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Marketing communications lessons from the Great Depression


Most of us know a family member, friend or distant relative who grew up during the Depression. Not the one in 2008 – the one in the 1930s.

Everything was so scarce back then that people re-used everything that could be saved. Men would save their lunch bags, bring them home and pack a sandwich in it the next day. Bacon grease and chicken fat would be put into empty soup cans and re-used as lard or as a lubricant. Kids wore hand-me-downs, and mothers darned socks and fixed shoes. My grandmother used to re-use aluminum foil even when times were booming, revealing a frugality that was born of the days when real unemployment was 25 percent and there was no unemployment or social security.

A chicken dinner on Sunday was morph into chicken-a-la-king on Monday and maybe a chicken pot pie on Tuesday if there was enough left over. Nothing was wasted, that’s for sure. No wonder it was called a depression.

Smart marketers today could learn a thing or two from those hard times eight decades past. Most of us know how important it is to have fresh content on our websites, yet companies continue to struggle creating content. The key to simplifying your content needs is to re-purpose what you already have. Isn’t it funny that re-purposing content is talked about like it’s a new idea? Generations before us were re-purposing everything they could get their hands on out of necessity.

That press release you wrote announcing a new product introduction ought to be a page on your website. It could also be made into a blog post, which, of course, would be Tweeted, shared on Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+ and others. It would also make a great lead story in the company newsletter.

Use your imagination, and you’ll find lots of applications for any content your create. You may even feel pretty sophisticated knowing you’ve mastered the 21st century’s tactic of re-purposing.

Your great- or great-great grandmother would get a kick out of that!


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