“Created for Life”: New DuPont Consumer Products Collections

Monday, September 2, 2013

The Manuscripts and Archives Department of the Hagley Library is pleased to announce the addition of two new collections related to the marketing successes of a variety of DuPont consumer products, including Stainmaster, Corian, and paint and car care lines. The new collections were donated by Hagley friend, Charles H. DeMirjian. Both collections shed a spotlight on the many marketing successes by DeMirjian and his team at DuPont.

Charles H. DeMirjian joined the Fabrics & Finishes Dept. of E.I. du Pont de Nemours & Company in July 1954, at a time when DuPont was placing greater emphasis on marketing to the consumer. A new Consumer Products Division was formed within the department in 1963, and DeMirjian became Manager of Packaging Design. He was primarily a manager of designers, helping to establish design parameters and making the final selections from work submitted by subordinates and subcontractors. DeMirjian supervised an integrated approach that combined marketing research, advertising and package design.

DuPont stain master carpet fibers

The DuPont Company records on Stainmaster collection are primarily concerned with DuPont’s revolutionary line of carpet fiber. Accompanied by creative marketing with the assistance of DeMirjian and his team, DuPont launched the largest advertising and promotion campaign in the history of the carpeting industry. DeMirjian contributed much of the success of the product to the ability of the consumer to test the product at the point of sale through his invention, the swizzlestick. Through this marketing medium, consumers would use the swizzlestick, a short cardboard dipstick with a square of Stainmaster carpet and a square of traditional carpeting affixed to the end to test the product. Consumers would then dip the stick into a cup of a children’s red-colored beverage, and then into a cup of water. After being dipped into the water, the drink would disappear from the treated carpet, while remaining on the other. Kits were provided to retailers for testing at their showrooms. Creative advertising was also an important part of the Stainmaster success story. One of the most memorable commercials from the campaign aired in 1987, portraying a toddler in his high chair launching his blue airplane-shaped dish into the air, spilling its contents onto durable Stainmaster carpet. Later that year, Fortune magazine named Stainmaster to its famous “Product of the Year” listing. Later introduced was the Xtra Life line which provided anti-stain capabilities along with anti-crush qualities, it debuted in 1992. Both the trademark and the product were divested as part of the separation with INVISTA in 2004.

The first collection, DuPont Company records on Stainmaster, dates from 1985 to 1992 and includes advertising materials, product literature, sales aids (for retailers), information on the development of the Stainmaster logo, and a file on personnel. Also included are files on the Luxura and Xtra Life lines of the carpet, as well as issues of trade periodicals. In addition to the paper component, a collection of artifacts including swizzlesticks, demonstration kits, novelty items such a pen and ruler, as well as replicas of the airplane plate used in television commercials, was included in the donation.

"Creating With Corian: The Kitchen" promotional matieral

Records in the second collection, Charles DeMirjian's DuPont Consumer Products Division Records, dating from 1956 to 1991, includes literature, sales aids, and promotional items, as well as marketing plans for a variety of DuPont consumer products from the second half of the twentieth century. Primarily related to Corian, the collection also includes material related to the company’s car care product line which included Rain Dance Car Wax and Zerex antifreeze. Items pertaining to those products in the collection include speeches, sales aids, and advertising material. These files detail DuPont’s promotional, advertising, and marketing efforts through catalogs, correspondence, as well as various trade exhibits. Also included are files on DuPont paint products, Duco and Lucite Wall Paint, with accompanying color charts. Additional files related to packaging include correspondence files, idea files, seminar information and awards.

Additionally, the collection includes DeMirjian’s various ‘idea’ files for the projects he worked on throughout his career at DuPont, as well as his ‘Creative Review’ files, general correspondence, and production aids, as well as speech scripts and product and advertising slides. This collection documents the rich history of the Consumer Products Division at DuPont, which although accounted for a generally smaller percentage of sales than other divisions, kept the DuPont name in the good graces of the typical consumer.

For related materials, the Manuscripts and Archives Department houses transcripts of an oral history interview of Mr. DeMirjian conducted by Dr. Glenn Porter in 1997. In the 13-page transcript of a taped interview, DeMirjian recounted his training and career history and provided some observations on his mode of work, with emphasis on the Rain Dance car wax and Stainmaster carpet campaigns.

Andrew Engel is an archivist in the Manuscripts and Archives Department.