Soap

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Ben Lemmon

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I had a question about the soap topic if anyone can spare a moment. I hate to tear you away from the topic of books, as I am a big fan of them myself, but I would like to know if they used the same soap in second class as they did in first class. Does anyone know the answer to this question?
 
May 27, 2007
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I've gotten a giggle here and there. Mr. Pooter is quite a character with views on everything. I got a bit of a laugh on his view on Servants.

Hello Ben,

Good Question. I think they might of used the same as they offered in Third because I think what they offered in first was expensive. Although they might of offered the same brand in Second Class as they offered in First. I think cost might of had a hand in whether or not Second had the same soap as First Class
 

Bob Godfrey

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Ben, the famous Vinolia ads of the time always specified that WSL provided their soap for the use of 1st Class passengers, who'd paid for the best of everything and expected to get it. For the price of a 2nd Class ticket you got good quality in all things, but not the very best. And there were so many competing brands in the middle range of the market that I can't even guess what might have been provided. Soap for 3rd Class washrooms was probably supplied to WSL in the form of traditional (unbranded) long bars which could be sliced into smaller chunks as required.
 
May 27, 2007
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Hi Jeremy,
>> Mr. Pooter is quite a character<<
He'd have to be with the word "poot" in his name.
That he would.

Thanks for info about the soap, Bob. I didn't ask but was interested as well. I figured that Second got a different brand. Maybe a generic brand of Vinolia. I wonder if Vinolia even made a generic brand in 1912. If they did they could of offered a deal for supplying 2nd class and White Star might of taken them up on it because then White Star would of only had to deal with the Vinolia Soap Company which would of made their business easier. Of course for all we know the company that made Vinolia might of supplied soap for all three classes and crew of varying quality. The deluxe for the 1st class and semi-deluxe for 2nd class and rejects or the stuff that fell on the floor at the factory or didn't quite pass the bar for 3rd and the crew.
Soap for 3rd Class washrooms was probably supplied to WSL in the form of traditional (unbranded) long bars which could be sliced into smaller chunks as required.
As Bob pointed out. Maybe Vinolia sold dirt cheap unbranded soap for use in factories or shiping. White Star could indeed save $$$ and have to deal with only one company, Vinolia Soap Co. Vinolia would end up getting all the profits for supplying the soap to White Star Line. I wonder if that's how it played out?
 

Bob Godfrey

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George, Vinolia was a small company which specialised in the luxury end of the market for 'bathroom products'. Their advertising made much of the fact that they didn't make anything like the cheap carbolic soap which would have been used in 3rd Class washrooms.
 
May 27, 2007
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They were cutting themselves short $$$ wise by not making Generic or cheap versions of their soap but to each his or her own.

I wonder if the same company provided 2nd and 3rd class soaps along with the crew's soap?
 

Bob Godfrey

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Marketing is not that simple, George. If a company with a reputation for making and selling only the best spreads its range downmarket they risk losing their quality image and that means losing their top end customers. One notable American name that made that mistake was the Packard Motor Company. Vinolia might have been cutting themselves short by not selling in bulk to the great unwashed, but they'd have been cutting themselves dead if they had.

Soon afterwards, however, they were acquired as a prestige brand for the Lever Brothers soap empire. The same thing happened to their great rival Pears. So from that time WSL could certainly have bought all of their soap and cleaning products from companies within the same industrial group. In practice they would have bought from wholesalers who could supply just about any brand or quality they required, so they didn't need to buy only one brand to get quantity discounts.
 
Jan 28, 2003
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"Noooooo - MINE! It's supposed to be MINE".

(Anyone not getting this reference should refer to the NBC website and the recent "Palin/Clinton non-partisan broadcast", which is, of course, a spoof).

I, of course, refer to the fact that I am the Board's resident expert on marketing. Though, I have to admit that Bob is quite right, and I have nothing else to offer on the subject. Except that Lever Bros. were determined to corner all all aspects of the market, which they did, from carbolic soap to Otto Vinolia. And they understood market segmentation, even if it wasn't called that then.
 
Feb 4, 2007
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Why, Hilliary! I didn't know you made appearances to us lowly minions on this board! That spoof has become "the talk of the town" 'round these here parts. I didn't know it had made it's way East. If you haven't seen Tina Fey's subsequent appearances as Palin on SNL, you simply MUST. They're a hoot! She's soooo spot on!

If you'll be Hillary, I'll be Sara ~ after all, I used to live in Alaska, I wear glasses too, and I've got her accent down pat.
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Sorry, I was just imitatin' Sara Palin ~ I was talkin' about what I had rehearsed wanted to talk about instead of answerin' the question or stickin' to the topic..... Oh! Are we not doin' the talent portion? .....

http://www.nbc.com/Saturday_Night_Live/video/clips/vp-debate-open-palin-biden/727421/

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Bob Godfrey

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No, no, Mon, if your remember, we agreed that this month we'd like a change and it would be my turn to cover marketing and your turn for Woodbines and Bass Export.
 
May 27, 2007
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So Lever brand ended up owning Vinolia. Vinolia could of ended up owning Lever if they'd played their cards right and marketed a generic brand under a different name. But it sounds like that's what happened with Lever providing all the supplies anyways.

So from that time WSL could certainly have bought all of their soap and cleaning products from companies within the same industrial group.
Jason S,
"Noooooo - MINE! It's supposed to be MINE".
It was supposed to be Clinton's according to some conservative Dems in my state. Frankly I think McCain is going to get Missouri or it'll be close. A lot of angry Conservatives Democrats (Clinton Supporters) and Republicans here.
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But this is about soap. Although there's a lot of dirty politicians that could use a lil soap. Like that deal up in Alaska huh Jason.
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Bob Godfrey

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Since I freely admit I have very little contact with soap I bow to your experience in this area, George. Just think, had you been around to advise them in 1912 one of the biggest corporations in the World today would be calling itself not Unilever but Univinolia.
 
May 27, 2007
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Perhaps Bob, although I think Vinolia might of saved their company for a few more years or not. Maybe made a bit more $$$.

Myself, If I had a soap company, I would market my Premium Brand by it's self and try to keep a hush on the fact that any factories I owned were making generic soap for as you pointed out, Bob I wouldn't want to debase my own Company's "Premium Brand". I would also offer another lower quality or general quality brand for the working man and then offer a dirt cheap unbranded version as well. As well as cleaning products.

I've is been watching AMC's "Mad Men" which is gotten me interested and reading about Advertising and Marketing. But I bow to Monica and Bob's superior Marketing Skills. Just don't underrate the power and financial gain of a Brand Name Company producing a Generic Brand on the sly too.
 
Feb 4, 2007
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Too true, George.

For example:

Levi's, another very old company (privately owned) makes certain high-end jeans only sold in its exclusive, upscale, Levi's stores. What many people don't realize, especially our friends across the pond, is that Levi's also make a "starter" brand over here, sold only in very low-end stores like Walmart and *gasp* Kmart. It's quite profitable for Levi's to have both high-end and low-end brands. In fact, without their more recent introduction of a low-end brand, it's questionable whether the upscale end of the company would have survived on its own.

Of course there are differences in how we view various products and their marketing today vs. how it was viewed in 1912. Unilever was smart to acquire several different brands and market separate high-end and low-end brands under their parentage. It's probably partly because of this diversification Unilever still exists, main brands intact, today.
 
May 27, 2007
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True indeed, Jason. I think that by 1912 certain American Companies that made high end products or basic products were already seeing the profitability in marketing the same products to middle Class and to the upper class by using a different brand name or packaging but charging a higher price. Or not. It hink after the War was when that practice really started to fly.
 
Jan 28, 2003
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Generic brands, strictly speaking, are those without a brand name. Sometimes, in their purest form, they are things like aspirin — no longer patent protected — and very cheap, if you go into the pharmacy/druggist and are sensible enough to ask for just aspirin and not Aspro. Aspro is exactly the same pharmaceutically, but at least 3 times more expensive, because it has built a brand image and trust through advertising, the former adding value and the latter having to be paid for. To maintain the added value and justify the price, they often include other (cheap) ingredients to which they attempt to attach justifying properties.

But the lines blur. Some products described as generic are in fact store brands (own label here across the Pond) which begin as cheap substitutes for branded goods (baked beans a good example) but which end up as brands in their own right due to the general commercial success of their supermarket owners. But this is a fairly modern phenomenon.

It wouldn’t make very good business sense for Otto Vinolia to go into the generic soap market for several reasons. The profit on generic soap is small, so the sales have to be large - that means you have to buy into large production facilities, a large sales force, advertise, and develop a strategy to keep the top end secret from the bottom.

It seems to have made more sense to build your business on a fairly cheap universal soap, advertise it everywhere, keep the name of your company out of the picture by inventing attractive brand names, like Sunlight, and then build the company by acquisition. Which is what Lever Bros. did. They are now Unilever, and not many of their millions of consumers can tell you which hundreds of brands they own. P & G did much the same. It prevents contamination of brands ranging across a spectrum of quality if nobody knows you make the top and bottom end products, but it does cost money to establish the brand names concerned. Worked for them, though - go to their website and see. Other companies, like Kellogs, prefer to promote the umbrella name — Kellogs, Heinz — and have subsidiary brand names descriptive of the variants of products.

For some inkling of how many soap brands there were in the early 20th Century, go to the following website, register (free) and put ‘soap’ into the search engine. Some wonderful adverts will come up, and there’s stuff on ships too.
http://www.maryevans.com/

I have also found an extremely odd website which sells ‘old’ brands of soap, including Vinolia, Lifebuoy and Sunlight over the Net. I can’t think who buys them, but there you go.
http://www.lifebuoy.co.uk/

Unless Levi can differentiate their differently-priced jeans, through adding value somehow on the high-price end of their range without letting the low-price diminish their reputation, they may be playing a dangerous game. Time will tell, though they are so iconic they may be able to get away with just about anything.
 
Dec 2, 2000
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Funny you should mention Levi-Straus. When they got started, the idea was to make a simple but rugged work trouser out of an equally inexpensive and durable material: Canvas. Tough but scarcely stylish and it wasn't the sort of thing you could wear at any sort of formal function. Nowadays, you can get away with doing just that if it's a trendy enough lable. Jordache for example. Levis have been...in my opinion...overpriced for some time now.

The jeans I wear to work are no name brands made of the same stuff, of generally the same quality, but as low as half the price of Levi's.
 
Feb 4, 2007
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I have discovered that the bars of Vinolia soap available today actually last a very long time in use. And I mean a VERY long time. Either that, or I don't scrub enough.
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It makes me wonder if the Vinolia soap used on WSL ships was actually of the same durability, quality, and bar size. If so, then it seems rather wasteful to me for White Star to have provided such large bars of soap to passengers as opposed to the miniature type we find in hotels today. I am making the assumption that after the week's crossing was completed, the used bar of soap was replaced with a fresh one (or perhaps it was replaced even more often?).

I wonder if the old soap bars were just thrown out in the rubbish, or if they were used for other purposes?

Here is a good, easy place for those in the USA to purchase Vinolia:

http://www.vermontcountrystore.com

Just search for "Vinolia", in the site above and it should come right up.
 

Bob Godfrey

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Nov 22, 2002
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At the end of a voyage, unused perishables were generally handed over to the Sisters of Mercy or similar charitable causes. Maybe the part-used cakes of soap went the same way, but I imagine a good deal of them would have gone home with the cabin staff.

The Vinolia soap you can buy today, incidentally, has little in common with the original apart from the name. Some of the new ingredients, in fact, are the very things that the old Vinolia company claimed could be found only in the inferior products of their competitors.

I find that a cake of soap will last me several months. Even longer if I don't wash every Sunday.
 
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