Small Talk Tag: Marketing

Crack the Code

Little Orphan Annie Secret Decoder Pin

Decades before Saturday morning cartoons or video games, kids and families would gather around the radio to listen to dramatically narrated stories, called serials. One of the popular serials of the 1930s followed the adventures of Orphan Annie and her dog Sandy. Even back then, no popular children’s program was without its share of branded merchandise and premium toys. The classic 1983 movie A Christmas Story depicted the main character Ralphie impatiently waiting to receive his Little Orphan Annie Secret Society decoder pin in the mail.

This 1938 edition of the Telematic Radio Orphan Annie Pin has two holes that reveal corresponding numbers and letters on a dial. The codes read during the end of the radio program could be deciphered by turning the dial to reveal the secret letter. Contrary to the disappointing Ovaltine message received by Ralphie in the movie, the actual codes gave a clue to what would happen in the next Radio Orphan Annie program. Visitors to the museum’s “Toys from the Attic: Stories of American Childhood” exhibit can view this pin along and decipher a message of their own (and we promise it’s not a crummy commercial)!

A Match Made In (Marketing) Heaven

texaco toy service station

Was your choice of breakfast cereal ever swayed by the prize inside? If so, you were responding to a marketing campaign featuring toys. From the first Kellogg’s cereal promotion to the Ovaltine secret decoder, toys have long been used as promotional products. In the 1960s, Texaco teamed up with the toy company Buddy-“L” for one such marketing strategy.

Buddy-“L” produced a plastic toy Texaco service station set, complete with tiny oil cans and a sign for the restrooms. Texaco placed advertisements in numerous newspapers and magazines promoting an exclusive offer for the station set: adults could pick up a special coupon at their local Texaco station, to buy a toy station set for a discount by mail. Texaco hoped that customers would get their cars checked out while picking up a coupon and Buddy-“L” hoped that regular Texaco customers would purchase the discounted toy. It was a win-win situation: Buddy-“L” sold more toys, Texaco got more customers, and kids nationwide got to play station attendant. Now that’s a match made in (marketing) heaven!