I mentioned at the end of my recent Dorothy L. Sayers review that she drew on her own experiences as a copywriter to write Murder Must Advertise, and that she even cheekily mentioned one of her own campaigns: The Mustard Club.
My subconscious has been whirring away in the background, and this morning it reminded me that I actually have a copy of the Mustard Club recipe book. I live near Norwich (in the East of England), home of Colman’s Mustard, and our city centre boasts what must be the only Mustard Shop in the UK. We bought ourselves this book a few years ago.
According to the shop:
‘An enormously successful campaign that in many ways was years ahead of its time was The Mustard Club, an advertising campaign that ran from 1926 to 1933. It was effectively a teaser campaign which really caught people’s imagination. The first adverts appeared as bus posters asking “Has father joined the Mustard Club?” Later a department with 10 girls was established to deal with the 2,000 applications a day to join the club.
In many ways it was one of the first brands to use ‘guerrilla marketing’, through a teaser campaign that caught the country’s imagination. In the early 1920s Colman’s advertising agent, Bensons, came up with the idea of the Mustard Club – a fictitious club that Colman’s users could join. The agent set about posting notes on buses asking ‘Has Father Joined the Mustard Club?’ Eventually there were card games and a club newsletter. It was almost certainly one of the first examples of an integrated campaign. All Mustard Club members could apply for a badge – and by the time the club closed in 1933, 500,000 had been given away.’
I’m not entirely sure how you join a fictitious club, but the recipe book at least was real. The cover shows a very Sayersian collection of gentlefolk, illustrated by J. Gilroy. A Mrs Cottington Taylor of the Good Housekeeping Institute provided many of the recipes, but the rest of the copy is apparently by Sayers.
The world being what it is, Colman’s is now a tiny part of Unilever and the mustard is probably flown in from Indonesia or something. The shop, however, is now a charitable enterprise.