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Marketing Gum, Making Meanings: Wrigley in North America, 1890—1930

DANIEL ROBINSON
Enterprise & Society
Vol. 5, No. 1 (MARCH 2004), pp. 4-44
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/23700378
Page Count: 41
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Marketing Gum, Making Meanings: Wrigley in North America, 1890—1930
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Abstract

This essay is a business and cultural history of Wrigley marketing in North America from the 1890s until the early 1930s. Wrigley relied on wholesalers at a time when consumer goods makers were expanding their sales forces. A prolific advertiser, Wrigley provided favorable terms to retailers carrying chewing gum, countering the view that advertising, by enabling direct communication between manufacturer and consumer, diminished retailer clout in the chain of distribution. Wrigley advertising constructed meanings on multiple levels, discussed here with the theoretical tools of liminality and semiotics. The text of Wrigley ads championed relief for two modern conditions: indigestion and stress. The imagery, mainly that of the liminal "Spearman," evoked notions of unworldly escape and infantile nostalgia. The ads were richly polysemic. Accordingly, Wrigley's widespread popularity and market dominance by 1930 should be assessed in terms of both marketing function and representational process.

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