How advertising helped “kill” the handkerchief – great “retro” ads and lessons in persuasion

Do you love those retro ads?  I love the art work – and the persuasion techniques.

retro kleenex

Woo hoo – this tissue “meets you half way!” AND they come out one at a time. You prevent waste and  hence less waste – hence you save money!

Many (now) RETRO  ads are about things we take for granted these days – yet at the time these things  like Kleenex Tissues were considered revolutionary and  high tech and so full of customer benefits! Even the name sounded modern with the K and the X.

This post is linked to a previous post about a how earlier generations were brought up (and almost “indoctrinated”) into carrying handkerchiefs.

I remember carrying a hankie was part of your check list as you went off to school.

When you got to school you suffered “authorised ridicule” if you did NOT have a hankie – and you had to produce proof that you were carrying a hankie!

handkerchief fathers day gift

One reader from Australia in response to the post remembered how at school he and his classmates were “encouraged” to always remember to carry a handkerchief.

“the song we had to sing in the classroom (grade 2) during which we were required to produce our handkerchiefs and wave them in time with the song…it ended ‘unless I have my handkerchief, I’m, not, dressed’, and offenders had to stand on their chair!

It’s interesting – because while schools were “encouraging” kids to bring hankies – there were counter forces at work “encouraging” people to not use handkerchiefs – but instead to use tissues.


As a big fan of Mad Men – I love “studying” the persuasion techniques of retro ads.  Mind you these ads pre-date the Mad Men TV show era.

I am not connected with Kleenex in any way! Or handkerchief manufacturers,

O.K.  – so how did advertising agencies sell the idea of the superiority of tissues over handkerchiefs?

kleenex cold

According to this ad (and many like it) – if you are not using kleenex you are putting a cold in your pocket! Ewwwww!!

With Kleenex you get rid of the cold when you get rid of the tissue.

I note the encouragement/suggestion to buy a box for every room in the house.

O.K. – but what if people argue: well why don’t I just use handkerchiefs and wash them?

Oh – here’s why!

kleenexAd don't wash hankies

Dramatic huh!?

I love the other advantages to tip the scale –

– daintier than handkerchiefs

– costs less than laundering

– applying and removing cosmetics

I hope you enjoyed this retro ad persuasion “analysis”. I love this stuff as it combines my “passion” for retro and my “profession” and a persuasion and presentation trainer and consultant.

I was brought up to be a handkerchief guy. I occasionally use tissues – but I always carry a hankie.

Maybe it was all that ridiculing at school that ingrained my behaviour! 🙂

Here’s a link to the earlier post about hankies:


If you enjoyed this post – Let’s connect:

If you found this post interesting you can follow and connect with me.

I blog about fun pop culture stuff as well as more serious  business communication tips.


tony biancotti


Linked In – under Tony Biancotti

Or you can click to follow this blog.




One thought on “How advertising helped “kill” the handkerchief – great “retro” ads and lessons in persuasion

  1. It’s hard for me to imagine not carrying a handkerchief. Back right pocket. Every day. It’s funny how even now, advertising has us doing exactly what the corporate agenda has planned.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s