August 25

What was advertised in a colonial American newspaper 250 years ago this week?

Massachusetts Spy (August 22, 1771).

“BREWSTER’s BEST ground and made CHOCOLATE.”

Name recognition and brand loyalty have become important aspects of modern marketing campaigns, but those strategies have roots that go back centuries.  Consider John Farmer’s advertisement for chocolate in the August 22, 1771, edition of the Massachusetts Spy.  Although he made and sold chocolate at his shop on Fish Street in Boston, Farmer promoted his product as “BREWSTER’s BEST ground and made CHOCOLATE.”

Farmer made Brewster the centerpiece of his advertisement.  Rather than have his own name serve as the headline, as John Cushing did in his advertisement for sugar and William Scott did in his advertisement for Irish linens on the same page, Farmer instead deployed Brewster’s name on its own, in capitals and centered on the first line.  Readers quickly perusing the Massachusetts Spy would have much more easily spotted Brewster’s name than Farmer’s name.  In addition, Farmer described himself as the “successor to the late John Brewster,” signaling to his former customers that they could acquire chocolate of the same quality from him.

He also offered assurances about quality.  Just as customers came to expect the “BEST ground and made CHOCOLATE” from Brewster, they could depend on Farmer meeting the same standards.  He made a promise to that effect, stating that his product was “warranted good and fre[e] from any mixture.”  Farmer may have also expected that others could leverage the quality associated with Brewster’s chocolate.  He sold it “Wholesale or Retail.”  Shopkeepers who purchased it wholesale may have similarly informed their customers that they carried the familiar Brewster’s chocolate made by Brewster’s successor.

When it came to buying chocolate, residents of Boston had many options.  To incite demand for his product, Farmer depended on name recognition and encouraged brand loyalty among consumers in his efforts to convince them to shop “at the sign of the Chocolate-Cakes” rather than anywhere else.

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