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Month: June 2014

Diabetes and a patio – The story behind the story

Diabetes and a patio – The story behind the story

Diabetes and a patio – The story behind the story

Diet Pepsi is celebrating its fiftieth anniversary. Much of the coverage has focused on how it had started life as Patio Soda and how this had been featured in the hit TV series Mad Men.

While the TV series took some liberties, it was based on the facts.

Royal Crown, a cola maker, introduced Diet Rite Cola in 1958. It was targeted towards the growing number of calorie-conscious women as a diet product and proved to be very successful. 

Successful enough that both PepsiCo and Coca-Cola were forced to act, however not so successful that either one of the companies were willing, at least initially, to link the new diet products to their main brands.

Coca-Cola introduced Tab in 1963, and it was marketed to consumers who wanted to keep ‘tabs’ on their weight.

Patio Diet Cola was the brand of diet soda launched by PepsiCo, also in 1963. Fitness promoter, Debbie Drake, was its spokesperson and the drink was also marketed as a brand for the calorie conscious. 

Early in 1964 they released orange, grape, and root beer flavours but then, later that year, in light of good sales results, Patio Diet Cola became Diet Pepsi. The newly rebranded diet cola was advertised alongside the original Pepsi, with the tagline “Pepsi either way”. 

Most of the remaining Patio flavours were phased out by the early 1970s, while a few survived until the mid-1970s.

The slightly fictionalised launch of Patio Diet Cola was featured in the first few episodes of series three of Mad Men and it was portrayed as a point of dispute between Sterling Cooper staff members when PepsiCo rejects a television commercial based on the film Bye Bye Birdie.

There is however another story behind this one, Tab and Patio weren’t followers, “me-toos” to Royal Crown’s Diet Rite Cola, they were the third and fourth on the market; me-three and me-four. 

The original diet soda wasn’t even created for the calorie-conscious. It was born as a soft drink for people with diabetes.


This story behind the story goes back to 1904, when Hyman Kirsch, a Russian immigrant, began selling soft drinks in the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn , New York. Some years later, the successful Kirsch became Vice President of the Jewish Sanitarium for Chronic Disease (now the Kingsbrook Jewish Medical Center) and he and his son Morris came up with the idea of creating a special beverage treat for the hospital’s diabetic and cardiovascular patients. 

Using an artificial sweetener called calcium cyclamate to sweeten the product, they created a diet soda, a ginger ale, which they called “No-Cal.” No-Cal Root Beer, Black Cherry, Lime, Cola soon followed. They even introduced a chocolate flavour which was often mixed with a splash of milk by loyal users.

No-Cal was immediately successful selling over 2 million cases of soda in New York and Washington, D.C. alone, and by the end of 1953 the beverages were bringing in over $5 million a year. Its popularity went way beyond the customer base its makers had intended it for. Soon more than half the people buying No-Cal weren’t diabetic – they were just watching their weight.

However Kirsh didn’t have the massive marketing clout and national distribution of its larger rivals and in face of an increasing onslaught from, at first, Royal Crown’s Diet Rite Cola and then Coca-Cola and PepsiCo it disappeared from the marketplace.

No-Cal proved an unfortunate exception to the old marketing adage about the advantages of being first to market.


All wrapped up

All wrapped up

Last week I visited Blenheim Palace and went round an exhibition about the life of Winston Churchill. It is a place about which he said ”At Blenheim I took two very important decisions; to be born and to marry. I am content with the decision I took on both occasions.” 

Part of the exhibition focused on one of his favourite pastimes – painting and I discovered that through a friendship with Joyce Hall a number of his paintings were produced as greeting cards for Hall’s company.

I decided to find about more and see if there a brand story there.

Rather than a tale about Churchill’s paintings, I found one about the birth of wrapping paper. 

All wrapped up

Japanese furoshiki, the reusable wrapping cloth still in use today, has been around since the Edo period. (1603 – 1868). The similar Korean bojagi dates from the Three Kingdoms Period, possibly as early as the first century A.D. 

In the west, using paper as a covering for gifts has a shorter history and one skewed to the wealthier end of society.

Upper-class Victorians regularly used heavy, elaborately decorated paper, topped with ribbons and lace to wrap and ‘conceal gifts’, especially at Christmas. The less wealthy parts of Victorian society couldn’t have afforded the paper but that didn’t really matter too much as their limited resources didn’t even stretch to buying each other Christmas presents.

By the early 20th century, Christmas and other gifting occasions had increased and the thick, unwieldy paper used by The Victorians had given way to cheaper and easier to use plain one-coloured tissue paper, most often red, green, or white. 

In 1917, however, necessity was to be the mother of invention and the future of wrapping and wrapping papers was to be changed irrevocably


A pair of brothers, Joyce (J.C.) and Rollie, were running a stationery store in Kansas City, Missouri. Business was good in the run up to Christmas – so good, in fact, that they ran out of their standard tissue paper. 

They decided that they couldn’t rely on their father’s, an itinerant preacher, maxim “The Lord will provide” but should follow J.C.’s mantra instead. His belief was that “It’s a good idea to give the Lord a little help.”

Searching through what they had to hand, they came across a stack of “fancy French paper”. Paper meant not for display, but for lining envelopes. They decided to put it on sale and price it at $0.10 a sheet. They quickly sold reams of the pretty papers.

As J.C. was to say later “the decorative gift wrapping business was born on the day Rollie placed those French envelope linings on top of that showcase.”

During the holiday season of 1918, the brothers decided to see if their idea was more than a one year wonder and again offered the lining papers as gift wrap, this time priced at 25c for 3 sheets. Again, the sheets sold out. 

So in 1919, confident that there was a market, the brothers began producing and selling their own printed decorative papers, designed for the sole purpose of wrapping gifts. 

The brothers’ name was Hall and their brand was Hallmark and for years they had the gift paper market all wrapped up. 


1+1=3, now that’s what I call magic

1+1=3, now that’s what I call magic

Richard Garfield is a clever man. He earned a Ph.D. in combinatorial mathematics from Penn State University with his thesis “The distribution of the binomial coefficients modulo”. He became a professor of mathematics at Whitman College in Walla Walla, Washington.

His real claim to fame however lies in the world of gaming where, with a nod towards mathematics, he managed to make 1+1=3 and earn millions of dollars for himself and his games publisher, Wizards of the Coast. 

Richard Garfield is the man who created Magic: The Gathering. 

Garfield always had an interest in puzzles, but this transformed into a passion for games when he was introduced to Dungeons & Dragons. He was soon inventing his own games. (Invention runs in the family, his great-uncle invented the paper clip!).

One of Garfield’s early ideas was a Cosmic Encounter-inspired card game which was known as Alpha. 

Looking back, Garfield knew it had potential; “The first Magic release was affectionately named Alpha. It consisted of 120 cards split randomly between two players. The two players would ante a card, fight a duel over the ante, and repeat until they got bored. They often took a long time to get bored; even then, Magic was a surprisingly addictive game. About ten o’clock one evening, Barry “Bit” Reich and I started a game in the University of Pennsylvania Astronomy lounge, a windowless air-conditioned room. We played continuously until about 3:00am—at least that’s what we thought, until we left the building and found that the sun had risen.”

He continued to develop and adapt Magic while at the same time developing other games. 

One of his favourites was RoboRally and it was while searching for a publisher for it, that Garfield met Mike Davis of what was then the recently formed and still small Wizards of the Coast.

Though liking the game, Davis felt RoboRally would be too expensive for a new company like Wizards to produce. However, one of Davis’ colleagues, Peter Adkison, asked Garfield if he would be interested in developing a fast-playing game which would need only minimal equipment and would be popular at game conventions. It would need to be cheaper to produce and easily portable to carry around to conventions.

Thinking about this challenge Garfield had an idea; what would happen if he combined two existing concepts, would he be able to create something completely new? Inspiration came from baseball cards; packets of cards which people bought and traded to create their own collections.

What this would mean for Magic was that, instead of randomly splitting a consistent deck of 120 cards, each player would have to buy and build their own unique collection of cards and before each game they would choose which 60 cards they wanted to play. 

Garfield envisaged a future where there would be thousands of different cards in circulation with the best, most powerful, cards being extremely rare. Players would have to buy lots of decks in search of these “rare gems” and a secondary trading market could emerge where cards could be swapped or bought and sold. 

Magic cards wouldn’t just be playing cards, they would be collectables too. Garfield had invented the first trading card game


Garfield returned and presented his concept of a trading card game to Adkison who immediately saw the potential and agreed to produce it.

While the game was simply called Magic through most of playtesting, when the game came to be officially named a lawyer informed them that “Magic” was too generic a name to be trademarked. Mana Clash was chosen to be the alternative but everybody involved continued to refer to it as Magic. Garfield and Adkison went back to the lawyer and, after further consultation, it was decided to rename it; Magic: The Gathering, thus enabling the name to be trademarked.

Magic: The Gathering went on general release on August 5, 1993.

In the second half of 1993, Wizards of the Coast made about $200,000. The next year, it made $40 million. By 2003 there were more than six million Magic players in more than fifty countries and over 100,000 professionally-sanctioned tournaments around the world. In 2011 it was estimated that there were approximately twelve million players.

In 1999 Magic: The Gathering was acquired by Hasbro and, in January 2014, they announced a franchise film deal with 20th Century Fox, saying that they wanted “to launch a massive franchise on the scale of Harry Potter and The Lord of the Rings.” 


Parliamentary Connections

Parliamentary Connections

On 12 October 2006, the Liberal Democrat Member of Parliament for Solihull, Lorely Burt wrote and submitted “Early Day Motion 2728” to The House of Commons. 

It read:

That this House deplores the retention of the picture of the House of Commons on HP Sauce labels following the decision by new owners Heinz plc to remove production from the historic Aston site to Holland, making the 125 employees redundant; believes that Heinz should not exploit this symbol of Britishness to sell a product no longer made in the United Kingdom; and calls upon the Administration Committee to remove HP sauce from all House dining areas until the jobs are reinstated or the House of Commons picture is removed from the label.

Sadly for Lorely only 42 of her fellow MPs signed up for the motion so it was never passed.

However this wasn’t the first time that the sauce and the Houses of Parliament’s paths had crossed.

In the 1960s and 1970s, the sauce acquired the nickname “Wilson’s Gravy”, a reference to Harold Wilson, the late Labour MP who was twice Prime Minister. The nickname stemmed from an interview with Mary Wilson, his wife, that appeared in the Sunday Times. During the course of the interview she said “If Harold has a fault, it is that he will drown everything with HP Sauce”.

However perhaps the most famous and the original connections are the name and the picture of the Houses of Parliament which still adorn the front of every bottle

These can be traced back to the development of the brand. However exactly who the actual inventor was is still a matter of debate


Some say it was concocted in the 1870s by Mary Moore, the wife of Edwin Samson Moore, owner of the Midland Vinegar Company in Aston, Birmingham. Mary created the sauce using her husband’s vinegar and the exotic spices which had started to arrive from India. This story then runs that Moore purchased the brand name from one of his customers, Nottingham grocer FG Garton, supposedly in lieu of a debt, launched HP Sauce in 1903. 

Another version of the story claims that Frederick Gibson Garton, the grocer from Nottingham didn’t just create the name but actually invented the recipe too. This story runs that a few years after launching it he registered the name H.P. Sauce in 1896. Garton because he had heard that a restaurant in the Houses of Parliament had begun serving it. The stories then tie together as in this one it is said that Garton sold the recipe and HP brand for the sum of £150 and the settlement of some unpaid bills to Moore. 

A third version attributes the invention to one Harry Palmer, sauce-maker and horse-racing fan, who first produced it as Harry Palmer’s Famous Epsom Sauce, in 1899. This story then runs that Palmer, an avid gambler at the Epsom races, was forced to sell the recipe (to cover his debts) to Garton who then in turn sold it to Moore.

However this last story is seen as the outsider as there is no evidence in the official history of the brand to show Palmer existed and it seems a little unlikely that Garton, a grocer from the Midlands would have come in contact with a gambler from the South of England.


250 words : The wisdom of business books

250 words : The wisdom of business books

250 Words is a new enterprise focused on the wisdom of business books.

The main component of the site is a daily, digestible morsel–250 words long–that features a business book (new and classic titles) from all the different publishers. Their emphasis is on wisdom and practical advice contained in the books. They recognise that each post only takes a few minutes to read, but hope that they will inspire their readers to think about the world differently. 

I’m therefore delighted and suitably flattered to be featured in one of their blogs.

What Oreo couldn’t resist

What Oreo couldn’t resist

A digital duel with a happy ending for all concerned

The Tic Tac Toe challenge

Laura Ellen has a sweet tooth and when she jokingly mentioned her love for a couple of her favourite  brands in a tweet, “Can tell I like chocolate a bit too much when I’m following @KITKAT and @Oreo hahahahahah”, she didn’t know what she was starting.

The folks at Kit-Kat, decided like the gentleman of honour they are, that the best thing to do was to challenge those “upstarts” at Oreo to a duel for her affection… in a game of Tic Tac Toe (that’s noughts and crosses to us, Brits)

So they issued a tweet of their own “The fight for @Laura_ellenxx’s affections is on. @oreo your move #haveabreak”, and a link to a picture of a classic Tic Tac Toe grid in which the middle square with filled with a cross, made up of two delicious looking fingers of Kit Kat.

They didn’t have to wait long for a reply (well, about seven hours to be exact). What would be Oreo’s move? Where would they put their Oreo shaped ‘Nought’?

However when the gentlemen of Kit Kat looked at the reply it wasn’t quite what they had expected.

The link took them to the picture of the very same Tic Tac Toe grid but there was no Oreo to be seen. Instead the Kit Kat fingers were almost gone, a tiny bit of one remained and a few crumbs…. “Sorry, @kitkat we couldn’t resist … #GiveOreoABreak”. You could also see the chocolate on their faces. 

A lovely complement to Kit Kat and even an Oreo twist on their famous catch line meant this was an occasion where one customer + social media + two brands + a great sense of humour = everyone smiling.