Felt & Tarrant - Marketing

Felt's genius lie not only in his mechanical engineering virtuosity and his keen insight of how to achieve operational shortcuts with his Comptometer. Less well known, but perhaps equally important to the success of the company, was his sense of where and how to advertise and promote his machine and its capabilities.

An early example of this was the placement of one of his first eight machines with the U.S.Treasury department in September of 1887, a month prior to the issuance of the original patent. Testimonials from both the Registar and the Actuary of the Treasury were used to open doors to commericial accounts with telling effectiveness. Shortly thereafter, the "Comptometer" trademark was adopted and used thruout the long history of the company.

Felt realized the power of recognition by the scientific world as this 1888 article in Scientific American attests. And perhaps most important of all, he utilized print advertising commensing with a magazine ad for his wooden cased machine in 1892.

(Think) In 1893 or '94, probably tied to Chicago's Columbian Exposition, Felt printed a small booklet entitled "Stop to Think" which promoted the machine and listed no less than ninety seven testimonials from satisfied users.

Apparantly, in those times, at least Felt believed, prospective buyers were more impressed by the "ring of truth" than hype or spin. No doubt, he would turn in his grave at today's wholesale "reputations for sale" attitude of the vane and famous.

(Hatpin) High coiffure style at the end of the 19th century required hatpins often topped with logos such as that pictured to fix madam's hair against the onslaught of summer breezes or, heaven forbid, worse. These genteel fastners logically became a favorite premium item to be distributed to deserving ladies.

(French Phrases) During the American involvement in WWI starting in 1917, Felt apparantly decided that he could combine patriotism and promotion in this little 54-page booklet.

Between its inside cover of "Orders for Sentinels" to its inside backcover with the graphic depictions of "two-arm semaphore with hand flags", its crowded with such useful English-to-French translations for phrases such as "Do you hear the thunder?" and "I have my knapsack".

The words to "The Star-Spangled Banner" and "The Battle Hymn of the Republic" plus the 1918 and 1919 calendars are included. And, of course, a page promoting the Comptometer as "The Rapid-Fire Adding Machine".

Did it sell any Compts? Who knows, but I can tell you that those free cigarettes we got during WWII was what started me smoking at age 18. And I never heard of anyone getting cancer from a Comptometer.

(Pin1) By 1920, Felt & Tarrant had added several buildings to its North Paulina Street complex. Sales were climbing, employment was high and demand for trained operators kept the schools humming.

Pins such as pictured were no doubt given out to employees as anniversary rewards and commonly made available to customers for distribution as rewards for operators. Felt had a keen sense of pride in his own work and sought to instill that in others.

(Matchbox) Like the hatpin, boxes of matches have long since given way to disposable lighters. But, in their day, it was the height of elegance to pull out a gleaming matchbox, extract a slender wooden match and light up your cigar. Well, that is, if you were a man, otherwise you might have been expected to make due with a hatpin, if you get my point.

While marketing was certainly a major part of the effort to sell the Comptometer image, had the machine itself not been "up to the job", such items would have been sheer waste.

Probably nothing worked quite so well as Felt's offer to place a machine "on approval" for 30 days, confident that once in daily use, few customers were likely to surrender such a cost and time saver.



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