|Photo by Mark Zupan.|
As the adage goes, Coca-Cola sells itself. The John W. Hartman Center for Sales, Advertising and Marketing History’s recently-acquired Coca-Cola Star Salesman Kit might just suggest otherwise. This collection of training materials—including scripted manuals, 35mm film strips with accompanying phonographs, and other training memorabilia housed in a special green suitcase—was created by the Coca-Cola Company’s Sales Promotion Department between 1949 and 1951. The company encouraged route managers to purchase the Star Salesman Kit as a subscription program to educate their salesmen in the latest marketing techniques.
Designed as a series of one hour sessions, the Star Salesman Kit covers eight topics relevant to the company’s goal of increasing route sales, such as merchandising (“It’s Got to Be Sold”), and advertising (“What’s on Your Mind”). In addition, the kit includes training material for best practices in stocking product, refrigeration, and the use of the “red cooler” and vending machines in various outlets.
While most of the Star Salesman Kit is geared toward increasing sales to vendors, the materials do give special attention to instructing route salesmen how to promote Coca-Cola sales to the home market—particularly to the housewife. The session, “The Woman in Your Life,” encouraged the route salesman to market directly to women through techniques such as floor displays and product placement in outlets where women shopped for the home.
The Star Salesman Kit provides a glimpse into the sales and marketing culture of the Coca-Cola Company, the organization of its sales department, training practices, and even refrigeration technology. At the same time, the Star Salesman Kit offers some insights into mid-20th-century social and cultural issues, demonstrating, perhaps, why no other consumer product is a more iconic symbol of American culture than Coca-Cola.
Post contributed by Diana Poythress, RBMSCL Technical Services graduate student volunteer. Thanks to Alexandra Bickel, RBMSCL Technical Services graduate student volunteer, for her assistance with this post.