Luden’s Penny Candy, 1914 Part I
Mr. William Luden may not be remembered in many high school history books, but you know him just the same. His name has been associated with cough drops since Mr. Luden first started making them in 1878.
By 1914, Luden was a major candy manufacturer, and although his Reading, Pennsylvania factory made all sorts of candy, the main product was menthol cough drops. Lots of them. Six tons a day. Part of the reason he was so successful with the cough drops was that the Luden’s name was known, and customers could be relied on to demand and expect the Luden’s quality in their cough drops. The cough drops were packaged in a pouch bearing the Luden’s name, and Luden advertised heavily, both to retailers and “jobbers” (independent distributors), and also directly to customers.
Luden also made and sold “penny candy,” candy that was unmarked and unadvertised. The retailers and the jobbers would take his penny candy because they knew it was good, and because they had good experience with Luden’s cough drops. But the customers didn’t know Luden’s penny candy from any other, and therein lay the problem. How could Luden make his penny candy stand out for the customer?
No one had ever tried to “brand” penny candy or to advertise it directly to consumers. And initially, Mr. Luden wasn’t sure it could be done. He thought about it on and off for several years, as he watched the way the reputation of his cough drops helped build his business and protected him from the fiercest competition around price fluctuations. In the penny candy business, the profit margins were so slim that the smallest price difference could swing a retail order one way or the other. The only solution Mr. Luden could see would be to establish a standard on the basis of quality, so that slight variations of price would not have such an impact. And the only way to establish quality was to put his name on his penny candies as well.
Could it work?