Rory Sutherland: What electric car manufacturers can learn from men's hats in the 1940s

The case for collective campaigns: why working with your competitors may be the most beneficial use of your marketing budget.

by Rory Sutherland

Four out of five men under 35 in some towns are unkindly indifferent to what a good hat can do for their appearance. The sad fact, as Mr T A Moores, president of the British Felt Hat Manufacturers’ Federation, reported today, is that young men are just not “hat conscious”.

This state of affairs is not to be allowed to continue. The Hatters’ Information Centre, with offices in Denton and London, was started today, and in the next two experimental years £50,000 will be spent on convincing the hatless of the error of their ways. They are to be confronted with the slogan: “If you want to get ahead get a hat.” The value of a hat to their careers will be impressed upon them, and to show that hatters are not without an eye for romance, the bare-headed will be informed that eight out of 10 young women prefer men with hats.

This story dates from the late 1940s. It describes a practice once common, but which has now fallen largely into disuse: a group of businesses in an industry pooling their resources to promote a whole category, such as men’s hats, rather than fragmenting advertising behind a variety of different brands.

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