Boomers Were All Washed Up

During the boomer years, bar soaps were consumer products that were heavily advertised and promoted. As with toothpaste, hair products and laundry detergent, advertisers knew that boomer families had a history of staying loyal to specific soap brands, and they wanted to do everything in their power to win and keep that loyalty.

From the 1940s, ’50s, and into the ’60s, the advertising emphasis for many of these soaps was mostly about beauty and skin; using these products was going to make your skin smoother and make you look younger. Ads often mentioned lotions or special ingredients that gave their products that little something extra that the others did not have, and often cited scientists or doctors in the process. Surely the ads were not going to mention sweat and body cleansing for women who dusted the house in dresses and high heels? These ads were aimed not at the working class father, but at new boomer mothers. More than a dozen brands were marketed in that manner, including Lux, Camay, Dove and Palmolive, to mention a few. Ivory soap went its own way, sticking with their decades-old slogan of “99 and 44/100 percent pure.” This soap’s appeal played on boomer mothers’ desire for the best products to use on their new babies, but while they were at it, the ads would suggest, the soap was great for mom’s complexion, too.

Another exception to marketing soap as part of a beauty routine was by Dial soap. Dial, introduced in 1948 by Armour & Company (yes, the meat packers), was a true boomer product. By 1953, the company adopted the slogan most boomers will remember, “Aren’t you glad you use Dial? Don’t you wish everybody did?” Billed as an anti-bacterial soap, their ad marketing path went directly to the heart — or rather, nose — of the problem of daily cleanliness. They did, however, point to special chemical agents called “Super AT-7” that claimed made their anti-bacterial soap more effective than other brands.

The company was sold to Greyhound (yes, the bus company) in 1970 and since then was spun off into a consumer product division of its own. Unfortunately for Dial, the FDA banned some of the ingredients used in the manufacturing of the soap in the 1970s. Researchers were able to reformulate the soap with government-accepted ingredients and it continues to be sold today.

Mister Boomer’s household was loyal to toothpaste, but bar soap was a different story. The family seemed to stick with one brand for a few months, and then went on to another. Mister B thinks it probably had something to do with what was on sale that particular week. Mister B recalls seeing Ivory early on, when his sister was very young, then at one point or another, Lux and Lifebuoy and others. In later years, Irish Spring made an appearance, as did a bar just for his mother’s use: Dove. His father kept a bar of Lava soap in the basement, by the laundry sink, for cleaning up after car or yard work.

Dial soap was an exception for the family in that Mister B’s household did use it for an extended period of time. It mattered what was in the soap dish because the one bar was for the entire family’s use. Mister B recalls the yellow-orange color of the Dial bar that came in the gold wrapper. It was like it was a the precursor to the 1970s Harvest Gold rush. The smell was not to Mister B’s liking, but what his father bought was what the family used. Consequently, Mister B didn’t buy a bar of soap until he moved out.

Were you held captive to using the one family soap, boomers, or did you have your own?

Boomers Get Personalized

Dear (YOUR FULL NAME HERE),
Have you noticed the preponderance of personalization permeating your personal snail mail and email these days? If so, you are far from alone. Once the purview of mail order businesses before they morphed into the world of e-commerce, now there is hardly an offer of any kind — whether delivered by the post office or into your inbox — that does not employ some form of name personalization.

Mister Boomer has received an increasing number of these lately, including charity requests for money, outright “cold call” sales offers (everything from auto warranty extenders to credit cards and cemetery plots!) or companies he has previously done business with thanking him for earlier business and begging for more. Mister B has observed, with some curiosity, that they fall into roughly three categories: First, the more traditional approach sticks with a formal letter greeting opening with a full, “Mister Boomer” personalization. These tend to not repeat the name personalization in every paragraph, but do generally conclude a plea by calling out the name. Secondly, there are those that may start out with a courteous salutation, but quickly transform into what can only be described as, “there, I said ‘hello,’ now we can call you by your first name.” Can you imagine that, (YOUR FIRST NAME HERE)? You are on first-name basis with people you don’t even know! The third are the ones that make no pretensions, and go directly to first name mentions throughout. These last two particularly irk Mister Boomer. Does it do the same for you, (YOUR FIRST NAME HERE)?

Of course, it wasn’t always this way. Once upon a time “personalization” was reserved for people we actually knew, either in terms of correspondence through the mail, or by in-person relationships. For many boomers, perhaps their first personalized letter came from Santa Claus. After writing a list of requests to jolly old St. Nick, many post offices offered a personalization service reply, direct from Santa, of course, mailed back to little Susie or Jimmy. Other than birthday cards from relatives, it was more than likely the first time they received a letter that was personalized. For Mister Boomer, one of the earliest memories of personalization is from an in-person interaction. When his mother walked him to the bank and opened a savings book account with him, each time he returned to the bank to make a deposit, the teller would cheerfully ask, “How are you today, Master Boomer?” Once Mister B turned 18, the bank tellers called him “Mister Boomer,” a practice that did not end until he moved from the area and changed banks. When he began frequenting local establishments in his twenties, he might be greeted with a friendly, “Mister Boomer” shout-out by a bartender or restaurant hostess or owner. When the relationship was solid enough, the correct etiquette for those situations, so we were taught, was to tell them in response to call you whatever first name or nickname you preferred, prefacing the response with, “please,” of course.

Boomers were taught to respect their elders and people in authority. Boomers would never call a friend’s parent by their first name. You didn’t do that when you were young, right (YOUR FIRST NAME)? Some later-year boomers may recall a “cool” teacher asking the class to call him by his first name (these types were usually males, for some reason), but that was never an option in the 1950s and ’60s. Teachers were always addressed as Mr., Mrs. or Miss, never Pete, Cheryl or Kathy. This may be one of the first instances Mister Boomer can conjure where name personalization precluded a longer-term association.

By the 1970s, the atmosphere became more relaxed for some boomers. Aunts, uncles, friends of parents and others allowed boomers under the age of 21 to call them by their first name, though it was still the exception to the rule. It was around this time that direct mail began its descent into the world of name personalization. Mister B thinks it may have started in earnest with that company that used to try to sell magazines through the mail by having an annual sweepstakes. All you had to do, (YOUR FULL NAME), was look inside the envelope and return the winning ticket. That’s right, the personalization started on the outside envelope. Once inside, the company quickly switched to a first-name basis, imploring the reader to make their order of magazines and send in the sweepstakes entry, or else miss out on winning more money than they dreamed possible. Mister Boomer’s mother used the sweepstakes as her opportunity to renew her Good Housekeeping or McCall’s magazines, so she wouldn’t miss her chance at becoming a big money winner. It worked in her case.

In a world where some top elected officials call other government officials by their first name, or worse, nickname, is it any wonder that this fake personalization practice continues to spread? To make matters worse, marketing data states that personalization works: people are more apt to answer email when their name appears in the subject line, and act on emails more often when their name is used in the body of the text. Even worse, Adage reports that in a recent survey of marketers, a full one-third said the most important tool for marketing in the near future is personalization. Thank goodness Mister Boomer readers have more sense than the average blog reader. (YOUR FIRST NAME HERE), you’d never fall for a blatant exploitation such as that, would you? Just because someone called you by name, doesn’t mean you’d share the info with all your friends and family and forward a blog URL through your social media, right (YOUR FIRST NAME HERE)?

Well fellow boomer (YOUR FIRST NAME HERE), how do you feel about this ongoing personalization trend? Is it “thumb’s up,” “thumb’s down” or “Eh? Makes no difference.”