For many of us the ‘ding-dong’ of the doorbell signifies that the Avon lady has come to call with her samples of lotions, potions and perfumes. I remember the Avon Lady calling when I was young and then my Mum became the Avon Lady. When I think of Avon I always think of the excitement of opening the white paper bags that the order arrived in and trying out the little sample sachets of hand cream, whilst pondering over the glass sample bottles that contained exotic sounding perfumes such as Night Musk, Moon Wind and Charisma.
The iconic ‘Ding Dong’ advertising campaign was launched in 1954 and a string of commercials appeared all of them featuring a smartly dressed, elegant Avon representative pressing the doorbell which chimed the two tone, ‘ding dong’. In a 1950’s commercial an Avon Lady calls wearing a pill box hat and white gloves, the slogan appears, ‘Take Time out for Avon’ and the a glamorous Avon customer is seen looking over a selection of Avon cosmetics before being accompanied in dance by a dashing male companion. In another equally glitzy advert of the 50’s an Avon Lady calls, ‘ding dong’ and as she enters the room looking dazzling she swirls around with her dress flowing gracefully, before the scene switches to show two women sitting looking over a collection of Avon beauty products with excitement. In the background the jingle plays ‘Avon calling at your door, bringing cosmetics and much more’. The ‘ding dong, Avon calling’ adverts ran until 1967 making them one of the longest running television campaigns and one of the most memorable. To this day I still link Avon with the sound of a doorbell and iconic perfumes such as Zanzibar.
In the 1970’ s the infamous ‘ding dong’ campaign and variations on the Avon calling signature phrase were used including ‘Avon is Christmas calling now’, until in 1976 they struck upon another catchy jingle, ‘with Avon, you never looked so good’, this was a popular campaign, but never reached the status of its predecessor.
The brand is to be admired for it certainly has staying power with Avon’s origins going back more than 120 years, to when David H McConnell, an American door-to-door salesman, began by giving bottles of scent away with his books as a sales incentive. He soon realised that it was perfumes, not books that his female customers craved. In 1886 he founded the California Perfume Company, hiring women to sell fragrances door-to-door. Back then the fragrances were a traditional mix that included Violet, Lily-of-the-Valley, White Rose, Heliotrope and Hyacinth. By 1887, McConnell was employing a dozen women to sell his range of 18 perfumes. The California Perfume Company was renamed Avon back in 1939 after he visited Stratford-upon-Avon and fell for its beauty and the first British Avon ladies took to the ringing doorbells with their Avon bags at the ready twenty years later.
The company now sells more fragrances, lipsticks, eye make-up and nail enamels than any other beauty brand in the UK, but for years it was stuck in a middle-aged rut. It suffered a decline in popularity in the 1990’s after people started moving away from the brand considering it a bit old fashioned and the brand to be tired. Avon gave its products and advertising a good shake up and now it is as sleek and fashionable as it was back in its vintage heyday.
It seems that lipstick house parties still thrill generations a hundred and twenty eight years on, only now the Avon Lady won’t be donning a pair of long white gloves and peddling cold cream and sandalwood perfume, but instead will be bringing the latest in anti-ageing creams, make-up miracles and giftware, but I am glad to see that some of the traditional products including the big bottles of bubble bath and glycerine hand cream are still available in the catalogue. It’s nice to see a company with so much history and that has offered women the chance to earn a bit of extra money for generations still going strong, although whilst in the nostalgic mood I can’t help wishing they would bring back those novelty glass perfume bottles and perhaps those miniature lipstick samples they used to give out.