Friday, December 9, 2005

Rudolph the red-nosed marketing gimmick

Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer -- the ultimate underdog Christmas icon -- sprang to life in 1939, straight from the pen of Montgomery Ward copywriter Robert L. May. The company printed up millions of copies of May's charming story and handed them out for free after the writer convinced Montgomery Ward brass that Rudolph's red nose was not necessarily indicative of a drinking problem, according to the Urban Legends Reference Pages (better known as Snopes.com).

The back story on the birth of the glowing-nosed reindeer is pretty amazing, too, thick with "work for hire" copyright tragedy and an eventually benevolent corporate decision to give May the rights to his work (which earned him a living for a while). Now, if there was only a holiday that needed a Hamsterman mascot ...

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