Client ····· Anonymous
Subject ···· “Disruptive marketing”
Formats ···· eBook

For a B2B client that incentivizes customer reviews for home goods brands, I wrote an eBook on the history of home goods marketing. In it, I illustrate how campaigns designed to "disrupt" traditional marketing channels evolved alongside technology—from early TV campaigns that matched the tone of what an audience was watching, to today's digital campaigns that match the function of what an audience is doing. I call this "disrupting by fitting in", and close by analyzing 5 campaigns doing this in 2021—along with their implications for the future.

Click on the arrows below to see a few examples.

*Full eBook available by request*


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Appliance maker Maytag thrived during this time, manufacturing everything from vacuum cleaners to refrigerators. They also found massive success selling some of the first commercial-grade washers and dryers. Maytag became a household name & dominated the market, but competition from larger corporations like General Electric, Whirlpool and Frigidaire quickly followed, making the next decade one filled with much stiffer competition.

Maytag needed a new way to stand out, so in 1967 it launched a different kind of ad campaign—one centered on a Maytag repair man named Jesse White, commonly referred to as “the loneliest guy in town”. The running joke of the Maytag Man campaign was that Jesse never got to do his job—all the Maytag appliances he was supposed to fix were just too dependable, so he was never needed. In one commercial, Jessie is repairing a washer, and enjoying being back inside the machine he loves, only to be interrupted by his wife, who asks why he’s taking their own machine apart again. “Gotta stay in practice,” he replies.

The ad campaign continues to run to this day, with a younger Maytag man now continuing Jesse’s legacy, and is considered one of the most successful TV campaigns of all time. By introducing a character that felt more at home in a sitcom, but had his function tied to a clear message (Maytag appliances are so dependable that they almost never need to be repaired), Maytag got viewers’ attention and then drove the point home, over and over. Now when Americans went to the store to decide between washer brands, they were already primed to think of Maytag as the most dependable.

modern Maytag Man

The Maytag Man campaign disrupted marketing by adapting to the look, the writing & the overall tone of the programs viewers were already watching (ironically, White’s daughter, Carole Ita White, eventually joined the cast of sitcom Laverne & Shirley & its spin-off Angie). On top of that, it centered around a recurring character, which always made the audience excited to see where his “story” went next. It was a trick that many others began to use for selling just about anything, and continues to be used today. Even though it doesn’t focus on home goods, a contemporary example of a campaign Maytag inspired would be Progressive Insurance’s Flo—a peppy saleswoman who, in 2021, doesn’t even mention why Progressive is better than its competitors.

“The commercials just make sure to prominently feature the brand name, while delivering a more abstract humor that’s popular on the sitcoms of today.”