Edward John Noble, a young, ambitious advertising salesman, turned marketing disaster into a quarter of a million dollar marketing success in just two years by capitalizing on an underutilized marketing niche.
In 1913, Noble purchased his first package of Life Savers and was so impressed with the taste, shape, and name of the mints that he visited the manufacturer with the objective of advertising the product. The manufacturer wasn’t interested in Noble’s services but offered to sell him the rights to Life Savers at a reduced price.
Noble’s troubles began when he discovered that the product had virtually no shelf life because of old-fashioned packaging. The first thing he did was to wrap the mints in foil to seal in the flavor. Armed with a supply of the bright new packages of fresh mints, Noble set out to sell to Life Savers’ established customers. Again, he encountered difficulty. None of the merchants wanted to take a chance on adding more mints to the stale ones gathering dust on their shelves. Noble realized he’d have to get new customers . . . fast.
Life Savers had been marketed as a breath mint, so Noble went to saloons and talked several owners into putting the five cent mints on the counter in competition with the free cloves which were provided for their imbibing customers. The mints were a novelty, and they sold. Realizing he could benefit from marketing his product to the impulse buyer, Noble convinced United Cigar Stores to put the mints near the cash register in their 1,200 stores. (Where are United Cigar Stores today?) He also suggested they carry a bold five cent price tag, and that the cashiers be instructed to give every customer a nickel as part of their change.
The result of this strategy was beyond Noble’s wildest dreams. Counter merchandise was so successful that he realized it could not be kept away from competitors, so he designed a display container that would hold not only his own mints, but also other manufacturers’ chewing gum, candy bars, and so forth. Life Savers occupied the center front of the display, and continues to do so today. Noble’s early predictions that Life Savers could be “pyramided” into a fortune proved right on target.