Our new Through the Years series will be breaking down past decades regarding how technology, marketing, and business to business sales evolved. This content will take us from the 1930’s to the modern day.

The 1930’s were a tough time to be in business. The stock market crash of October 1929 and The Great Depression created a terrible environment to run a company and made the idea of starting a new one a daunting proposition. After the boom of the ‘Roaring Twenties’ the 30’s was a wakeup call. It was a time to dig deep and find a way to make it to the other side.

It was in that dark time that our company, Chain Store Guide, was born. Being a salesman during the Great Depression was the equivalent of Sisyphus repeatedly pushing a rock uphill. Communication was limited to face-to-face interactions and telephone calls. Even if a salesperson did get in contact with the right buyer the financial restriction of the times limited their chances. This losing strategy is what prompted Irving Slobod, our founder, to come up with a more efficient system. By creating directories tailored to specific markets he could help salesmen find the right company and the right person within that organization to make a sale. He published his first directory in 1933, The List of Restaurant Chains, and two more directories were published the following year. Our current version of that restaurant directory, the Chain Restaurant Premier Database, is still our most popular product and has come a long way from the several dozen pages published in 1933.

Irving Slobod’s directories were a microcosm of the difficulties that companies and individuals faced during the decade. Marketing techniques had evolved in the 1920’s and companies were zeroing in on how to sell directly to consumers. This advancement was rendered moot due to The Great Depression. There was no point in saving money for an ad campaign that would target consumers who didn’t have money to spend in the first place. Instead, marketing techniques focused on reinforcing gender roles, where men went out and worked while women stayed home to tend to the house. This meant that luxury items tended to be marketed to men and household goods were directed to women. Companies also attempted to present their items as status symbols of financial wellness. During an era of financial scarcity, being seen smoking a particular brand of cigarette or buying certain foods at the grocery store meant that you were well off. Most of the marketing in this decade was steeped in a type of glamor that seemed intent on denying that anything was wrong with the economy.

The relative technological simplicity of the time also contributed to the difficulty in advertising and business to business sales. The first electronic television demonstration occurred in 1927, yet we were still far off from widespread adoption of the medium and the advertising that would follow. Marketing was mostly done through paper advertisements and wherever a company could plaster a sign with their name on it. Similarly, the use of data was crude and nothing like the target analytics that we see today.

In the 1930’s there was plenty of space for big names like Macy’s, yet there was also a focus on local brands. The less advanced supply chain of the era meant that suppliers and manufactures were more often local companies. The economic situation also meant that consumers and businesses alike were eager to keep money local and patron neighborhood stores and restaurants. Despite financial challenges there were many contemporary companies that got their start in 1930’s: Dillard’s, Publix, Giant Eagle, Advance Auto Parts, Albertsons, and Dollar General.

The 1930’s were a difficult time to build a brand, yet it was also proof of American ingenuity and grit. Many companies, like our own, gained a foothold in the era and helped push beyond the challenges of The Great Depression. It could be argued that no modern decade was harder to weather as technology and economic conditions improved in the following decades. Join us next month as we examine the challenges and innovation brought forth in the 1940’s.