Some years ago I wrote in response to an inquiry concerning Berkey & Gay Furniture. That searching for vintage furniture ads would be an excellent way to learn more about about Berkey & Gay Furniture styles and when certain styles were produced. From reading the following article from 1914. We learn that Berkey & Gay produced almost five thousand different individual pieces of furniture that they needed to catalog and advertise.

By C. B. HAMILTON
Sales Manager of Berkey & Gay, Grand Rapids, Mich.

[editor's Note: Before the Cleveland Ad Club recently, Mr. Hamilton graphically described how brains were put into furniture, and selling problems analyzed in creating and holding a distinctive market within a market. Service and brains, Mr. Hamilton clearly pointed out, is the keynote of the big idea that is making a distinction in furniture, as it is generally known.]

You have been told that I am to talk to you about the planning of an advertising campaign. If I am to talk to you about planning a campaign, I must tell you about the advertising campaign of our own company, because that is the only one I know anything about. That's going to be my excuse then for presenting the story of Berkey & Gay to you. If from what I say you can draw any lessons that you can apply to your business, you will be benefitted, and I will be benefitted, because before I get through I intend to impress upon your minds the superiority of the company I represent in the furniture business, and consequently I will be benefitted. So you see, it will be an even exchange.

When your toastmaster just now mentioned Grand Rapids, every man in the room thought of furniture. It bespeaks great ability for somebody when any city can stand out in the minds of all people as representing the best achievement in any one line of manufacture.

Why is Grand Rapids the Furniture City of America? That's a question that has been asked many times. Most people who have not given it thought say that it is because lumber was plentiful in the vicinity of Grand Rapids when the industry was started. That is not the reason.

Furniture such as the reputation of Grand Rapids is built upon to-day is not made of wood. It is made of BRAINS. Let me illustrate what I mean. Here are two mahogany bureaus side by side; one selling for $50, another is a Berkey & Gay bureau, selling at $200. There is practically the same amount of material in each bureau, in which event there will be very little difference in the cost of the lumber and the trimmings. What is the difference in the price of the two? Brains.

We are inclined to laugh when a manufacturer states that his business is a peculiar business, that the laws governing it are different from those governing other kinds of business, but nevertheless there is a great deal of truth in this statement when it is applied to the furniture business.

The furniture business is more than five hundred years old. It has inherited all the traditions of the past, and is encumbered with countless barnacles of past customs. It has inherited all the bad with all the good. Old methods of doing things have been considered good enough for years, and it is extremely difficult to push any new method. The furniture business is suffering, not from overproduction, as some people think, but from undereducation.

The total consumption of furniture in the United States is very much less than it ought to be. Man's first need after food and clothing is for furniture, and we have more money to spend than any other nation. There is a field in America as yet unexplored that may be appealed to by the manufacturer of furniture along the lines of beauty, refinement and comfort. In the past the appeal has been to utility only. Now, through the growth of education, European travel, and to some extent to the educational efforts of some of the progressive furniture manufacturers, the upper classes are answering to an appeal other than utility, though the great middle classes have not yet realized that good taste is not necessarily expensive, and that a home may be furnished simply and inexpensively in a way that is not offensive to the most refined taste.

In respect to advertising and merchandising, the furniture business is similar to the clothing business a few years ago.

The clothing business, however, has awakened to the wonderful possibilities of advertising, and now three-quarters of the people buy clothing by name, and buy better and more than ever before. In the furniture business, on the other hand, buying is still done in the same way, as far as identification is concerned, as clothing was twenty years ago. The retail dealer still thinks it to his advantage to keep his own name to the front and the manufacturer's out of sight as much as possible, and has refused to consider any other selling plans.

The Berkey & Gay Company is trying to change this condition of their business by the invariable use of a shop mark and advertising. A few years ago this was put into operation as a means of protection against unscrupulous retailers who were trading on their name, and a shop mark was inlaid into every piece of furniture. This met with immediate and severe opposition from many dealers who considered it a usurpation of their rights, and even now, after ten years of advertising and continuous insistence on the shop mark, this resistance has not been entirely overcome.

In their advertising, magazine space was used with a direct appeal to the consumer to create a demand through the dealer. The copy used was of the general publicity type, aimed to create an impression of quality and service in the Berkey & Gay name rather than trying to sell any particular article. The appeal for replies was subordinated, and coupled with a charge of 30 cents for a booklet. Satisfaction to the consumer is the dominating policy behind both the copy and the firm's relations with the public.

One other new feature was put into the copy, the value of distinction. In some other lines this is the primary appeal, and an effort was made to add it to the old utility appeal which had been played up almost exclusively before. On these two lines, utility and the finest quality, and distinction of design and physical appearance, the lierkey & Gay merchandising plan has been built. Practically all furniture goes back to the old masters for its fundamental principles, and on the correct and tasteful interpretation of these old masters' ideals rests tin's distinctiveness.

Illustrating the Berkey & Gay line was another problem, as there are nearly five thousand separate pieces, and the ordinary half-tone reproduction is not fully satisfactory. To accomplish this, the illustrations were made by the photogravure process on sheets 14x18, suites being photographed complete. Unusual in its size and unusual in its cost, this catalog called for an unusual method of distribution, and instead of being given away, it is sold for $50. At first this met with objection from everybody, dealers and salesmen alike, but by emphasizing the value it was to the dealer, and putting the element of value into the catalog itself, this has been almost completely overcome.

The greatest loss in the advertising is in getting the customer into a Berkey & Gay store after the advertising has created the demand without another dealer substituting some other line. To overcome this, a complete newspaper service is furnished the retailer, without charge, with cuts and copy of various kinds. Special advertisements that directly connect the particular magazine advertising then appearing are furnished, as well as other ads to be used each week.

To still further stimulate trade, in many cities a special Berkey & Gay week is held occasionally, with a special display at the dealer's store. This is an invitation to examine and inspect period styles, and is for exhibition purposes rather than sales.

An abuse from which there is at present no redress is in the copying of designs. Any design which achieves success may be copied by anybody so inclined without there being any means of protection afforded to the designer. A law affording this protection has been agitated during the year, but thus far without success. This law is as necessary to reputable furniture manufacturers as the patent and copyright laws, and any original or improvement in design is almost impossible without it.

The above article was published July, 1914 in Efficiency Magazine Vol. 4 No. 6