Freebies have always been offered to attract the public to sell various products. Just like people went to theatres mainly to see a ‘trailer clip’ of a future movie, people bought products for the free item rather than the product itself! Marketers had begun to see how a ‘free tag’ works on human minds. ‘Buy one get one free’ was not certainly thought of for most part of the last century, but free items were offered that were good quality, unlike what we see now – they are real junk, throwaway toys or useless items which are advertised in an attractive manner to which people fall prey, thanks to their kids who are the advertisers’ target!
In the 1960s, we had Binaca Toothpaste. It was a popular brand and most homes had either Colgate or Binaca. But the humble ‘Nanjangud Toothpowder’ was always there… to eat (yes, it was tasty too!) as standby in case the tube was completely squeezed out! Kids loved the Nanjangud flavour and aroma of the pink powder. Toothbrushes too were making its entry fast during that time, with the development of Nylon Bristles that lasted long – products were ‘made to last’, unlike the cheap ‘use and throw’ items that flood the market today. Speaking of Nylon, I still use my grandfather’s shaving brush that he must have purchased in the late 60s. He used it for about 8-10 years and then when it was time for me to shave I began using it almost 30 years ago! The bristles remain amazingly straight in spite of being continuously used [I hang it upside down – that may be a secret!] hundreds of times over. I’ve deviated off subject. Let me come back to the freebies of Binaca.
Despite their roaring market, they probably wanted to stay high and so they introduced a free ‘water picture’ [hope I’m right] with every carton to hold on to customers. They were days when stickers or self-adhesive tapes had not entered. They were ‘gum and gum tape days’. This little piece of paper with a hidden picture had to be soaked in water for a few minutes, then had to be stuck when still wet, to a glass surface and slowly peel off the protective layer. This had to be done with deft hands of an adult lest the delicately thin picture would get damaged! It got stuck when dry. I picture a few here:
They are still looking new even now, as if it was stuck last week. Just as we stand in front of that mirror or go to the bookshelf, the mind jogs back to the era of the ‘light green’ toothpaste and also the immensely popular Wednesday 8 PM show “Binaca Geet Mala”, presented by Ameen Sayani on Radio Ceylon’s ‘Vividh Bharti’.
See this interesting link
Another link on Ameen Sayani and Binaca Geet Mala
Hotels that boasted of radios [not many homes had even a radio in those times] were crowded at that hour, either for business or just standing and listening outside [volume was on a high always – what thrill!]. In our house most of the members of the joint family [I was too young to appreciate that at that time] crowded in front of our Bush Radio at that hour. The product sold well, stopped people’s bad breaths, kept shiny teeth and gave little gifts like those.
Binaca surely held on to customers with its unique ways! Not for nothing it was popular!
Later in the 70s, there came enclosed with each tube of Binaca, tiny plastic figurines of various animals. This soon became a collecting fancy. Friends even exchanged their duplicates for new ones. No sooner the toothpaste carton arrived home or even at the shop counters itself, we would curiously open and see which doll was in!! I must say, they were still the days when recycled plastic was unknown. So these cute little things are of soft virgin plastic.
Binaca could not cope up to stiff competition from other brands in the 80s and even tried to change the name to ‘Cibaca’ to see if they could hold on, but it faded away slowly off the shelves. But on my showcase shelf, I’ve treasured the cute little “Binaca Dolls” to remind me of those good old days.