Big Ben Appropriation: . . . . . . .$97.000.00
Advertising to the Consumer: . .$75.000.00
" " " Trade: . . . . . . . . . . .22.000.00
Other Lines ---America, Ironclad, Bull's Eye: 22.500.00
Emergencies: . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .3.000.00
In March 1908 we submitted to the Board of Directors plans for a national advertising campaign on Alarm clocks. This report suggested that "there were a great many clocks to be sold by the man who would have the courage to make one at a price and then tell the public about it" and called attention to the possibilities of the new clock just designed by Mr. Kern, and referred to as "Big Ben".
At that time it was proposed to offer Big Ben at 80¢ to the wholesaler, $1.00 to the retailer and $1.50 to the consumer and to market the clock through jewelers only. We figured then that with a minimum appropriation of $30.000 a year (advertising to the consumer only) we ought to be able to sell 1000 Big Ben a day after three months, if not before, and increase it to 2000 within a year. This report had been made on the strength of the original model, but as soon as the first finished clocks made their appearance, it was decided that they would easily bring a higher price and the following scale was established: $1.10 to the wholesaler, $1.25 to the retailer, $2.00 to the consumer. For a year and a half Big Ben was sold on that basis, the largest monthly total on record reaching 5225 clocks for a period of four weeks, with a total of 37,562 for the 12 factory months, beginning April 1909 and closing April 1910.
In April 1910 we heard that the Waterbury Clock Co. were bringing out an imitation, later known as the Cyclone, to be sold to all classes of trade and retailed at $2.00. Prices quoted then on this clock were $1.25, and it had then become necessary for us to make a decision.
We had three alternatives:
First, confine our advertising to the trade without reaching the consumer, which would likely have resulted in the Waterbury Clock Company securing the jewelry trade and our dividing whatever demand might be built up in time, on a strict price basis, as we have largely to do now on our other lines.
Second, advertise the Big Ben to the public at $2.00 on a small scale and leaving room for some other clock company to follow in our wake.
Third, or $2.50 on a larger scale as first contemplated. The latter plan was the one selected. We felt that sooner or later some clock company would take the consumer's advertising and assume in the clock field the position occupied today by Ingersoll in the Dollar Watch trade.
We also felt that we would have to take the public by storm and that the original appropriation would not enable us to outdistance possible advertising imitators in the short time (xxxxx) disposal.
We felt, on the other hand, that a $2.50 price to the consumer would insure us of a greater cooperation on the dealer's part, making it harder for the Waterbury imitation to displace us, giving us more working advertising capital and accordingly permitting us to gain such a start over our competitors and likely imitators that it would be hopeless, or at any rate extremely difficult and onerous, for any of them to try and follow us. The following price schedule was then adopted:
The summer was devoted to preparing for this campaign, which began on July 15 when a number of college men were sent out to the most favorable states in order to secure the proper distribution of goods that is so essential for the success of any advertising campaign.
Our advertising plans were, however, not disclosed to them or the dealers until Sept. 1st so as to make it impossible for any information to reach our competitors and enable them to head us off.
Our first announcement to the trade was sent out on that date. The first advertising to the consumer was published in the Saturday Evening Post Sept. 24 and followed by further advertisements in October, November and December, trade advertising matter being sent out steadily during those months so as to increase the number of our distributors.
On Sept. 24 we had about 3000 Big Ben customers, in the Christmas week this number had been increased to 6500. The results of our advertising to the consumer began to make themselves felt immediately after the appearance of our first advertisement. Repeat orders began to come, slowly at first but steadily increasing until December, when new orders stopped and our output depended exclusively on the orders of dealers who have already had Big Ben, thereby proving that our advertising was moving clocks from their shelves.
As had been expected, the results of the campaign became still more noticeable after January, thereby proving that advertising is cumulative and will steadily increase inefficiency up to a certain point.
Since January 15 our orders have averaged 1500 Big Ben a day against an output of 1000 and we can state without any conceit or prejudice that from both selling and advertising standpoints, the Big Ben campaign is proving as great a success in merchandising circles as the Ingersoll Watch and the Gillette Safety Razor proved in their days.
It is interesting to note that the new Haven Clock Company started in April 1910 an alarm clock advertising campaign to the consumer which ran steadily until December. It cost them probably $15.000 to $20.000 for magazines alone. (Our magazine bills for September, October, November and December amounted to $18.523.33). The New Haven Co. scattered their ammunition over a large number of publications, suing small space repeatedly but this campaign has hardly attracted any attention among dealers or consumers.
Our 1911 appropriation is based on a minimum average sale of 1250 clocks a day. Our campaign has started such unrest and bitterness among our competitors and there was so much trade talk of their following us that we felt our greatest protection lied in advertising so heavily and forcibly before they could get started, that they would be hopelessly distanced.
On such an output this appropriation amounts to 25¢ per clock. In fact a still more extensive campaign had been planned with the idea of forcing our production as rapidly as possible up to 2000 a day and immediately taking care of as many accounts as our salesmen and advertising could secure, In order to still further prevent imitation clocks from getting a foothold.
However, this plan was abandoned on account of our manufacturing conditions and it was decided to base our appropriation on the 1250 clock a day output so as to interfere as little as possible with our manufacturing standards.
This Big Ben appropriation is divided in two shares--- $75.000 for advertising to the consumer and $22.000 for circulars to the trade, as well as Window Display and Store Selling Helps for Big Ben retailers.
The magazine campaign reaches three distinctive fields --- the middle class through the weeklies; Saturday Evening Post and Collier's, the working class through the Sunday Supplement of City newspapers and the farm population through the columns of 25 agricultural publications.
From all indications, from the number of repeat orders which we are getting and from the frequency of such repeat orders from the same dealers, from the steady gains that we are making in the number of our Big Ben customers and the unanimous approval that our campaign and our policy have met on the part of our customers, there seems little doubt that our Fall sales will reach at least 2000 clocks per day.
We do not know at the present time whether any competitors will try to follow us. The New Haven Clock Company announced last December that they would soon start an extensive advertising campaign in the interest of an 8 day alarm clock which they have been placing on the market in the past year and which is a very fine article indeed. For some reason these plans have been either abandoned or postponed and it doesn't seem likely that anything will be done by them or any other clock company until Fall.
Reference: “Westclox Department Reports, 1904 - 1922”, Collection 116, Box 7, Files 3 - 14 , held by the Regional History Center at Northern Illinois University, DeKalb, Illinois.
Many thanks to Rich Weinssen for transcribing this report into a computer file.