Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Rhyming Signs of the Times: Burma-Shave

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Whether you're creating Real Estate Signs or other kinds of business signs, it's always been a good idea to make them stand out in some way. A catchy slogan, a memorable image - they make for great advertising. As you know, I love vintage advertisements. And even though I generally write about print ads, I also love old advertising signs and billboards.

One of the most famous advertising sign campaigns - and one of the most successful - was the Burma-Shave campaign. Burma-Shave was a men's shaving cream first marketed in 1925. The original product, a lotion, had been advertised as having special ingredients that came from, among other places, Burma. A lot of medicines and cosmetics of that era (and earlier) implied that they contained exotic ingredients - such as Pompeian [sic] Massage Cream and Gouraud's Oriental Cream and Magic Beautifier. But this didn't seem to be working for the Burma-Vita Company.

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Instead, they turned to a new kind of advertising sign: small signs, consisting only of words, read in sequence to form a funny little advertising jingle. From the mid 1920s through the early 1960s, everyone who had taken a trip somewhere in the United States knew about Burma-Shave signs. They weren't known for their fancy imagery - there wasn't any. Catchy slogans - well, yes: ones that rhymed. What Burma-Shave was famous for was its little light verses - funny little poems that they very cleverly broke up into several two to three word signs placed in sequence along the highway. The earliest signs weren't rhymed, but by 1929 they were. Usually there were six Burma-Shave signs placed along the edge of the road, visible to car riders. The last line - the punch line - was always "Burma-Shave." For example, one of the most famous ones goes:

Does your husband/Misbehave/Grunt and grumble/Rant and rave/Shoot the brute some/Burma-Shave

Humor is such a brilliant way of catching people's attention in advertising. If you can make people laugh, they will associate your product with the great feeling of laughing at a good joke. And the writers of those Burma-Shave poems certainly knew just how to do that. They also worked in road safety tips such as:

If you dislike/Big traffic fines/Slow down/Till you/Can read our signs/Burma-Shave

Over the decades the number of signs decreased, and by the middle of the 1960s the Burma-Shave signs were gone forever. But they will always be remembered for being some of the most effective commercial signs ever created.

Disclaimer: This is a sponsored post but all the views and points are my own.

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