Vintage Advertising: Chew on This!

Vintage ad for Wrigley's Gum
Gum guy: One of Wrigley’s first advertising icons was “Spearman,” introduced in 1915.

Mention Wrigley and you think gum, right? William Wrigley Jr. counted on just that. Son of a soap manufacturer, Wrigley was born in 1862 Philadelphia. A prankster who was expelled from school, Wrigley, at 13, began selling Wrigley’s Scouring Soap on the streets. Later he traveled from town to town, convincing merchants to stock his father’s soap. At 29, he struck out on his own heading to Chicago with $32 and a dream of running his own business. First, he sold soap, offering a free can of baking powder with every sale. Trouble was, baking powder outstripped demand for soap, so Wrigley went into the baking powder business. To spur sales, he again offered an incentive — chewing gum. The strategy worked. But again chewing gum proved more popular than the product he was selling. Wrigley saw an opportunity. In 1893, he introduced two now-iconic brands — Wrigley’s Spearmint® and Juicy Fruit®. What set him apart from other gum makers at the time was his use of advertising. Through newspaper and magazine ads, highway billboards, and other venues, he built public acceptance and awareness of the Wrigley’s brand. More and more consumers began asking for Wrigley’s gums. By 1908, sales of Wrigley’s Spearmint topped $1 million a year. In 1915, he organized the first-ever national direct-marketing campaign, shipping sticks of gum to every address listed in U.S. phone books. When he retired in 1925, Wrigley had transformed a small business selling soap into the top chewing gum manufacturer in the world. “Anyone can make gum,” he once said. “The trick is to sell it.”