Promo History Lesson: How Promotional Products Took Wrigley From Small Soap Company to Chewing Gum Empire
Sit down, kids. Today, Promo Marketing is going to tell you a story about how one of the most recognizable brands in the world became the powerhouse it is today thanks to promotional products. Some of you, especially those from the Midwest, might know this story. But others might be a little surprised.
This is the story about how Wrigley—yes, the candy company that has a baseball stadium named after it—grew to what it is today because of promotional products. It was one particular promotional product, actually: chewing gum.
Before you get all, "What? Of course they sold gum! That's what they're known for! This is stupid," allow us to finish.
The Wm. Wrigley Jr. Company started when William Wrigley Jr. moved to Chicago and started selling Wrigley's Scouring Soap. As a little gift or incentive to his customers, he'd include baking powder in the order. After a little while, Wrigley found that the baking powder was more popular than his soap.
So, being the clued-in businessman that he was, he switched his company's focus from soap to baking powder. When he sold the baking powder, he'd give his customers two packs of chewing gum with each purchase as a promotional giveaway. Once again, the promotional item ended up being more popular than the actual thing he was selling.
And, if you want to talk about staying power, it was Juicy Fruit that he was selling. This was back in 1893. Well, that's when it was called "Juicy Fruit" at least. Wrigley was using gum as a promotional product since 1891, according to Mars. A few months after the company officially launched Juicy Fruit, it launched the Wrigley's Spearmint gum that's still in vending machines and on grocery store counters.
History buffs might know this story already, but for those who never delved deep into the Wm. Wrigley Jr. Company archives, this is a fascinating story. It's also a valuable lesson for the promotional products industry.
It shows that your products matter. Customers are absolutely paying attention. End-users care about the product they're receiving as a free giveaway.
It also serves as a reminder to not be afraid of change. Just because you had been doing something one way, or thought you'd always be selling the same product, doesn't mean you couldn't (or shouldn't) change things up every now and then. Sometimes a pivot could be what takes you from a modestly successful baking powder company to worldwide conglomerate.
Hey, it worked for Wrigley.