Holly Johnson: Marketing important to George Hormel

Published 6:30 am Saturday, January 30, 2021

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I am grateful to the Austin Daily Herald and Austin Living publications for giving me the opportunity to share news and ads from the Hormel Historic Home locally. Advertising is a necessary part of growing a business, and although the industry is changing, I personally find value in tangible print resources.

In the early days of his company, George Hormel only had print options and he advertised regularly through local publications.  He even made some of his own marketing documents at home using a hectograph.

Reluctantly, George eventually invested in national marketing through publications like the Ladies’ Home Journal.  “Back in 1910, I had succumbed to an advertising agency to the extent of taking a minuscule advertisement in The Ladies’ Home Journal, which cost, for the year, $7,500.  We had renewed the contract each succeeding year in order to support our specialty men, who established an exclusive agency for our ‘Dairy Brand’ product with the leading merchant of towns of over 5,000 inhabitants. The idea helped the merchant establish the brand. He would say, “‘It is advertised in The Ladies’ Home Journal.’”

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I mention this now because a donor recently sent us three editions of the Ladies’ Home Journal from 1911.  Two of the magazines feature an ad from Geo. A. Hormel and Company.  The text driven ads told of the quality product that was produced in “the heart of southern Minnesota-where pure crystal springs abound.”  I imagine the ladies who enjoyed the highly regarded publication were also the ones managing their kitchens and would have appreciated knowing about the Hormel company’s commitment to excellence.

Many years later, Jay Hormel told his father that he had invested a half million dollars to advertise the Flavor Sealed brand in more national outlets. George exclaimed in consternation, “You did what?” as recorded in his autobiography.  His rant is continued in the book in case you are interested in reading more of George’s colorful reaction to that ad buy.

The Ladies’ Home Journal was founded in 1883 and was regarded as a leading trendsetter for female readers.  Known for its literary content and its philosophy regarding truth in advertising, the magazine was a leader in its category for over 130 years.  I plan to absorb much from these giant time capsules of early 20th century culture to further my understanding of the era.

We are fortunate to still have our own long running and history preserving publication in Austin.  Through information, stories, and ads, the Herald will preserve the present into the future.