So, how did promotional marketing get its start?
The Promotional Products Industry began in Coshocton, Ohio.
The man responsible for this was Jasper Freemont Meek. In 1886, as a way to utilize his newspaper’s printing press and workforce while they lay idle between weekly editions he approached a friend of his, Mr. Cantwell of Cantwell Shoes, about an idea to increase customer turnover, name recognition and sales figures.
The idea was to place the phrase “Buy Cantwell’s Shoes” on burlap book bags, which he thought of after seeing a schoolboy dropping his books in the Main Street mud. Giving them away free to children meant that eventually the bags were seen all over town.
Mr. Meek and Mr. Cantwell both gained from the result. Jasper Meek followed the Cantwell Shoes campaign with other products including horse blankets, marble bags, Cobb pipes, fly swatters and wooden rulers all imprinted with the messages of local merchants.
He was very successful…!
This did not go unnoticed. In 1888, another (rival) newspaper owner, Harry D. Beach, adapted his presses to promotional merchandise resulting in his company – known as The Standard Advertising Co. – having to relocate to new premises to cope with the demand. Standard also introduced new methods of printing and soon the two companies from Ohio would become world leaders in promotional products, attracting artists and skilled workers from Europe and America to descend on Coshocton to gain work in illustration and other advertising mediums.
During periods of the early 1900’s, these three companies merged, separated and expanded with frequent improvements and patent applications being made all the time. At times, half the working population of Coshocton were employed within one of these businesses.
The rest is history…