What was advertised in a colonial American newspaper 250 years ago this week?
“The least favours gratefully acknowledged.”
John Langdon deployed a variety of strategies for marketing his inventory at the “New Book-Store” in Boston in the fall of 1772. Like many other retailers, he emphasized the choices that he provided for consumers. In an advertisement in the October 15 edition of the Massachusetts Spy, the bookseller informed prospective customers that he recently imported a “LARGE and Grand Assortment of BOOKS in all Arts and Sciences.” Those new titles supplemented those he already had in stock. He confidently proclaimed that he now offered “as large a collection as is to be found at any Store in America.” His selection supposedly rivaled what consumers would encounter in shops in urban ports like Charleston, New York, and Philadelphia as well as in the shops operated by local competitors. Langdon intended for that bold claim to double as an invitation for prospective customers to browse in his shop and discover titles of interest among his extensive inventory for themselves.
In addition, thew bookseller made appeals to price and customer service. He explained that he planned to depart for England in the spring. As a result, he wished to sell his inventory over the course of the next several months. To do so, he set low prices. Langdon pledged that “every Gentleman who may please to favour him with their custom may depend on purchasing at a little more than the sterling cost and charges.” In other words, he did not mark up the prices exorbitantly but instead sought to make only a small profit on each book he sold. Langdon concluded his advertisement with a note that the “least favours [are] gratefully acknowledged.” He appreciated any business, no matter how large or small the transaction. Even though he had such a large inventory, no purchase … and no customer … was insignificant. Langdon intended to cultivate relationships with everyone who entered his shop.
Langdon’s advertisement for the New Book-Store was no mere announcement that he sold books. Instead, he crafted a notice that incorporated multiple marketing strategies. He emphasized the size of his inventory, his motivation for setting low prices, and the importance of every customer in his effort to encourage consumers to acquire books from him.