The McElroy “Brand Man” Memo turns 80

Next time you dash off a memo or post, consider young Neil McElroy sitting behind his Royal Typewriter on May 13, 1931 drafting the 800...

11 May 2011 1451 Views

Next time you dash off a memo or post, consider young Neil McElroy sitting behind his Royal Typewriter on May 13, 1931 drafting the 800-word memo below.

It was drab and rainy in Cincinnati that morning. McElroy was a manager in Procter & Gamble’s advertising department. He wrote the memo to explain to his boss why he needed to hire two more people to help him do his job better.

McElroy got his two additional hires. He also got the attention of P&G’s president R. R. Deupree who shared the young ad manager’s views on brands. That view would lead Deupree to completely restructure P&G into a brand-centric organization. Seventeen years later at the age of 43 McElroy took the reins from his boss to become the president of P&G. In fact every president of P&G since McElroy has risen from the ranks of brand manager.

As a result of his memo, McElroy is credited with giving birth to the idea of brand management and his memo is one of our industry’s sacred texts. But the McElroy story doesn’t end at P&G.

In 1957 McElroy left P&G to become Secretary of Defense at the request of President Eisenhower. It was the peak of the cold war space race and Ike needed McElroy to help combat the fear of Soviet supremacy. What did the original brand man do? Helped create one of America’s best managed brands: NASA.

All this from a memo.

So, Happy Birthday to the McElroy “Brand Man” memo.

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Thanks to Drew Boyd for tracking down and sharing the original version of the memo. And to Pattarin at The Duffy Agency who located the memo on Drew’s blog “Innovation in Practice”. Check out Drew’s excellent post on the memo and the state of Brand Management today.

What’s your take on the McElroy “Brand Man” Memo? Check out my Marketing Moxie column on Talent Zoo. It asks: 80 years later have marketers really understood (no less embraced) the advice in Neil McElroy’s famous memo? Be sure to leave a comment and let me know your opinion.

Sean Duffy | @BrandRanter
Speaker, consultant & founder of Duffy Agency, the flipped digital agency that provides accelerated growth to aspiring international brands.