Vanishing From Society

Sometimes social change sneaks up on you. You don’t see it happening and then suddenly realize what has taken place.IMG-20150827-00609

I was tidying up and came across a matchbook for a restaurant that I am sure I haven’t been to in 25 years. It suddenly struck me – I can’t remember when I last picked up a promotional matchbook. I know fewer people smoke than in years past, but I hadn’t noticed the death of the promotional matchbook. I guess that’s because I don’t smoke and very rarely need flame to light candles or fires.

It used to be that everyone promoted their business and brand with matchbooks. It was something people could carry with them, and the cost to the merchant was less than a penny. It was probably the cheapest form of advertising available. People remembered the name and kept the matchbook for at least as long as it took to finish the matches. Which for us non-smokers could be a long time.IMG-20150827-00610

Now the emphasis has shifted. In North America anyway there aren’t as many smokers as there used to be, and those who do smoke tend to use disposable lighters. Companies have had to turn to other items to get their message to consumers.

Branded pens are still popular of course, have been for decades. They cost a few cents I suppose, so they don’t get handed out to every customer. Not unless the company has a huge advertising budget.

You can't see it in the picture, but if you hold the red part against a CD a blade comes out that slices off the plastic wrap.

You can’t see it in the picture, but if you hold the red part against a CD a blade comes out that slices off the plastic wrap.

I have handed out promotional materials myself, though never matches. Before Stingray Digital bought the Galaxie music service from the CBC I would hand out Galaxie keychains to musicians I met. The keychains came complete with CD opener, something that every musician needs if he or she is asked to autograph a CD that someone has just purchased at a concert. One swift move and the opener cut the plastic wrap off the compact disc. I never understood why such devices weren’t more common. Getting that plastic off was always a challenge – you would think every music lover could have used one.

The range of promotional items companies give away now has moved so far beyond cheap matches. I like receiving computer memory sticks, bit on their own and built into pens. Those though cost quite a bit more to manufacture than matchbooks. You won’t find a bowl of memory sticks at the cash as you leave your favourite restaurant.

(I was looking for an image of promotional matchbooks to add to this post and found this. Turns out I’m not the first to have noticed this decline.)


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