Maytag's earliest advertising, which began in 1911, concentrated on ease of operation and used the slogan, "So simple, a child could do it."
First electric washing machine
In 1911, Maytag introduced the Hired Girl, the first electric washing machine, and, beginning in 1914, a version powered by a gasoline engine for rural customers who did not have access to electricity. Maytag's national magazine ads showed a contented housewife putting clothing into her wooden washer with the headline, "This wonderful power washer makes wash day a joy."
The gasoline version was used in U.S. Army training camps during World War I, and one 1918 ad showed soldiers using a Maytag gasoline machine in a camp setting with the copy "Simple yet sturdy, convenient, easy to operate, washes with the thoroughness and deftness of human hands." Maytag's advertising budget went from covering the cost of a few ads in magazines in about 1910 to $100,000 a year by 1918. Cramer-Krasselt, Milwaukee, produced the newspaper and magazine ads, which used simple line drawings to illustrate the copy.
After the war, thousands of soldiers bought Maytag washers for their wives, convincing the marketer to abandon its farm implement line. It introduced the Cabinet Washer in 1919, tagged as "the baby grand of electric washers." In 1922, Maytag debuted the Gyrofoam, the first washer to clean without employing friction, using instead water action only.
Instead of a peg-studded pillar attached to the lid, the new washer featured a finned agitator that was attached to the bottom of the tub and that turned from side to side. By 1924, one of every five washers in the U.S. was a Maytag, and sales of the new machine pushed Maytag to the No. 1 position among U.S. washing machine marketers.
In 1925, Maytag began running monthly ads in House & Garden, and the following year erected a $70,000 electric sign in New York's Times Square. By the time a 1928 ad appeared noting that "Commander Byrd chooses Maytags for South Pole expedition," the company had produced more than 1 million washing machines, owned 43% of the American market and had an overall ad budget greater than $1 million.
A woman's place
A 1930 Maytag ad—one of many in the decade following the age of the flapper—showed a man in an apron carrying a full load of laundry with the headline, "Change places with your husband next washday." A 1935 ad argued that Maytag could give women more time to spend on other activities, echoing the ads of the American Laundry Machinery Co. in the 1920s.
Toward the end of the Depression, Maytag ads held that consumers should not wait to replace their aging home machinery, especially as electricity became more commonplace in rural areas.
Maytag used a photo and the name "Master Washer" to advertise its first all-white washing machine, introduced in 1939. At about the same time, Maytag moved its account to McCann-Erickson and ran color print ads in seven women's magazines, including the Ladies' Home Journal, McCall's, Better Homes & Garden and Good Housekeeping.
Maytag Corp. was also one of the pioneers of broadcast advertising, sponsoring its first program on clear-channel radio station WHO in Des Moines in 1924. Beginning in 1930, the company also sponsored the "Maytag Radio Program" on the NBC network. During the 1930s and '40s, several Hollywood movies even included Maytag washer placements.
World War II and after
During World War II, the company switched to manufacturing military components and munitions, but it kept its dealer network intact through newspaper and magazine ads that encouraged consumers to keep their washers in good working order until the war ended by having them repaired by Maytag dealers.
In 1946, the company began marketing and advertising a line of ranges and refrigerators made by other companies under the Maytag brand. It introduced the first automatic washers in 1949, added a line of dryers in 1953 and began offering Maytag Supermatics, top-of-the-line washer and dryer combinations
During the 1950s, full-line appliance makers such as General Electric, Whirlpool and Frigidaire began to challenge Maytag's dominance in the washing machine and dryer markets. In 1955, the marketer moved its account from McCann-Erickson to Leo Burnett Co., Chicago.
Burnett based its ads on letters from customers complimenting Maytag on the durability of its machines. "We're a 3-generation Maytag family," one ad claimed, showing a grandmother, mother and daughter gathered, smiling, around their washing machine. A 1961 ad noted, "Married in 1932, got Maytag in 1933."
Maytag experimented with TV advertising in 1954, but the experiment lasted only two year; in 1956, print was again Maytag's medium of choice. In 1961, the company returned to TV with a campaign that featured its "the best you can buy" slogan, originally developed for print.
The idea for a campaign using a fictional Maytag repairman (with the name Lonely George or Ol' Lonely) most likely came from a distributor in Quebec, who received a letter from a customer in 1966 commenting that she had never needed a repairman. The concept was simple. George and his basset hound, Newton (named for Maytag's Iowa hometown), never had any work because the appliances were made so well that they were maintenance-free.
In 1989, Burnett freshened the effort by replacing the original repairman, character actor Jesse White, with situation comedy actor Gordon Jump. But through the end of the 20th century, the repairman remained in his office—he never seemed to get out—playing solitaire and lamenting his fate in life.
Also in 1989, Maytag acquired the Hoover brand, which included Hoover Europe In 1992, Hoover Europe advertised two free trans-Atlantic airline tickets to anyone buying a Hoover product in the U.K. for as little as $165. The response overwhelmed the company, which was forced to take a $30 million charge in 1993 to cover the costs of the ill-fated promotion.
In 1997, Maytag went head to head with rival Whirlpool Corp.'s Ultimate Care washer. To introduce Neptune, Maytag and Leo Burnett USA, Chicago, played on the machine's otherworldly name and technological edge with an outer space-themed 60-second spot. In the spot, the dependable Maytag repairman was walking his dog when he saw a flying saucer that beamed down a washing machine, stripped him down to his underwear and whisked the clothes into the washer.
Maytag pushed the $1,000 washing machine with an online teaser campaign that helped presell 3,000 machines before the marketer introduced them. A $20 million ad campaign supported the launch, and Maytag garnered PR exposure by giving away 200 machines to the residents of a small town plagued by water shortages to demonstrate the Neptune's efficiency.
After a lonely vigil, the Maytag repairman got a buff apprentice in 2001 when Burnett introduced the next generation in washing-machine maintenance man.
In 2002, Maytag moved its $100 million media account to Universal McCann.