Before Albert Lasker advertisements tended to be crude, raising awareness or reinforcing a brand name. Many ads were not much more than offers to purchase something, with no overarching idea. Lasker used the emerging science of psychology and budding technology of radio to radically change advertising.
Born in Germany, Lasker moved to the US as a baby. He was raised in Texas and, as a teenager worked on the Congressional campaign for Republican Robert Hawley. In the late 1800s, Texans still remembered the Civil War and Republicans stood little chance of election. However, thanks to some clever politicking and a little luck Hawley won.
Lasker then moved to Chicago joining the prestigious advertising firm Lord & Thomas. He became a partner at the age of 23 and outright purchased the firm at the age of 32.
The success of his ad campaigns is legendary. Many Lasker ads focused on women, on the assumption they controlled purse strings. Traditional ad campaigns usually focused on men, on the incorrect assumption that as primary breadwinners (at that time) they must also be the decisionmakers related to spending.
Few women smoked and he devised a campaign that Lucky Strike cigarettes helped keep them slender.
Lasker realized nobody likes to do dishes and created a campaign that Palmolive soap is good for the hands, focusing on the positive.
A spinoff from paper giant Kimberly-Clark created a new type of absorbent material. They sold it to the army for use in WWI. French nurses found it worked great as a menstrual pad. Kimberly Clark saw the market opportunity but found the concept embarrassing. Lasker branded the waste-paper product “cellucotton,” so it sounded natural, and created a wholly-owned subsidiary, the International Cellucotton Products Paper Company with one brand, Kotex. He branded the menstrual pads “sanitary napkins” and marketed a box where women could put in a coupon and receive a pack without talking to men. He also created a curriculum for teachers to explain to girls how to use pads. The modern menstrual hygiene market was created.
He branded the first sports stadium, Wrigley Field.
After a betting scandal, he invented a “baseball commissioner” to restore confidence in the integrity of professional baseball.
Food & Politics
Californians were cutting down orange trees for lack of interest. He invented the idea that oranges should be juiced and that orange juice is a vital part of breakfast. Then he created the Sunkist brand. Demand for orange juice boomed.
Raisins were never especially popular until the California Associated Raisin Company (CARC) approached Lasker. He rebranded the company Sun-Maid and sold the raisins in small boxes sent to lunch with students. Sales boomed. How could a company sell a new recipe they had for wheat and rice? Puffed Wheat and Puffed Rice became breakfast cereals.
He worked for Republican Warren Harding and focused on the 22 million women who just won the right to vote. Harding won by a landslide.
Kimberly-Clark asked if he could find a use for the thin paper used in WWI gas masks; Kleenex was born.
Lasker decided to become the sole sponsor and promote a radio show, Amos & Andy. His client, Pepsodent, paid him in stock. Sales doubled and became the second-largest shareholder in the company.
His third wife was heavily involved in the Birth Control Federation, a group founded by Margaret Sanger. The public did not like the name. In response, Lasker rebranded the group Planned Parenthood.
After retiring with a then staggering sum of $45 million he became a philanthropist, donating heavily to the American Society for the Control of Cancer. They struggled for donations until Lasker suggested a name change, The American Cancer Society. After convincing a popular radio show to do a segment on cancer, a dreaded concept, donations “flooded in.”