By Justin Houston
Perhaps no automaker has had a more powerful influence on promotional models than Mercury. Yet, the irony is that Mercury was never considered a player in the field of traditional promotional model cars.
Promotional model cars had established a strong foothold in Detroit’s marketing strategies by the late 1950′s. Indeed, the arrival of the 1959 sales year saw the introduction of Rambler and Mercury, the last two US automakers to invoke the popular annual plastic replicas.
Why did Mercury stay out so long? Given the shaky marketing decisions at Ford during the early postwar years, it’s a wonder Mercury even got involved at all.
History does reflect the concept that cars selling well don’t need much in the way of promotional efforts, and Mercury was no stranger to this ideology. Between 1949 and 1954, Mercury had risen from 7th to 3rd in sales, right behind Ford at No. 2 and Chevrolet at No. 1. But, like the anonymous tinkerer whose invention was made popular by somebody else who took the credit, Mercury was the initiator of many of the accepted styles of promotional auto models we take for granted today.
For example: Can you identify the first ‘promo’ used as a color demonstrator? How about the first promo to function as a coin bank? And what manufacturer first tried cereal premiums to create brand loyalty? And who offered the first promo of an Indy 500 Pace Car? If you answered Mercury on all four, you’re right!