A Merry Rogersmas
Part of a Series: Exploring the Roy Rogers and Dale Evans Archive
The Autry Institute is currently processing the generously donated business archive of Roy Rogers and Dale Evans. The first week of each month, the Autry Libraries blog will feature highlights from the collection in anticipation of the processing’s completion.
In addition to running promotional contests and charity campaigns, Roy Rogers and Dale Evans had a merchandising empire to advertise. Throughout the 1950s Roy Rogers Enterprises created advertising campaigns tied in with major magazine publications and timed them to coincide with the Christmas holiday. The items sold in these ads were not Christmas themed, but they positioned Rogers merchandise as an essential element of happy children during the holidays and assured retailers that stocking these branded items guaranteed them good sales at the close of the year.
Roy Rogers Enterprises promoted a retail merchandising event for the 1953 Christmas season through Life magazine. A booklet intended for retailers showcased a preprint of the multipage pictorial advertisement depicting Rogers and small-fry fans having fun with a variety of branded products. Retail owners were told that Rogers was not only “King of the Cowboys” but also “Monarch of Merchandising.”
In the ad campaign, Rogers guaranteed parents he would not charge a premium for placing his name on products, and that all merchandise received rigorous testing “in one of the nation’s largest testing bureaus” to assure that his product “equals in quality any merchandise selling in the same price range.” His name, rather than adding an extra dollar value, was intended to give “assurance that this item is an authentic value.” Such statements let retailers and buyers know that Rogers’s products would live up to his reputation as a trusted and reliable household name.
Though Rogers and Evans were serious about their religion, the focus in these Christmas advertisements left out religious references in favor of Santa. A 1955 advertisement campaign for Life and Look magazines declared, “YIP-E-E! Roy Rogers again rides high on Santa’s gift list” with a “2-gun, 6 round” campaign. Materials featured in the promotional campaign included toy guns of every shape and size, clothing, watches, belts, gloves, and bedspreads. The ad, with its appealing array of toys and apparel, positioned drawings of Santa and Rogers at the top, as if the two were working in cahoots to make children’s dreams come true.
By 1958 it appears that the seasonal ad campaign was expected, as a preview of the ad to appear in Ladies’ Home Journal declared it presented “the Roy Rogers 1958 Christmas Promotion” and reminded readers that “no other western brand supports you year-after-year [sic] like Roy Rogers.” The ad showcased the usual suspects, including toy guns, clothing, and Western-themed playsets.
By timing a massive ad campaign to coincide with an increasingly consumer-centric holiday, Rogers’s marketing team promised a boost in sales for both retailers and Roy Rogers Enterprises. The longevity of the campaigns through the 1950s suggests that shoppers responded to the ads just as expected, by purchasing Roy Rogers and Dale Evans items from their children’s wish lists.