Magazine article History Today

Top Dog: Pedigree Marketing and Its Value: Margaret Walsh Tracks Down an Attempt to Link the Appeal of the Greyhound with the Brand Values of a Famous American Company

Magazine article History Today

Top Dog: Pedigree Marketing and Its Value: Margaret Walsh Tracks Down an Attempt to Link the Appeal of the Greyhound with the Brand Values of a Famous American Company

Article excerpt

IN THE LATE 1950S AND 1960s the Greyhound Corporation, the largest provider of long-distance bus travel in North America, publicized its services by using a pedigree dog, believing that a campaign emphasizing breeding and class would identify bus travel as being a high-quality, attractive activity. This novel campaign became more of a Madison Avenue gimmick than a realistic approach to selling bus travel, yet Greyhound executives were perhaps ahead of their time in getting in touch with the emotional cares and desires of Americans.

The dog in question was a pedigree white and gold greyhound, born in Clay Center, Kansas, on January 28th, 1957. As a three-month puppy she made her television debut in a Greyhound commercial on the Sunday-night Steve Allen show, and soon 'Steverino' captivated a huge television audience.

A lean greyhound symbol had been painted on the sides of the corporation's fleet since the late 1920s to epitomize the speed, sleekness and directness of Greyhound buses. In the affluent post-war years the industry was facing a challenge from rising car ownership, and a new publicity angle was needed. The company wanted to be identified with the 'typical American who loved clogs and was warm and friendly', and this human touch was to be buttressed by a humane touch. Following Steverino's television appearances, the Dog Welfare Guild chose her as 'Queen of National Dogweek' in 1957, naming her 'the canine most exemplifying dogdom'. By the end of the year she had been interviewed by syndicate newswriters, had fan clubs with more than 500,000 members, had been adopted as the symbol of a Philadelphia safety campaign and was insured by Lloyds of London for $300,000.

Greyhound President Arthur S. Genet remarked that 'we are happily surprised to see the great interest the American public has shown in our mascot. We hope she will become one of our strongest salesmen'. The Greyhound Annual Report of 1958 devoted a page to recounting Steverino's news-making activities. She was such good publicity that when the Corporation decided to give up sponsoring of the Steve Allen Show in March 1959, the dog was renamed. Her name-change featured in two Jack Benny programmes, in March and May 1959. In the first she was nameless, though broad hints were dropped as to her new identity. She emerged as 'Lady Greyhound' during the sponsor's message.

Motherhood brought further publicity. Her nine puppies were born on June 18th, but when weaned they were given away to children. By now Lady Greyhound was too important a working woman to retire to the domesticity to which most American women of the late 1950s were consigned. She resumed her role as America's First Lady of Transportation. In September she appeared on NBC's 'People Are Funny'.

The Lady Greyhound phenomenon escalated in the early 1960s. The dog now appeared on television as a personality involved in charitable and major events. She was 1960 pet director of the 'Easter Seal Drive', led a 'March of Dimes' mothers' parade and won the 'Bide A Wee Medal' for outstanding work in the humane field and for animal rescue. The Pet Food Institute named her 'Outstanding Dog of 1961'; she became 'Queen of Transportation Week', sponsored by the Associated Traffic Clubs of America, and was chair of the pet division of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society. Late in 1962, she served as symbol for World Animal Day. She was a goodwill ambassador who won new friends and created new opportunities for the Greyhound Corporation.

By now Grey Advertising, Greyhound's advertising agency, had appointed Sam Blake to handle press, public relations and travel arrangements, and top officials in both Grey Advertising and the Greyhound Corporation scrutinized details of the dog's schedule. April 1962 saw a trip to the West Coast, taking in Los Angeles, Long Beach and San Diego where she visited terminals to highlight the new Super Scenicruiser service. …

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