Anyone who’s ever been to a doctor’s office or clinic has encountered a vast array of items: calendars, pens, coffee mugs, Post-Its, paperweights, tent signs and other items promoting some brand of medicine. This kind of material is routinely distributed along with free samples by traveling route salespersons and representatives for pharmaceutical companies, medical equipment manufacturers and laboratory service providers; doctors and health professionals also encounter a regular stream of this kind of stuff at conferences, meetings and trade shows—as do professionals in a number of other occupations. Swag constitutes an important form of direct marketing but its ubiquity means that it is frequently taken for granted, willfully ignored and drifts into a kind of background invisibility.
One of the most eclectic collections to come to the John W. Hartman Center for Sales, Advertising & Marketing History was donated by the family of Albert Cornell, MD, former head of the gastrointestinal clinic at Mt. Sinai Hospital. Nearly 90 years of medical promotional materials are included beginning in the early 20th century, everything from note pads to mugs, beakers, pamphlets, even three-dimensional models of the colon, and personal items including keychains, golf balls, nail files, pins, and a tie clasp featuring the gastrointestinal tract in miniature.
Men’s and women’s health are covered, such as peptic ulcers, STDs, reproductive wellness and diabetes. Companies like Kellogg’s and Knox produced cookbooks for weight loss, convalescent care and diabetic patients. Pharmaceutical companies promoted new ulcer medications and delivery systems. Other companies advertised clinical equipment, food supplements, even orthopedic shoes for children. Professional organizations like the AMA and the American Dental Association published pamphlets on their organizations, or current health campaigns. In all the Collection of Albert Cornell MD highlights an important niche in both pharmaceutical and health care advertising as well as in health-related direct marketing.
Post contributed by Richard Collier, Technical Services Archivist for the John W. Hartman Center for Sales, Advertising & Marketing History
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