Music has always been attached to consumerism, from jingles to ‘sales marches’ to full length novelty tunes like Henry’s Made a Lady out of Lizzie. However, it took the post-war boom for corporations to start thinking really big, and by the early 1950s they were producing all-out, Broadway-style musicals, though not to sell the product to the public but rather to entertain the workforces at corporate conventions and galas.
Give the Lady What She Wants, an original musical written in 1951 by a young composer named Llord Norlin, chronicled the history and philosophy of Marshall Field’s department stores. The automobile industry was quick to catch up with Oldsmobile’s The Mighty O!, a paean to the brand-new, chrome-finished ’54 line. Mighty O! boasted a cast of dozens, a full orchestra and genuine Broadway talent, including the legendary Bob Fosse.
Television stars Hal Linden, Loretta Swit, Valerie Harper and David Hartman all got their big breaks in forgotten masterpieces such as The Name of the Game for Listerine, Going Great! for Rambler, and Go Fly a Kite, the highlight of General Electric’s Fifth Utility Executive Conference.
Of course, the arrival of video and PowerPoint have since put paid to such ridiculousness. The idea of a musical stage show extolling the virtues of a company, its philosophy, and its products as tools to engender loyalty and enthusiasm seems hopelessly out of date in the modern corporate world. No more Music to sell Dodges By or Diesel Dazzle. Shame.