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‘Is it essential that a steamship company’s posters must have a ship?’ The shortcomings of British shipping posters c.1840 to c.1970

Clampin, DJ and White, NJ (2017) ‘Is it essential that a steamship company’s posters must have a ship?’ The shortcomings of British shipping posters c.1840 to c.1970. Journal of Historical Research in Marketing, 9 (4). pp. 386-424. ISSN 1755-750X

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Purpose: The purpose of this paper is to explore the nature of marketing communications of British shipping lines in the period from c.1840 to c.1970 to establish the extent to which these outputs reflect extant scholarship which points to the lack of innovation as a key reason for the demise of these lines.
Design/methodology/approach: The research is built on a survey of >450 posters plotting the shifting nature of advertising messages over this long period in response to the market. This is supported by reading trade press contemporary to the period to establish broader trends in marketing and whether this product sector was aberrant.
Findings: What is revealed is a generally static response in the promotion of British shipping lines throughout the timeframe, at odds with trends elsewhere. What stands out is the widespread criticism of the time singling out the shipping poster. This suggests an advanced appreciation of the role of the poster and the effectiveness of promotional messages focussing on emotions- versus a product-centred approach.
Originality/value: Whilst there is an established literature which suggests that the British merchant marine was hamstrung by a pattern of family ownership making adaptation slow, no research to date has expressly read marketing as a window onto that culture. This paper shows that whilst there may have been change within the sector which these British shipping lines responded to, when it came to presenting themselves in public via their communications strategy, they adopted a staid, conservative approach. British shipping lines, throughout the period, had a very fixed idea about who they were and what best represented their business irrespective of dramatic shifts in attitudes concerning how best to reach consumers. Interrogating promotional material, and particularly the ubiquitous shipping poster, provides another insight into the conservative and debilitating corporate culture of British shipping.

Item Type: Article
Uncontrolled Keywords: 1505 Marketing, 1402 Applied Economics
Subjects: D History General and Old World > D History (General)
D History General and Old World > DA Great Britain
Divisions: Humanities & Social Science
Publisher: Emerald
Date Deposited: 31 Aug 2017 10:59
Last Modified: 04 Sep 2021 11:16
DOI or ID number: 10.1108/JHRM-06-2017-0027
URI: https://researchonline.ljmu.ac.uk/id/eprint/6998
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