The similarities between selling kitchen appliances in the 1950s and today

Selling the kitchen has been a key component of the sales pitch for homes for decades. Adweek takes a look at how the sales pitch from the 1950s is similar to today’s pitch:

It goes like this: If you want to make that new fridge and stove desirable, advertise it as part of a kitchen that’s desirable. So long as homeowners blush with shame over their cracked linoleum and dated cabinetry, showing them the meal-prep space of their dreams is likely to spur them into buying the new appliances that go with it. Want proof? Take a look at both of the appliance advertisements below.

“History repeats itself because these ads are really quite similar,” observes graphic designer Ken Carbone, co-founder of the design and branding company Carbone Smolan Agency. “In their own way, they both say ‘modern’—and they both promise bragging rights, as in, ‘you too could have this!’”…

Move to 2011, and Jenn-Air appliances are using the same kind of dream-kitchen sell GE did 56 years before, but with key aesthetic variations. “In the old ad, color itself says modern, and stainless steel is the secondary element,” Carbone notes. “Today, it’s inverted. Stainless steel is the hero.” He’s right. We’ve entered the era of the home chef and industrial chic. It’s also obvious that the Levittown ranch house’s 32 x 25-ft. footprint has morphed into McMansion proportions. (How else to fit that granite-topped kitchen island?)

Thematically, however, it was the same old pitch about the same new kitchen. “Both companies knew their audiences, and both were selling bragging rights,” Carbone says. “It’s just that the first ad suggests macaroni and cheese and the second fusilli al pesto.”

As a bonus, you can look at the original 1950s Levittown kitchen advertisement below the story.

Doesn’t this suggest that Americans are still falling for (or attracted to, depending on your perspective) for the same pitch based on “bragging rights”? Is this a good or bad thing? The pitch is still the same: get the right appliances to portray a certain image to others. The content of this image has changed, domesticity in the 1950s versus “professional” cooking today, but it suggests advertisers correctly tapped into the American psychology.

Are there other effective ways to sell kitchen appliances?

Thinking about kitchen appliances, I wonder how many Americans replace them while they still function just fine in order to “keep up with the Joneses.”

2 thoughts on “The similarities between selling kitchen appliances in the 1950s and today

  1. Pingback: If Americans can celebrate and preserve ranch and modernist homes and Brutalist architecture, we can expect to see preserved McMansions | Legally Sociable

  2. Pingback: Gendered McMansions, Part 2: large kitchens and attached living areas | Legally Sociable

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