964 New York World's Fair. I later bought an antique original, circa late-1800s."

Williams and his wife share complementary professional interests, too. She is a partner at Mar-Kadam Associates, LLC, a firm that specializes in branding in service industries and entrepreneurial ventures. 

Today, Williams routinely brings items from his vintage collection to his classes. The very first was the Mrs. Potts sad iron, circa 1899, the design of which revolutionized the clothing ironing industry.

"It's sometimes hard for students to grasp intangible marketing strategies," Williams said. "But if they can touch it, it becomes it's like a clue to help them remember."

He also hopes the book gives students an appreciation of how marketing strategies and tactics are developed.

"Maybe the marketing students of today will find something from 100 years ago and adapt those concepts to today," Williams said.

Published by Palgrave, the book is available in hardcover and e-book formats.

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