Welcome to Pure Food City”: Tracing Discourses of Health in the Promotional Publications of the Postum Cereal Company, 1920-1925

O'Hagan, Lauren Alex (2023). Welcome to Pure Food City”: Tracing Discourses of Health in the Promotional Publications of the Postum Cereal Company, 1920-1925. Journal of Historical Research in Marketing (in press).

Abstract

Purpose
This paper investigates three promotional publications produced by the Postum Cereal Company—A Trip Through Postumville (1920), How I Make Postum (1924) and The Wonderful Lunch Boxes (1925)—with the aim of understanding how language and other semiotic resources are used to promote its products as good and healthy choices.

Design
The three publications were collected from the HathiTrust Digital Library and USF Tampa Special Collections. They were subjected to multimodal critical discourse analysis to tease out their subtle characteristics and how a combination of language, image, colour, typography and composition are used to represent certain ideas and values related to health and wellbeing.

Findings
The publications subscribe to three distinct genres—“inside the factory”, “friendly spokesperson” and “fictional world”—each of which are aimed at different target audiences. The first seeks to promote Postum as an open and transparent company; the second to promote Postum as a company that cares about its consumers; and the third to promote the health benefits of Postum in a fun and accessible manner. Nonetheless, they are united in their overall objective to link the regular consumption of Postum as essential for good health.

Originality/Value
To date, no studies have been conducted on the Postum Cereal Company, while the limited research conducted on promotional publications has tended to overlook discourses of health and wellbeing. The three genres outlined in this study, thus, have the potential to foster a reappraisal of promotional publications and showcase their ability to offer new understandings on historical approaches to marketing, particularly the link with health and science.

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