The Hormel Girls – June 9, 1951 – CBS Radio – Gordon Skene Sound Collection –
Somewhere around 1953, The Hormel Girls rode off into the sunset – One war was finished – another was winding down and America was hooked on this mysterious meat product which became the be-all/end-all in America’s quest for something fast, reasonably tasty and loaded with protein. Their work was finished and their efforts were largely forgotten over time
Spam wound its way into the American lexicon, partially thanks to World War II and partially thanks to a group of Women, recruited by Jay Hormel, son of the founder of Hormel Meat, to travel the country extolling the virtues of Spam for the nation’s diet and emotional well-being.
It was an ambitious project. Some 60 women were recruited by Hormel whose qualifications were musical proficiency, poise, and pulchritude. In some circles, the project was dubbed “Spam and Legs”. A 60 piece orchestra who could swing, sway and swoon its way into the hearts and minds and stomachs of America.
When they weren’t busy pumping out tunes, they were busy spreading the word about Spam – dressed in uniforms and presenting themselves with all the precision of an Army drum and bugle corps, The Hormel Girls effectively drove the point home that Spam was The Answer – and so, to a lesser degree was Dinty Moore Chili. Meals in a can – no muss – no fuss. This was the way of the future.
And to go along with this criss-crossing of the country, also came a weekly radio program carried by all three radio networks at the time. To enhance their visibility, the group played local shows and made in-store appearances coast to coast driving 35 identical white Chevy sedans. Such a long entourage combined with the posters and promises of coupons, samples, and prizes by an advance team more than piqued local interest in the Hormel Girls, and by association Hormel Foods.
In 1946, the Hormel Company started hiring for the Hormel Girls, a drum and bugle corps of female musicians who had served in the war. As a veteran himself of World War One, Hormel was concerned for his employees who served. During the war, according to authors Jill M. Sullivan and Danelle D. Keck in their paper The Hormel Girls, he had sent letters to enlisted male employees assuring them that their jobs were waiting. When two managers devised a marketing strategy of an all-female, military-style band to promote Hormel products, Jay Hormel was quick to support it.
While before they had played a mix of military and popular music, the Music with the Hormel Girls show featured big-band music, punctuated by regular reminders that Hormel’s chili and ham was the best. It proved a good combination. By 1953, the show was “number four in the yearly [Nielsen] rankings.”
But in 1953, the show came to an end. The caravan was costing the Hormel Company $1.3 million dollars a year, and Jay Hormel was sick and would die in 1954. As television proved to be cheaper advertising, the last performance was held on December 13, 1953. And The Hormel Girls faded into history.
As a reminder, and to get an idea that Branding is not a new concept – here is a June 9, 1951 broadcast by The Hormel Girls as it was presented over CBS Radio.
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